Focusing on Text & Details in the HIGby Imported Article

Lately we've been making our way through the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) reworking old bits and writing new sections. We've been focusing on making the HIG the best it can be, rather than limiting it to what's currently out there. Take a look at the updates that've been made and what's yet to come.

For example, we recently added a few pages to the Text section. In one, Naming Your App, we give tips on how to name your app and describe it to the system. We've updated the related entry, App Launchers, to give examples of good comments for apps to have in their .desktop files. Rather than copying and pasting ones that were already being used, we thought we'd take some time to come up with better ones. Here's what we came up with:

  • Maya: Browse and schedule events
  • BeatBox: Listen to music and podcasts
  • Lingo: Look up definitions
  • Postler: Send and receive mail
  • Scratch: Edit text files
  • Marlin: Browse and manage your files

The idea is for the comment to be a simple, short phrase that begins with a verb and describes the primary use case of the app. As you can see, the descriptions are fairly generic, but give a good sense of what the app is or does.

We've also been putting an even heavier focus on details. For example, there's now a whole page devoted to capitalization. It's not excessive or over-the-top; it's clear and definitive, making a developer's life easier by not forcing them to figure these complex things out on their own. Plus it makes the whole user experience more consistent, something we obviously strive for with elementary. Also be sure to check out the new Writing Style and Language pages.

We've added a whole new section to the HIG titled "User Workflow." Devoted to describing common user interactions, this section focuses on the actual workflow and how an app should behave rather than look. Too often people forger that user experience design is not graphic design. You're not just painting with pixels, you're crafting a whole experience; apps need to behave consistently, not just look consistent.

The next section we'd like to dive into, besides cleaning all of the others up, is the icons section. While we have the Tango guidelines to use as a base, we really feel elementary needs both visual and technical guidelines for excellent iconography that covers app icons, symbolic icons, and everything else.

If you're developing an app, or simply contributing to one, make sure to file bugs against the app if it violates the HIG. The HIG is only effective if apps stick to it, as the inconsistency of some apps following it and others not really defeats the whole purpose. For example, check out this recent bug filed against multiple projects. If you feel something needs addressed in the HIG, let us know and we'll take a look.

What do you think about our recent work on the HIG? Did we miss anything or get something wrong? Let us know in the comments.

Published January 16th, 2012
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