Systemsettings usability work for Kubuntu's Eft

One of the more unique features of Kubuntu is that it ships with a replacement for the standard KDE Control Center program, called systemsettings. Instead of using a tree in a sidebar on the left hand side of the window, systemsettings shows a large menu of grouped icons for the user to choose from. A lot of people like it (and some people don't), but pretty much everyone agrees that it can be improved even more.

For the coming Edgy Eft release, Ellen of fame has done a card sorting experiment with real users (not us geeks!) in order to find out how best to organise the settings modules in systemsettings. "Card sorting" is a fairly simple usability technique. You write down each item on a card and then ask people to sort the cards into piles of related cards. Do this for enough people and you build up a picture of how the typical user organises and thinks how the items a related. Empirical data.

The usability work and the new specification for Edgy is described here for those who are interested:

There is also a link to a spreadsheet describing Ellen's new "information architecture" for the Systemsettings.

In the last week I've taken Ellen's changes and implemented them. Here are some screenshots of what it looks like running on my Dapper system.

There is still some work to be done. Some icons need changing, and some labels might also be changed. But I think it is a solid improvement over what we now have. Thanks El.


sure looks better, absolutely. might be a contender for a KDE4 settings tool ;-)

By superstoned at Sun, 08/06/2006 - 14:41

Categories are very well arranged. The separation into "General" and "Advanced" is well done too. Clamping all the modules together, and not tree-like structure, was the singular issue with original Control Panel. Now, frequent/common tasks are "editorially" selected and put upfront.

However, I would use different names for "General" and "Advanced" They suggest "focus". General - look from above - not much micro-management can be done here. Almost suggests there is a more-detailed equivalent of the "general" widgets available in "advanced" section.

I would go for names like "Frequently Used Settings" vs. "Other / Miscellaneous Settings" They convey importance factor, rather than "detail focus."

By suslikreal at Sun, 08/06/2006 - 15:38