View Full Version : Building the perfect UI

April 20th, 2009, 01:48 AM
Please come and discuss what you think is the perfect UI, what your have done to perfect yours, and what is wrong and or right about current UI's.

Please also state your skills with coding what language if any and you skill as a user.

during this forums discussions i will be PMing people with the option to join a special project based on this topic and also what is said.

We are embarking on an age where a single box no longer houses 1 single computer based off of a main board, but multiple computers housed on a Motherboard. we are learning to harness alternate fuels, and use alternate means of mobilization and thinking. we are advancing beyond a day where Linux based operating systems are only for the power user, or just the user fed up with *another company's* software. Linux can be and is the most powerful operating system for both personal and practical use, So why don't we see it used more often?

It's all based on a UI. notice that windows interface is always filled with hues of soft blue's and easy colors? This is to keep you from being distracted by the operating system itself and also to give the psychological effect of cleanliness. believe it or not hippies but our subconscious translates cleanliness as comfort and safety.

So ask yourself why windows can be so insecure, and yet millions of user feel they are protected and using the best OS on the market?

Microsoft is a business and just that it is in for money. This being said they are willing to put forth the money to become invested in there product. this means that they pay designers to code the software they use, home PC owners to test there software, and have teams of psychological experts as well as design experts reviewing reactions and opinions. this is why windows IS the perfect UI, no not because the interface is perfect itself but because it is DESIGNED with the intent of covering up its own flaws. Linux flaunts its flaws and laughs in the face of those who do not. I am not saying this is the wrong way of doing thins I am just saying

1.There needs to be a distribution of Linux that appeals to the people the same way *other* operating systems do.
2.this distro needs to be usable by -the first time user/the grandpa/the wife/ the 5 year old/the techie/the programmer/the dog?..
3.The looks of many UI's for Linux are just not set up for that kind of thing and need to be rethought.
4.the file system needs to be compatible with both Linux and other systems.

remember the file system itself is copyrighted by Microsoft and no one hold ownership on how folders are layed out on your drive.

So lets discuss :popcorn:

April 20th, 2009, 02:43 AM
Interesting topic a few things I have to say;

The perfect doesn't and never will exist, because everyone's idea of the perfect UI is different. Therefore the perfect UI will have to infinitely customisable, but this would have to be able to be done with EASE. That's an important concept, as soon as you can ulter every aspect of the UI with ONE config manager (not a config file) you might be able to say you have the perfect UI.

The main issue I have with todays setups is the stagnation of bar/dock ideals we've had bar's since the first GUI's. A dock is 'relatively' recent and I believe a step in the right direction, having options - but the dock still can't entirely replace all functions of a bar. The bar/tree combination is the closest thing to everyone's idea of organisation - tree being the setup we employ for folder organisation. They do just work.

I believe with the introduction of touch screens in computers, we'll start to see a different setup start to come into play.

However, my idea of the perfect UI would have program integrated UI's, eg; nautilus would be my video player, music player and photo viewer for instance whenever I opened my music folder, all the music would be organised, displayed and played back as if it were in a player except with the window managers layout, if that makes sense. I've already setup my firefox to look like it's running inside of nautilus with the use of skins. However amarok and VLC are a little harder to skin like that.

I'd hae a folder called e-mail, and in that folder everything is laid out as if it were in thunderbird or outlook, except without the need for an extra program. Is this ideal starting to make sense?

That's what I'd love to see in my GUI.

EDIT: Well I've explaina few things wrongly, like you could still install your favourite music player as each has it's own layout, feel and settings BUT whenever you installed it, it ran 'WITHIN' nautilus, and initialised when you open the music folder. does this make sense?

April 20th, 2009, 06:15 AM
yes i understand compleatly but what if you dident HAVE to go inside of a folder to find your music files. what if based on faicial recodnition or even the heat signature of your palm on the mouse could imidiatly present your music to you in genre's based on its guess of your mood? and had other options in case it was wrong?

what if there was a MUSIC button and you pressed you thumb against it and it could do a subdermal vein scan to find the perfect song for you?

I know these technologies are a bit off but not to far, we already have the toys why not play with them?

anyway i would like to do away with things like docks and bars i think they are a thing of the past, i on the otherhand think we will never get away from the tree design because thats just how organising works you compile the files in to the smallest possible selections and branch off from them

What im thinking could be a good possiblitie is a setup where you have multiple icons on your desktop placed in the centre and clicking on one of them brings you to a seperate themed desktop featuring items related to the theme

One of the idea's iv pretty much got set in stone is varying levels of customisable atributes

At first the user will take a small questionare to determan how the features are installe don the disk then another at the end of the install to give a very basic custome scheme to each user

then after all is instaled and your at your desktop going to different sections of the UI give you the option to customise it and in doing so there is a small tutorial on how to easely do it

the days of linux being for the lowend PC are gone

linux has power and if i have to mod it beyond its origins and call it something elts i will but that power needs to be harnesed

I would like an image based installer like what other OS's are now instating it is a brilliant idea all it dose is past an image onto your HD and then the actual install process is just regestering your hardware and BAM 15 minuet install

im looking to build an OS/UI that is smaller and sleeker in terms of actual code and looks then other UI's but is also as if not more full featured than windows

im looking to build a custom file structure compatable with all operating systems

as humans look for the missing link to comunicate beetween speicies i look to build it between OS's

April 20th, 2009, 04:21 PM
The perfect UI... what makes a UI good? I think balance is the biggest point. A UI has to stand out, but not be a "scream for attention" for the users. It has to have eye candy, but not so much that the system gets slower. It has to be simple, but there has to be enough space to do more advanced things. It has to be accessable by EVERYONE. People with high- and low-end computers. Young people, old people. Computer experts, but also newbies.

I'm going to think about this subject, and I'll post my ideas when I have enough time.


April 20th, 2009, 04:30 PM
The perfect UI-is one that you do not conciously notice. That is out of the way-permitting maximum use of screen area. That is available at the beck and call to do what you need in a simple and elegant manner. And of course-that you don't have to go hunting to find things.

In short-the perfect UI, "just works".

The Perfect UI must be made by the user-to fit said user, as everyone has different ideas as to what is rational and what is out-of-the-way.

There is NO Perfect-One-Size-Fits-All-UI.

A grandfather, a 5 year-old, and a single college graduate-ALL have different ways of thinking and they all have different needs and wants. Pretending that there is a one-size-fits-all UI is insanity.

April 20th, 2009, 04:37 PM
However, my idea of the perfect UI would have program integrated UI's, eg; nautilus would be my video player, music player and photo viewer for instance whenever I opened my music folder, all the music would be organised, displayed and played back as if it were in a player except with the window managers layout, if that makes sense. I've already setup my firefox to look like it's running inside of nautilus with the use of skins. However amarok and VLC are a little harder to skin like that.

I'd hae a folder called e-mail, and in that folder everything is laid out as if it were in thunderbird or outlook, except without the need for an extra program. Is this ideal starting to make sense?

That's what I'd love to see in my GUI.

EDIT: Well I've explaina few things wrongly, like you could still install your favourite music player as each has it's own layout, feel and settings BUT whenever you installed it, it ran 'WITHIN' nautilus, and initialised when you open the music folder. does this make sense?

This is very similar to what Windows is doing. MS keeps adding more metadata support to the OS, and also lets explorer tap into that metadata. So right now you can go into your music folder and sort/group/filter your music by artist, genre, rating, album and pretty much every other tag. You can also select a bunch of songs and hit the play button which will send the list of songs to your default player for playback. Pictures work similarly where entering the pictures folder will allow you to sort by several tags, date, size, etc. It also works like this for emails (since Windows moved to a 'file per email' model and away from the monolithic PST style storage in Outlook). You can go into your contacts folder and sort by any criteria that the email clients contact manager can sort by.

April 20th, 2009, 04:40 PM
There is no perfect UI. There are perfect UIs.

Check out this video on choice:


Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell gets inside the food industry's pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.

The beauty of linux is that we can easily choose to have to extra chunky or the tangy.

April 20th, 2009, 04:44 PM
My idea of the perfect UI would make liberal use of gestures and pie menus.

I would like to spawn a pie menu (at the mouse position) perhaps by holding down both mouse buttons. I would also like common actions like minimizing windows or initiating a grab to be handled by gesture. For example, holding the right mouse button and moving left then right changes the cursor to the grab hand at which point you can press the left mouse button and move the window around. It's easier for me than using keyboard shortcuts.

April 20th, 2009, 08:07 PM
Remember that this is not only a hypothetical discussion on perfecting a UI but also a literal discussion on the coming project.

geoken-What types of pie menu's are you thinking of and what current UI do you use? Pie menu's are not quite as efficiant as tree menu's int he fact that they use more realestate to do there task but perhaps with the right idea's behind it, it could be considered as a customisable option?

Gestures would be great but makeing them fluid and natural would be a task. one of the reason i ask about your current UI is partially because of the windows grab you speak of, are you not able to just grab a window on the edge and movie it? if not how do you go about it in your UI?

Crowchild-That my friend is exactly the point, the perfect UI would be a UI that balances controll over customisable options and is very easy to achieve a goal oriented to the person using the UI. one of my goals is to create a UI that is perfect for everyone by easely being made perfect BY everyone.

geoken-Yes as other operating systems should do more. Readin the data from withen a file's details is a great way of identifieng the file for use. Meta data is a perfect example, it is data used only to identify the file itself not the data whithen the file which helps with privecy at the same time as ease of accsess. doing so could help users from having to organise there file more than once as the computer could learn from there choices in the metadata or help call forth a song you want to listen to just by typing its name or even saying it.

Skripka-correction the perfect one size fits all UI could exist it would just have to be filled to the brim with easy to fallow options on how to make it perfect for YOU. so the perfect one size fits all UI is one that comes in one size but shapes itself to the user and grows with them.

mark0495-i would love to hear more ideas when you have them. i agree the UI needs to be noticable as in you dont have to go looking for it, but it also needs to be out of the way so when you dont want to see it its not there. It needs to be easy on the eye's with the option of being cool and snazy or being dull if you like it also needs to adapt to the hardware its installed on so that you still have all the available options but they taylor to what your hardware can do so having lower end hardware dose not limit the OS or the UI just makes it utilise the proper potential.

April 20th, 2009, 08:24 PM
What about a new paradigm?
For example, a system where you dont have to click the mouse (i'm not saying that you have to do that, i'm just showing different ideas).

Weird? yes, so try out this experiment in this site (http://www.dontclick.it/)

April 20th, 2009, 10:25 PM
I think you always have to look at UI in context of the task. Also, you will need to provide evolutionary path for every new thing you create, and that path should in every case be better.

If you create working, functional desktop using some new paradigm or concept, you can't escape the fact that users will continue running THEIR favorite programs, like such monster as firefox, want to use Skype for messaging, etc.

Basically, there is big wall to leap over to reach new desktop, and this wall is built of existing free software.

As for different paradigms, like desktop without mouse click, i should say that I really like it (i love switching desktops with compiz by moving mouse pointer to the corner), but not only it requires considerably more development skill and time, but also, various areas should/has to be left using old interface type (like i mentioned before). There should be visual, easily learned clues present in interface to distinguish from old and new way of doing things.

April 21st, 2009, 01:54 AM
piousp- Thats good but we already use mouseover in our everyday lifes for many things i might be a good idea to work with it tho, try thing like removing as many mouse click as necceary to speed up the interface but i belive that a user will never become acustomed to a "click free" envoronment. maybe if it was replaced by something elts just as easy? but at the same time consider the hundreds of other options there are and have been. which one has been the most succsesfull thus far?

voice recodnition is a technology that requires much training currently in order to acomplish any kind of acurecy its wonderfull but after a few hours of talking to you computer you would realise....its hard to game! its hard to do picture editing! web designing make my mouth dry!

touch screens are becoming vastly popular but consider this tablet pc's...do not! sell well as a matter of fact 90% of touch screen PC's are hybrids that ALSO use a mouse. why? because using a mouse is THAT easy my 5 month old daughter has even grasped the concept and thinks its fun.

So what could we replace it with?

currently finger vein technology is still too under developed

facial recodnition is BEYOND primitive

mood ring anylicical data has proven to be one of the most
intuitive device to user interfaces there is but it is very expencive and takes a very long time for the computer to "LEARN" you. someday it will be fantastic to place your hand in some contraptions and have it alalyse your blood, the movement of your fingerveins, electrical impulses in your hands,and heat and this is great because these are things that are as set in stone as your fingerprints. Short of body alteration this are thigns that only change over usual 10 year increments giving the machine plenty of time to adapt.

consider that each motion track, each analysis of your fluid motion and exact human charicteristic takes up space. this means they connot be included with the UI but rather learned after installation. this is why voice recodnition is still primitive. it is becase the software has to be trained and dose not come able to fully understand

i feel like iv rante dont his long enough because i had many more point but typing made me forget them lol.

April 21st, 2009, 03:05 AM
Simplistic and clean with a simple easy to access action bar with user tracking abilities to prioritize your most used applications or an app that makes customization easy with a click through GUI asking simple questions to help figure out what priorities YOU have in regards to your system.


Minimum coding experience , power user, ten year veteran mechanic and Microsoft partner with a hardcore love affair with Debain based operating systems.

Mr. Picklesworth
April 21st, 2009, 03:07 AM
Here's one important step that should be taken:

Windows are currently treated as the top level of a user interface; they are the main objects with which the user interacts. This should be switched in favour of a system that manages open resources (eg: files), where windows are a means of presenting them handled beneath that system. The end result would be something tidy both from the technical sense and to the end user. It's also a step towards the mockup of milk and honey (http://tango.freedesktop.org/Window_Experiments).

April 21st, 2009, 05:42 AM
sx66gns- that is brilliantly put exactly how i want to do thing. on the action bar though im wanting to make visible operating system and UI components as minimal as possible like say the action bar/menu/buttons dont show up unless you press both mouse buttons at which point the open and display in the center of your screen with very easy to see and use option or something of the like.

Mr. Picklesworth-Would you mind enlightening us a little further on how this would work?

April 21st, 2009, 06:51 AM
The user interface is a reflection of how we have adapted to our tools.
I prefer Vimperator as a browser because it gives me more options and less mouse.
This is based on an edited collection of my posts in the Arch Forums earlier this week...

(Sort of)
I was watching a friend use an iPhone yesterday and I think portable devices are leading the UI paradigm now and larger systems will follow.

Tactile responses aside I think the ideal input device will be a modal touchpad that can take on the form of the screen display.

Imagine your keyboard was a touch screen that was modal like Vim.
With a gesture you could go from a pointer to a keyboard to a customised set of controls for a music player and so on.
In many ways the keyboard would be replaced with an interface that was specific to the task yet with a gesture the keyboard would be there.

Highly configurable modes could allow switching between a keyboard representation and a positioning device.
Gestures like the 'pinch' used on the iphone could change the screen dynamically.

The mouse would be completely redundant.

A keyboard is certainly the fastest way to get a lot of information into a computer but speed and accuracy aren't the same thing.

I design software and spend a lot of time sitting with users watching how they interact with systems and I think the mouse is hard wired into their brains.
It is confounding to watch a 100wpm typist use a mouse to move from field to field even though she has been taught that Enter or Tab is more efficient.

An input device like the one I have described would allow software to display an input device that for example, restricted input to numbers or alpha, spread list items all over it for a one touch choice, showed a previous / next field button or allowed 2 handed mouse techniques like resizing objects and the pinch style zoom gestures on the iPhone as well as a straight touch screen interface.

Computer based devices are converging in capability but packaging constraints have changed the way that a UI is designed.