3 or 4 options for Desktop-Effects capplet?

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at canonical.com
Sun Sep 23 06:28:47 BST 2007

On Sep 23, 2007, at 1:24 AM, Mirco Müller wrote:
> Am Freitag, den 21.09.2007, 22:02 +0200 schrieb Mirco Müller:
>> ...
>> 	I'd also like to hear your suggestions and opinions on the wording 
>> and layout.
> 	Taking the advice from others, this looks currently like the way it 
> is going:
> http://people.ubuntu.com/~mmueller/new-desktop-effects-capplet-4.png
> ...

This is an improvement over the previous versions. There are some minor 
problems with the language:
*   The word "effects" appears ten times, which is roughly eight times
     too many for one tab.
*   The phrase "this setting" appears four times, which is four times
     too many. It is appropriate (and common) for sentences in a
     control's caption to have the user's activation of the control as
     their implicit subject. For example, you can rewrite "With this
     setting you will get a simple desktop environment..." as "Provides a
     simple environment...", or even just "A simple environment...".
*   Avoid using the word "will" in instant-apply options.
*   "Window effects" and "performance requirements" should not be
*   "Normal Effects" should not be italicized.
*   "Demands" should be "requires".
*   "More capable" would be simpler written as "faster".
*   "Einstellungen..." should end with an ellipsis.

However, I think a much bigger problem is that these options say 
nothing about what they actually do. What is a "desktop effect", 
anyway? (Is that where I have an aquarium next to the computer on my 
desktop?) What is the difference between "desktop effects" and "window 
effects"? What do you mean by "improve usability"? If one of these 
options provides a "good balance", why do the other options even exist? 
And do "performance requirements" apply to me, the computer, or 
something else?

It may be impossible to describe the options usefully in a few words. 
But if it isn't, then don't use so many words in the first place. Just 
provide one intro sentence, then have a slider labelled "Faster" at one 
end and "Snazzier" at the other. (Similar to the hardware acceleration 
settings in Windows.)

I also think the first option will make little sense to those people 
who aren't familiar with the implementation details. For example, when 
you double-click on an icon and the cursor turns into a spinning disc, 
that is an effect. And when you minimize a window in Metacity and its 
outline zooms into the window list, that is an effect. So "a simple 
desktop environment without any effects" doesn't really mean what it 
says. "Minimal" would be a more accurate term to use here.

Finally, if there are no really good icons for each of the options, 
don't be afraid to go without icons. It will make the interface 
simpler, and it will make the clickable area for the radio buttons more 
obvious. (Disclaimer: I think Gnome overuses icons generally.)

To summarize, I suggest: Rename "Desktop Effects" to "Effects". Rename 
"No effects" to "Minimal", and remove the word "Effects" from the other 
options. Produce *useful* one-sentence summaries of each option, to 
replace the existing captions. If that isn't possible, don't use 
captions at all, and consider using a slider instead. And consider 
removing the icons.

Matthew Paul Thomas
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