Ubuntu usability is significantly decreased with Unity

Nenad Lecek nenad_lecek at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 28 19:40:47 UTC 2011

Dear all,

as I don't know where to put my comments about Ubuntu 11.10 usability, I'm posting here. My apologies if this is not the right place, and I'd be grateful if you point me where to post my comment.

For years, Ubuntu was synonym for user-friendly, easy to use Linux distribution. That was really the case for a couple of years. Unfortunately, not any more. I'm using Ubuntu 11.10 since it was released and I'm still annoyed with new desktop user interface. I've seen, worked with and also designed GUI applications in past 15+ years and  seeing the Unity in action I feel the need to make really harsh comment about Ubuntu 11.10 usability. 

IMHO, the Unity is unnecessary, harmful step in wrong direction. The Unity doesn't help to make user interface more intuitive. Even worse, it is not solely the issue of quality of implementation, the Unity design doesn't have potential to serve the user well. My recommendation is to make the Unity optional and certainly not default user interface for Ubuntu. Gnome  Classic Ubuntu desktop really fits much, much better.

Some reasons are explained below. This is not a full list, just the key points.

1) Appearing/disappearing left side toolbar doesn't bring anything compared to Gnome Classic Ubuntu desktop and menu. Why? Simply put if you know that you have couple of menus where you programs are, this is much better/faster than unnecessary dynamic/uncertainty which Unity provides. BTW, Classic gnome desktop we had in previous Ubuntu versions was really well structured. Unity doesn't provide that. Personally, I do not see the point of promoting Unity as the only desktop on Ubuntu, because classic gnome desktop was well structured and good enough. Eventually, only search capability like in Unity could have been added, although this functionality in Unity is far from good, currently is just minor convenience.

2) The application menu is shown in main menu toolbar. This is annoying at best, and from usability point of view very it is a really poor choice. Why is considered good to force the user to search where the menu for her/his application is. In situation where several graphical applications are open, the one which have focus has menu accessible. This confuses the user because, menu toolbar changes as application gets focus and this is simply not cleanly visible. Even if would be made cleanly visible, still would be a poor decision to move application menu away from application window. It is a desktop user interface, and not hand-held device interface; the use cases are simply different enough, it is better to avoid mistake of handling the user experience the same way.

3) Performance consideration: seems so that Unity eats performance and batteries on laptops. Again, no value in service it provides in return.

4) Search applications capability in Unity is really poorly designed and of limited usage. In some cases, you almost have to know exact name so that application you are searching for could be found. In others searching application itself has confusing, complex user interface. This could have been done much better.

Finally, my proposal is to return to classic gnome desktop as default Ubuntu desktop. 

In addition, if new fancy user interface is for whatever reason needed, one can keep improving alternative user interface designs until one of them reach maturity needed for such broad user base. And make it optional, not mandatory.

For example, in case main menu taskbar of classic gnome desktop contains the short, google like edit line for entering search expression for finding application, the Unity will be completely unnecessary. Simple as that.

Would be very useful if user interface designers reconsider their decisions and re-create good user interface for Ubuntu.

Best regards

Simplicity in user design, down-to-earth logic could guide designers to much better user experience with Ubuntu. 
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