Humane Interface Guidelines

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A few years ago, both the KDE and the GNOME projects began efforts to create Human Interface Guidelines (HIGs). While the content of these two HIGs differ on many points, their overarching goals are identical: both seek to improve the usability and consistency of their desktops, and the applications on their foundations. It is indisputable that a well-developed set of guidelines can be a major asset to any software project.

The Tango Desktop Project will also aim to create a set of guidelines for developing humane interfaces. However, the main difference here is that the HIG for the Tango Desktop Project will only specify what language to use, where to use it, how to structure menu items, and other such tasks that will improve the usability of the application. What our HIG will not do, however, is specify what spacing to use between widgets, what padding to use around widgets, what button order to put buttons in, and other things which would ideally be defined in a theme, so that one can have a theme that totally defines the look, and to some extent, feel.

The process we will use to create a Tango Desktop Project HIG is as follows:

  • Review the KDE and GNOME HIGs, with the aim of gathering an understanding of what information each provides. Create a list of the information contained within each.
  • Review the bugs filed against each HIG, to learn about the troubles that developers have had implementing the guidelines. Create a list of the troubles associated with each. The goal of this research is to learn which parts of these guidelines are helpful, useful and appropriate, and which parts need to be reworked or removed.
  • In instances where the recommendations of the KDE and GNOME HIGs are different, we will conduct usability tests to determine which recommendation is more appropriate to our target audiences.