Analyzing GNOME design patterns

After learning more about “What is usability,” different ways to test usability, personas, scenarios, and scenario tasks, the research phase is over. We are now starting the usability testing phase which should be really exciting!
Next step is Reviewing GNOME design patterns, before we jump into creating scenario tasks for the final usability test. Throughout this week I spent some time getting familiar with GNOME Human Interface Guidelines(HIG).

The primary role of the HIG is to enable people to design high-quality, integrated and consistent applications for the GNOME platform. It also serves a secondary role in helping new GNOME contributors to learn the project’s design goals and approaches. Patterns and user interface elements form the core of the HIG. Together, they are the building blocks for application design.[0]

Patterns are the primary elements that make up an application design. Some patterns are highly recommended and others are optional.

Core design patterns- Application menus, Dialog windows, Grids, Header bar menus, Header bars, In-app notifications, Lists, Notifications, Primary windows, Search, Selection mode.

Supplementary design patterns- Action bars, Empty placeholders, Info bars, Overload controls, Sidebar lists, View switchers.

For more details and appropriate uses of each pattern, I suggest visiting GNOME design patterns page, since they are explained really well there.

The goal for the usability test is to examine as many Design Patterns as possible. I managed to create a 7×7 matrix to better understand what design patterns are used across different applications.



So, we can notice how many patterns are being used in each application:

Nautilus, Software, Web, Music, and Gedit: 5 patterns

Photos: 6 patterns

Maps: 4 patterns

We can also notice that the most used patterns are: Application Menus, Primary Windows, Header Bars, and Search.

Next week I will be creating a “set” of scenario tasks for these particular applications and some of their features!



Related links: [0]


3 thoughts on “Analyzing GNOME design patterns

  1. Hi Renata

    This is a great analysis. From the table, it looks header bar menus, selection mode, and view switchers may be difficult to get full coverage.

    Nautilus, Web, and Gedit hage overlap on header bar menus.

    Photos and Music have overlap on selection mode.

    Photos and Software have overlap on view switchers.

    Which programs to include in the usability test will depend on what design patterns would be most valuable for investigation. I think Allan and Jakub can comment on that.

    Personally, I think a test with Photos, Web, and Music would give very useful results. That has the opportunity to test all the design patterns you identified. I think we would want to look closely at scenario tasks that exercise header bar menus, selection mode and view switchers as these don’t have a lot of cross-over.

    Time is a factor too. We don’t want the usability test to be too long, or your testers will lose interest in the test. I find a usabilty test between 30 and 40 minutes works well. You’ll also have time for interview questions in there too, so the total time would be an hour or less.


  2. I’m thinking again on this – many design patterns do very well. We want to focus on the ones where we’ve previously seen problems and have made tweaks.

    Looking at Gina’s usability test results[1] testers struggled to find the zoom button in Photos (header bar button), changing the month/year in Calendar (header bar buttons), searching (header bar button) and copying in Characters (primary window button), annotating and bookmarking in Evince (header bar menus), and other tasks in Nautilus (several were header bar menus).

    So I wonder if it would be more useful to focus on Photos, Calendar, and Evince – with attention to header bar buttons and header bar menus (other design patterns too, but those two seem important).



    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do share the same opinion. I also think it would be more useful, to then compare my usability test results with the previous results. So, keeping the focus on Photos, Calendar, and Evince – with attention to header bar buttons and header bar menus seems the right option. Again, maybe Allan and Jakub can also share their opinions on what programs and patterns would be most valuable for investigation.


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