Making applications look schaweeeeet

When we started the Jokosher project, we wanted it to kick arse and take names when it came to usability, but also attractiveness. This is why my-friend-and-yours J5 is displayed in the New Project dialog, and why we have spent a lot of time on making Jokosher look attractive, yet neat.

Dialog design is essential here. God gave you eyes and Carl Worth gave you Cairo for a reason, so lets set them on fire and make our applications look the bomb. As Laszlo blogged about, I added some header images to the effects dialog boxes when I was hacking on the code; this was to make the dialogs look consistent (by using the orange Jokosher theme) and attractive. One of the problems was with kind of approach was translating the text I put in the images – the text was part of a bitmap. This is a big problem now Jokosher is feeling the i18n love. To fix this, Laszlo recently replaced the images with a Cairo equivalent. As such, now we have good looking dialog boxes that translate well.

Traditionally, form and function have divided people into two approximate camps, one accused of being orange-sunglasses-wearing-hippy-web-two-point-zero-idolising-feckless-morons and the other described as over-technical-geeky-binary-lovers-with-no-mates. Why do we even need to make a choice? Why can’t we feel the love of powerful software…with rounded edges and shiny dialog boxes?

As our desktop moves into a new era, one driven by windows that wobble, software that gets ever more advanced and users that demand attractiveness and ability, we have so much opportunity. Hey, its not as if we don’t have an incredible platform to do this. Using Cairo as one such example, we have such an awesome ability to use this important component in our desktop to re-shape how we look at software. When I was hacking on the effects dialogs, sure, I could have made my life easier if I just used a plain old push-button for each effect, but I really wanted the dialog to have some life and have some character. There are of course usability concerns here too – in a future version of Jokosher I would like to replace the effects listed in the dialog box with images that look like a physical effects unit such as a stomp box. Cairo gives us the ability to break away from the Gtk mold and explore better ways of representing concepts on the desktop, and better ways to deliver attractive interfaces. Feel the power!

Of course, with power also comes responsibility, and like many of you folks, I never want to see our desktop turn into the invent-your-own-interface-and-toolkit bonanza that is going on in the Windows world. Here we want consistency of toolkit and HIG, but scope to develop new constructs and ideas where it makes sense. When I look at the GNOME desktop, I always feel like there is an opportunity for someone to wave a paintbrush over it to spruce it up. Lets see some of that action going on.

  • Søren Hauberg

    I think it’s cool that you’re playing around — just don’t forget accessibility…

  • Milosz Tanski

    Dude, when your talking about applications looking sweet… you need to include pictures, for our viewing pleasure. Thx :)

  • Alan

    Why can’t we feel the love of powerful software…with rounded edges and shiny dialog boxes?

    Congratulations, you just reinvented skins/theming and all the problems that go with it. Accessibility being the big one, predictability and consistency among the others. Maintaining custom widgets long into the future wont be much fun either. Glad to see you have overcome at least part of the internationalisation problems. Ideally there should be some way to allow you to do this but allow users to say “no seriously I really do want to use the standard theme” and have Jokosher look just like everything else (and I’m not just talking about high contrast accessibility themes). Maybe the Themes and accessibility people can find a way to let you have what you want, I really hope so.

    Having said that if you clearly specify your target audience putting eye-candy loving artists and musicians first and foremost before Gnome users occasionally dabbling with a bit of audio then you can safely justify your decision. The Gnome Media package provides for the occassional user so it isn’t unreasonable to makes try out more radical things in Jokosher. If you make Joksoher too different you make it harder for users who have been using simpler tools to get started and apply what they have already learned.

  • jono

    Alan – I am by no means suggesting that the sensibilities of internationalisation and theme inconsistancy should be ignored for more attractive interfaces, but I believe many of these issues could be solved, and in some cases, overriding a theme may be fine. I don’t believe the Orange theme of Jokosher should change depending on your theme.

    Jokosher is designed around ease of use and we will never be different for the sake of being different, but we are keen to explore better ways of making audio production rock. :)