KDE 3.3 Usability Study and Review

Celebrating one month of KDE 3.3 out in the wild, userinstinct put together a usability review with user testing. "Based on feedback from our test group, the default settings for a number of KDE parameters differ from what is usually expected and desired by users. Providing better defaults would reduce the time users spend looking for configuration settings and would provide a better "out-of-the-box" experience."

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by wygiwyg (not verified)

Just a little add-on. I'm talking about wizzards.

A first desktop wizzard. User decides not just about window manager styles (Windoze, MacOS, KDE etc.), he/she decides everything:

1. kicker or not

2. icons on desktop or not (I wouldn't choose icons)

3. antialiased fonts or not (I would choose antialiasing)

4. how many entries in main menu (I wouldn't, for example choose games nor edutainment)

5. how many entries in right mouse button click


The same at application level.

by Janne (not verified)

It's an interesting idea. The user would build the environment from ground-up to suit his or her needs. Unfortunately, it wouldn't work.

What you are suggesting would mean that it would take the user HOURS just to be able to use the environment! With all the clutter KDE has right now, the user can still use it.

If the user is overwhelmed now, imagine how overwhelmen they would be with this system! First boot: "Huh? How many menu-entries? What kind of Kmenu? Icons or not? what apps to display? Kicker or no Kicker? What's a Kicker?... There, now I can use the desktop. Let's try email.... Argh, same questions again! How many menu-entries, toolbars or no toolbars, what icons in the toolbar...."

What I would like to see is bare minimium of enabled features and UI-elements. As little as possible, but enough for the UI and the apps to be usable. The user could then enable more elements and features as he sees fit. This way we would have streamlined UI that is suitable for novices. More advanced users (and novices as they progress) could then enable additional functionality.

That would basically mean that the environment grows as the skills and abilities of the user grows. You have a foundation, and you build up from there as you see fit. Right now in KDE, you have everything turned on and with all the options visible. The user has to trim down the environment in order for it to suit his needs.

by yemu (not verified)

kpersonalizer could ask users running kde for the first time, about their "level of experience" in computers. for example options could be:
- i'm new to computers
- i'm quite experienced in W**dows (settings would be similar to MSWin)
- i'm quite experienced in KDE

by JCorey (not verified)

long as you can do that .. and keep it to 3 or less options so as not to overwhelm them. Although it may still piss off those with an option-tolerance of 0-2...

On my home PC I use KDE with resolution of 800x600. Some apps and configuration dialogs are fine, but some - a pain in da *. IE. panel configuration dialog doesn't fit on 800x600 screen - I cannot see "OK" button. I always need to configure panel using ControlCenter. And so on.
Such problems in configuration dialogs can be reduced if amount of configuration options per view (tab) is reduced. If I open configuration tab with lots of options, Im too lazy to check all of them - so I probably will miss some good configuration feature.

My 2 cents.
PS. Sorre for my ENG.

by André Somers (not verified)

If you come across dialogs that don't scale to 800x600, please report them as bugs using the proper way (bugs.kde.org).

That you don't check the many configuration options available is in my view your own problem. Less options per tab results in more tabs if the current congurability is to be maintained (which IMHO, it should). Would you check more tabs?

I dont have internet @home - so I always forget to report such stuff, but reporting from w2k isnt fun :)

I also understand that we need lots of configuration options but the question is - how to make it user (lamer) frendly. If tab content can be guessed by its name, users will look inside it. It is always possible to add advanced tab or button so g33ks will feel comfortable too.

Not checking all options and not reading long texts is not mine problem only. Think about Joe AverageUser. How many times he reads a bit more than 2 - 3 sentences, if he isn't intrested in it? 5 to 8 optins per tab IMHO are OK, but not more.

by Andras Mantia (not verified)

It means that those dialog do not conform to the KDE Styleguide. Hey, KDE even has a styleguide! ;-)

(Yes sometimes it's true for Quanta dialogs as well...)

by Leon Brooks (not verified)

Won't fix the usability issue, but will allow you to use the panel.

One thing should be clear, I hope: something needs to be done to Konqueror. There are _so_ many things that seem odd to both beginners and experienced users. I didn't even use Konqueror until a few months ago, as it did and still does look a like a developer's version which has no usability thinking applied.

Let's start with the menus: Location, Edit, View, Go, Bookmarks, Tools, Settings, Window, Help. It's an awful lot of menus that can be confused one with another. Why couldn't we just combine some of those? Like...

- Location and Go? Aren't those about the same thing, the location we are currently or are changing to?
- View and Window? And shouldn't options for tabs be in the same menu as options for (new) windows?
- Location, Go, and Bookmarks? Perhaps Go and Bookmarks together, Location having the Tabs options from Window menu?
- Edit and Tools? Could these be combined? And "copy files.." and "move files.." moved to the tools submenu from the currently too long edit menu.
- Settings... the most hated one. Shouldn't Show Menubar be in view -menu? I can manage with the multiple Configure... entries, though I do think that they should be reduced overall. But the whole Configure Konqueror dialog is too cluttered, too. The categories are not in any sensible order, and there are too many places that can be confused. Look at e.g. Firefox a little bit...

Of course, at the same time, each menu's entries should be reconsidered/ordered. And there are too many icons like has been pointed out.

Maybe there are just too many flaws in Konqueror right now, that people are scared to think how the UI should be redone? People are scared to remove all those icons which just clutter the UI, because they think that the few people who have learned them (though they could be similarly or better productive by other shortcut methods) would yell if they were removed?

Please try the "SimpleBrowser" profile of konqy (which comes with 3.3). What do you think ?


Well, I didn't notice anything different, apart from that it closed all my tabs. And that's not + for usability.

The only problem I see is the file browsing profile. It has maybe few too many buttons to understand if you can't read. Really, at first I also thought Konqueror was too bloated, but then I started to read what the different widgets said. It took me about 30 seconds to learn the system, and now it's not too complicated for me at all. In fact, in my opinion it's quite smart.

I have only one real complaiment: some options and features can be accessed through too many places. That's what makes the system really bloated. One feature, one button. That's the way it should be.

> I didn't notice anything different, apart from that it closed all my tabs. And that's not + for usability.

KDE 3.3 asks you if you really want to load another profile if you have tabs open.

I noticed that now, but apart from that how does the "Simple browser" differ from the default browser profile?

Try starting konqy directly with this profile e.g. from the kicker button.
It gets rid of two menus ("Go" and "Window"), it merges the main and the location toolbar and reduces the number of toolbar icons and menu itmes significantly.


Wow! That's what I wouldn't call simple but smart, because you can gain access to those stupid widgets anyway. With few improvements this should be set as default!

by Vlad (not verified)

I think OS X has a lot of nice eyecandy features that would be good to implement into KDE:
1) Put shadows under every object (window, mouse pointer, etc)
2) Put a blue 'halo' around field boxes when they are active (eg. when the cursor is on them) to make it easy for the viewer to know where they're typing
3) Make the cursor blink more slowly and be more evident... Make sure the cursor doesn't temporarily vanish as people are typing passwords, usernames, etc. That's _very_ annoying.
4) Make icons of higher resolution
5) Make icons "light up" when mouse is over them (RedHat does that, somewhat).
6) Make icons bigger/higher resolution in the menu that appears when "Alt-Tab" is pressed.
7) Employ window transparency (which is now possible with the latest version of X.org) when showing the "Alt-Tab" menu.
8) When prompting for usernames and passwords, make the "OK" button shine blue when the user is eligible to press it (eg. when the user has typep something in both the username and password fields).
9) In the KDE "Start" Menu, label programs with their straighforward English descriptions, and only afterwards put the KDE application name (eg. Konqueror)

More meaty changes:
9) Make LAN accessible by default through konqueror. I've used several boxes with KDE, but could never browse the LAN.
10) Don't use things like smbfs:// or file:/ when browsing in Konqueror. Most users don't care if the other computer they connect to is Samba, AppleTalk, Novell, etc. All they want to be bothered with is a plaintext computer name, their username on that computer, and their password.
11) Include a GUI for resizing partitions, especially NTFS. This should be pretty simple, now that YaST has been GPL'ed.
12) Make fonts better by default. I've used KDE on Gentoo and Debian, and for some reason the fonts on the window titles seem very rudimentary, ragged. Fonts also look that way on the KDE splash screen (as in "Initializing peripherals") and in the help dialogs. Strangely enough, the fonts on the KDE 3.3 screenshots from the KDE homepage look great... Maybe I just don't know how to setup fonts properly, but if I can't do that, many other users can't either.
13) Make the 4-desktop preview at the bottom alot bigger by default, and allow apps. to put their icon in the miniature window. Gnome on Redhat 9 does that very well - for example, galeon shows their foot logo in the miniature window when it is open in a desktop.

The guys working on KDE do a incredible job, and it is fantastic that they've achieved so much. Now all that needs to be done is these and perhaps other minor tweaks before KDE becomes the best darn desktop (free or proprietary) out there!