Canonical Voices

Rae Shambrook

Colour palette updates

Over the past few months, we’ve given you a peek into our evolving Suru design language with our wallpaper, convergence and Clock App blog posts.

Suru is based on Japanese aesthetics: minimalism, lightness and fluidity. This is why you will see the platform moving to a cleaner and more modern look.

Naturally, part of this evolution is colour. The new palette features a lightened set of colours with clearly defined usage to create  better visual hierarchy and an improved aesthetic sense of visual harmony.

On the technical side, SDK colour handling has been improved so that in the future colour usage will be more consistent and less prone to bugs.

The new palette has also expanded in scope with more colours to enable the creation of designs with greater depth, particularly as we move towards convergence, and reflects the design values we wish to impart onto the platform.

colour_palette

The new palette

Like our SDK, the colour palette has to be scalable. As we worked on visual designs for both apps and the shell, we found that having a colour palette which only contained six colours was too limiting. When approaching elements like the indicators or even shadows in the task switcher, light grey and dark grey weren’t going to be deep enough to stand out on a windowed view, where you have wallpaper and other windows to compete with.

The new palette is made up of thirteen colours. Some noticeable differences are an overall lighter look and additional greys. Purple is gone and we’ve added a yellow to the palette. This broader palette works to solve bugs where contrast and visibility were an issue, especially with the dark theme.

How we came to choose the colours was by iteratively reworking the visual designs across the whole platform and discovering what was needed as we designed. The greys came about when we worked on the revamped dark theme and shell projects, for example the upcoming contextual menus. While we added several new greys, the UI itself has taken on a less grey look.

App backgrounds have been upped to white, the grey neutral button has been lightened to Porcelain (a very light grey) in order to keep the button from looking disabled. These changes were made to improve visibility and contrast, to lighten the palette across the board and to keep everything consistent.

 

nearby_scopes
The previous design of the Nearby scope (left) and the updated design using the new palette (right) The background is lighter, buttons don’t look as disabled and text is higher contrast against the background.

 

The new palette allows developers to have more flexibility as the theme is now dynamic, rather than the colours being hard-coded to the UI as they were previously. In fact, our palette theme is built upon a layering system for which you can find the tutorial here.

Changing the use of orange

Previously orange was liberally used throughout our SDK, however such wide-ranging use of orange caused a number of UX issues:

  • Orange is so close to red that, at a glance, components could be misconstrued to be in an error state when in fact their current state was nominal.
  • Because orange is so close to red, the frequent use of orange made it harder for users to pick out actual error states in the UI.
  • Orange attracts the eye to wherever it is used, but frequently these elements didn’t warrant such a high level of visibility.

Around the same time as these issues were identified, we were also working on the design of focus states for keyboard navigation.

A focus state needs to be instantly visible so that a user can effortlessly see which item is focused without having to pause, look harder, and think.

After exploring a wide range of different concepts, we settled on using an orange frame as our keyboard navigation focus state.  However the use of this frame only worked if orange in all other areas was significantly toned down.

In order to fix the UX issues with the overuse of orange and to enable the use of an orange frame as our keyboard navigation focus state, the decision was made to be much more selective as to where and when orange should be applied.  The use of orange should now be limited to a single hero item per surface in addition to its use as our keyboard focus state.

This change has:

  • Improved visual hierarchy
  • Made error states instantly recognisable
  • Enabled the use of an orange frame as the keyboard navigation focus state

Usage of blue

For many years blue has been used in Ubuntu to alert the user to activities that are neutral (neither positive or negative).  Examples include the Launcher pips changing to blue to give the user a persistent notification of an app alert, or the messaging menu indicator changing to blue to indicate unread messages.

Previously in some (but not all) cases orange was being used to represent select and activity states but effective keyboard navigation had not yet been designed for Unity.

As part of our work on focus states, we also needed to consider a consistent visual language for select states, with a key requirement being that an item could be both focused and selected at the same time.

After much research, experimentation and testing, blue was chosen as the Ubuntu selected state colour.  Blue has also returned to being used for natural activity, for example in progress bars.  The use of blue for selected and other activity states works with almost all other elements, on both dark and light backgrounds, and stands out clearly and precisely when used in combination with a focus state.

Now that our usage of colour is more precisely and consistently defined (with orange = focus, blue = selected and neutral activity), you will see use of orange minimised so that it stands out as a focus state and more blue to replace orange’s previous selection and activity use.

 

Inbox
The sections headers now use blue to indicate which section is selected. This works well with the new focus frame that can be present when keyboard navigation is active.

The future for the palette

Colour is important for aesthetics (the palette needs to visually work together) but it also needs to convey meaning. Therefore a semantic approach is critical for maximum usability.  Some colours have cultural meanings, other colours have meanings applied by their context.

By extending the colours in our palette and organising them in a semantic way, we have created a stable framework of colour that developers can use to build their apps without time consuming and unnecessary work.  We can now be confident that our Suru design values are being consistently applied to every colour related design problem as we move forward with designing and building convergence.

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Steph Wilson

In the coming months we will be rolling out the new app design guidelines, which will give you the latest toolkit best practices and patterns so you can make your own convergent app for Ubuntu.

Why do we need design guidelines?

The guidelines are a big part of communicating design practices and philosophy to the community and the wider audience. Without it, we wouldn’t have consistency in our design language and people who want to develop or design on Ubuntu wouldn’t be able to maintain the identity we so love.

Throughout the guide you will see the rationale behind our design values through the development our Suru visual language and philosophy.

What’s to come?

We are going to start releasing parts of the Building Blocks section first, which contains all the components you need to start building your application.

Back in November last year we took a look at defining styles for the guide e.g. how to illustrate examples of best practice. The guide will feature UI examples of how the component will look inside an app across screen sizes, as well as breaking them apart so you can see what goes where and how.

Here’s a sneak peak…

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 09.50.13

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 14.35.25

After user testing on the current design guide, users said it was hard to find content as it was lost in the large amounts of text, so we have given the guide a bit of a nip and tuck by balancing visuals and text accordingly.

All new sections

As well as ‘Get Started’, ‘Patterns’ and ‘Building blocks’ we will now introduce: ‘System integration’ and ‘Resources’ to the list, as well as an overview page for each section highlighting key areas.

System integration will feature the number of a touchpoints your app can plug into inside the Ubuntu operating system shell, such as the launcher, notifications and indicators. For example, you can add a count emblem over your app icon inside the Launcher to show unread messages or available updates.

The ‘Resources’ section will feature downloads such as grid layout templates, the new colour palette and our icon set.

Over to you…

We can’t wait to see your app designs and hope that our design practices will help you achieve a great user experience on Ubuntu.

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Magdalena Mirowicz

How we introduced Scrum to the Web Team

At the beginning of the year our team – who look after the core websites in the Ubuntu ecosystem – decided to adjust our project delivery process and go full-on Scrum. This is hardly shocking news these days. Actually, you can find way more people writing about how they decided to ditch Scrum and what a terrible idea it was to begin with. But for us, it seemed like a good thing to try and so far the results are promising.

Happy Web Team sprinting Happy Web Team sprinting on the 16.04 release day

What is Scrum?

Scrum was born as a framework to manage the development of complex products where the traditional project methodologies failed. It has a very simple set of rules that are best explained by its founding fathers Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in the Scrum Guide. Unfortunately, over the years the simple framework has been – on the one hand – contaminated with various additional concepts and on the other, diluted by assumption that Scrum can work in any context or on a pick-and-choose basis.

When you think Scrum do you think user stories, burndown charts and planning poker?

Well, that is what I thought before I realised that all these things are NOT part of Scrum but the optional additions, which sometimes can help but sometimes can be detrimental.

Life before Scrum

I joined the Canonical Web Team at the end of last year in a project manager’s role. At that point, the team was experimenting with introducing some of the Scrum artifacts, like sprint planning and retrospective, into an already familiar Kanban method.

What worked

Standups were a daily bread for the team and kept everyone in the loop. Retrospectives made us reflect on the ways we work and how we can improve. Team members were skilled at planning their tasks and progressing through their work. The fact that we are a relatively small team based in the same space also helped with communication and collaboration.

What didn’t work

It felt like the partial adoption of Scrum was not really allowing us to reap all positive effects. We operated on a one week sprint basis. We had planning sessions at the start of the sprint but they were mostly focused on tasks for individual team members rather than team working out what we can complete each sprint and how to make it happen. We also didn’t involve the stakeholders in our meetings, so often team members didn’t have a good understanding of the business context behind the projects.

Our log of current and incoming work was massive, recorded in few different places, and often not very well defined. We work with multiple stakeholders from different functions and product lines. We also have a handful of internal projects aimed at improving our ways of working (for example a great Vanilla framework initiative you can read about here). It was a challenge for us to understand our short and long term priorities. It also felt that we can benefit if we make the stakeholders a part of the prioritisation and planning exercise.

Life after Scrum

Our team was one leg in the Scrum already and it intuitively felt that pushing it further could help us resolve at least some of the above mentioned problems.

Sprint changes

We extended the duration of our sprints to two weeks in order to have enough time to complete usable product increments. Bonus – it reduced the overhead of weekly planning and review sessions.

We shifted our thinking about what we take on each sprint from the task level items to the backlog level items which ideally, should be demonstrable at the end of the sprint. The goal is also to get better at understanding our velocity, improve estimation and therefore be more accurate in planning what we can accomplish in two week’s timeframe.

This change created a more sustainable work pace while at the same time added a sense of urgency  around most important work. Sprint clock is ticking, we know what we planned to complete and from day one we do our best to succeed. As mentioned by one of our developers, “Team now has bi-weekly rhythm and greater visibility of overall team goals in any given sprint. There is a constant march of progress”.

Introducing a backlog

Product backlog is one of the Scrum artifacts and our team didn’t really have one before. We decided to replace all docs and tools where we captured upcoming projects with one simple spreadsheet, hosting all briefs and other relevant project info. This allowed us to surface all the work that team had in the pipeline, including the internal improvements that didn’t have any owners outside of the Web Team. This new format supports us in defining and building the consensus about our priorities.

One additional shift related to our estimation process. We decided to discard task estimating altogether for the simplicity and focus only on the backlog items. The principle is that the higher the project is in the backlog, the more we break it down into small increments so our estimates are more accurate. We started with a big backlog refining session to get a better understanding of what we have in the pipeline. We now use the burnup chart which I update at the end of the sprint and it helps us to predict when, roughly, we may get to the projects that are further down the pipeline.

Meetings, meetings and few more meetings

We decided to introduce new meetings and slightly alter the existing ones. Every two weeks our Tuesday schedule is pretty hectic but it feels like it actually saves us time in the long run.

We start with a sprint review meeting for all team members and stakeholders. That’s where we look at what was planned for the sprint, demo what we completed and – if needed – explain what we didn’t manage to finish and why. We then move to the backlog planning session with the same group, agreeing what should make its way to the next sprint, clarifying outstanding questions and talking through new briefs that came in the meantime.

The second set of meetings involves only the Web Team. We first run our usual retrospective and after that, we plan the next sprint in details. We discuss all backlog items planned for the sprint, identify tasks needed to complete them and team members pick what they will be working on. After this exercise, even without estimating, we get a pretty good idea whether we’re overloaded or we need to add more work.

So far the review and planning meeting with the business turned out well and helped to improve the communication, understanding of everyone’s work, and consensus about the priorities. As one of team members pointed out, “stakeholders now have to agree to work beforehand and any ad-hoc work inserted into the iteration visibly impacts on our initial commitment”.

Scrum isn’t always a walk in the park

The beauty of Scrum is that it’s lightweight and in principle, simple to understand. It doesn’t mean however that running projects with Scrum is not difficult. Below I outlined what I see currently as our key challenges.

Launch deadlines vs. sprint schedule

Some of our web projects have strict launch dates as they are tied to specific events, such as a launch of new device. More often than not, these fall somewhere within the sprint duration so we can’t simply finish them at the end of the sprint. One way of addressing it would be to schedule them in the preceding sprint however we are rarely able to gather all necessary bits of information beforehand. For now, we just accept the fact that some items in our sprint have a higher priority and need to be released before the sprint ends.

Sprint planning and estimates

More often than not, by the end of the sprint we realise that we won’t complete all scheduled backlog items. We try not to make a big drama out of it – apparently it happens roughly half of the time even for mature Scrum teams – but at times, it deflates a sense of accomplishment. We can definitely improve how we break our backlog items, and our estimates are still sometimes based on a wishful thinking. There is also too much temptation to add more to a backlog than our velocity predicts – we try to resist it, with mixed effects.

Getting stakeholders on board

Introducing stakeholders to our planning and review process was seen by the whole team as a huge improvement, yet working with clients – either internal or external – is not always a piece of cake. We sometimes struggle to get good briefs and all necessary information before the sprint starts, and every now and then we get a cheeky request to fit something new in. It’s a long process to get everyone follow the rules and we are only at the beginning!

Bugs and business as usual

This seems to be quite a common problem for many Scrum teams – how should we deal with bugs and small requests (like copy changes) that come during the duration of the sprint? We considered postponing them until the next planning meeting where we would determine which ones we add into a sprint. Eventually, we decided we would spend more time discussing and planning these things than it actually takes to resolve them. Therefore, we assume that a small percentage of team’s velocity (about 10%) will be spent on dealing with these. That’s not quite in line with Scrum principles and we don’t have a good way to measure yet what’s the actual impact of such work.

Happy Scrum, everyone!

Scrum doesn’t work everywhere and for everyone but our team is happy with the direction we moved to, which often comes back in our retrospectives. Empowerment, openness, collaboration, and better structure have been mentioned by several team members. It’s really remarkable how easily everyone adjusted to the new process and team’s commitment to make the whole thing work has been invaluable.

We are only in our seventh sprint now and are still on the steep learning curve, making adjustments as needed. Like anything in this world, Scrum is not perfect but maybe the greatest thing about it is that it keeps continuous adaptation at its core so within each cycle, we can look back and change what we don’t like.

Want to learn how to be a Scrummaster or Product Owner yourself?

Before we started our transition to Scrum I completed the Scrum Master and Product Owner training classes with Martine Davos at Skills Matter in London, UK, which I highly recommend for any Scrum newbies.

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Grazina Borosko

April marks the release of Xerus 16.4 and with it we bring a new design of our iconic wallpaper. This post will take you through our design process and how we have integrated our Suru visual language.

Evolution

The foundation of our recent designs are based on our Suru visual language, which encompasses our core brand values, bringing consistency across the Ubuntu brand.

Our Suru language is influenced by the minimalist nature of Japanese culture. We have taken elements of their Zen culture that give us a precise yet simplistic rhythm and used it in our designs. Working with paper metaphors we have drawn inspiration from the art of origami that provides us with a solid and tangible foundation to work from. Paper is also transferable, meaning it can be used in all areas of our brand in two and three dimensional forms.

Design process

We started by looking at previously released wallpapers across Ubuntu to see how each has evolved from each other. After seeing the previous designs we started to apply our new Suru patterns, which inspired us to move in a new direction.

Ubuntu 14.10 ‘Utopic Unicorn’’

wallpaper_unicorn

Ubuntu 15.04 ‘Vivid Vervet’

suru-desktop-wallpaper-ubuntu-vivid (1)

Ubuntu 15.10 ‘Wily Werewolf’

ubuntu-1510-wily-werewolf-wallpaper

Step-by-step process

Step 1. Origami animal

Since every new Ubuntu release is named after animal, the Design Team wanted to bring this idea closer to the wallpaper and the Suru language. The folds are part of the origami animal and become the base of which we start our design process.

Origarmi

To make your own origami Xerus squirrel, you can find the instructions here.

Step.2 Searching for the shape

We started to look at different patterns by using various techniques with origami paper. We zoomed into particular folds of the paper, experimented with different light sources, photography, and used various effects to enhance the design.

The idea was to bring actual origami to the wallpaper as much as possible. We had to think about composition that would work across all screen sizes, especially desktop. As the wallpaper is a prominent feature in a desktop environment, we wanted to make sure that it was user friendly, allowing users to find documents and folders located on the computer screen easily. The main priority was to not let the design get in the way of everyday usage, but enhance it aesthetically and provide a great user experience.

After all the experiments with fold patterns and light sources, we started to look at colour. We wanted to integrate both the Ubuntu orange and Canonical aubergine to balance the brightness and played with gradient levels.

We balanced the contrast of the wallpaper color palette by using a long and subtle gradient that kept the bright and feel look. This made the wallpaper became brighter and more colorful.

Step.3 Final product

The result was successful. The new concept and usage of Suru language helped to create a brighter wallpaper that fitted into our overall visual aesthetic. We created a three-dimensional look and feel that gives the feeling of actual origami appearance. The wallpaper is still recognizable as Ubuntu, but at the same time looks fresh and different.

Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus

Xerus - purple

Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus ( light version)

Xerus - Grey

What is next?

The Design Team is now looking at ways to bring the Suru language into animation and fold usage. The idea is to bring an overall seamless and consistent experience to the user, whilst reflecting our tone of voice and visual identity.

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Jamie Young

Ubuntu orange update

Recently, you may have seen our new colour palette update in the SDK. One notable change is the new hex code we’ve assigned to Ubuntu Orange for screen use. The new colour is #E95420.

We have a post coming soon that will delve deeper into our new palette but for now we just wanted to make sure this change is reflected on our website while at the same time touching on it through our blog. Our Suru visual language has evolved to have a lighter feel and we’ve adjusted the hex value in order to fit in with the palette as a whole.

We’ve updated our brand colour guidelines to take into account this change as well. You can find the new hex as well as all the tints of this colour that we recommend using in your design work.

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Inayaili de León Persson

Redesigning ubuntu.com’s navigation

Last month, the web team had an offsite (outside of the office) week sprint in Holborn, central London. We don’t all work on exactly the same projects in our day-to-day, so it’s nice to have this type of sprint, where everyone can work together and show each other what we’ve been working on over the last few months.

 

Web team in HolbornThe web team in our offsite in Holborn

 

One of the key items in the agenda for the week was to brainstorm possible solutions for the key areas we want to improve in our navigation.

The last time we did a major redesign of ubuntu.com’s navigation was back in 2013 — time flies! So we thought now would be a good time to explore ways to improve how users navigate Ubuntu’s main website and how they discover other sites in the Ubuntu ecosystem.

Collaborative sketching

On the second day of the sprint, Francesca walked us through the current version of the navigation and explained the four key issues we want to solve. For each of the issues, she also showed how other sites solve similar problems.

While the 2013 navigation redesign solved some of the problems we were facing at the time (poor exposure of our breadth of products was a big issue, for instance) other issues have emerged since then that we’ve been meaning to address for a while.

After Francesca’s intro, we broke into four groups, and each group sketched a solution for each of the issues, which was then presented to everyone so we could discuss.

 

Karl presenting sketches to rest of the teamDiscussing the team’s sketches

 

By having everyone in the team, from UX and visual designers, to developers and project managers, contribute ideas and sketch together, we were able to generate lots of ideas in a very short amount of time. We could move the project forward much more quickly than if one UX or one designer had to come up with ideas by themselves over days or weeks.

Improving the global navigation

 

ubuntu.com global navigation barubuntu.com’s global navigation bar

 

The main things to improve on the global navigation were:

  • Some users don’t see the light grey bar above the main orange navigation
  • Some users think the links in the global nav are part of the ubuntu.com site
  • Important sites sit under the “More” link and do not have enough visibility
  • On the new full width sections, the global nav, main nav and “breadcrumb” form a visual sandwich effect that could create confusion

It was interesting to see the different groups come up similar ideas on how to improve the usability of the global navigation. Some of the suggestions were more simple and others more involved.

The main suggestions for improvement that we discussed were:

  • Rename the “More” link as “More sites” to make it more clear
  • Increase the number of links shown by default by using the full width of the page
  • Explore using different colours for the background, such as a dark grey
  • Explore having a drawer that exposes all Ubuntu sites, instead of the links being on display all the time (like the Bloomberg website)

 

Bloomber's global navigation closed

 

Bloomber's global navigation openOn Bloomberg.com when you click the “Bloomberg the Company & Its Products” link at the top (above) you open a large drawer that exposes the Bloomberg universe of sites.

 

Improving the main navigation

 

ubuntu.com's main navubuntu.com’s main navigation with a dropdown that lists second level links

 

The main ubuntu.com nav is possibly the most crucial part of the navigation that we would like to improve. The key improvements we’d like to work on are:

  • Having the ability to highlight key sections or featured content
  • Rely less on the site’s IA to structure the navigation as it makes it hard to cross-link between different sections (some pages are relevant to more than one section)
  • Improve the visibility of content that lives in the third level (it is currently only accessible via the breadcrumb-style navigation)

Even though the proposed solutions were different from each other, there were some patterns that popped up more than once amongst the different groups:

  • Featured content within the navigation (eg. the original Boston Globe responsive redesign, and Amazon.co.uk)
  • Links that live in more than one place (eg. John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and other retailers)
  • The idea of using the mega menu pattern

 

Boston Globel's original responsive menuIn the first version of the Boston Globe’s redesigned website, the main navigation included simple featured content for each of the sections

 

John Lewis mega menu Home & Garden section

John Lewis mega menu Baby & Child sectionOn the John Lewis website, you can get to nursery furniture from “Home & Garden > Room” and “Baby & Child > Baby & Nursery”

 

Amazon.co.uk displays seasonal ads in their mega menuThe main navigation on Amazon.co.uk includes featured ads

 

Solving the third level links issues

 

ubuntu.com's third level breadcrumb-style navubuntu.com’s breadcrumb-style navigation showing third level links

 

The main issues with the current third level links are:

  • We are using a recognisable design pattern (the breadcrumb) in a not so typical way (as second and third level navigation)
  • When you click on a third level link, you lose the visibility of the second level links, making it harder to understand where you are in the site
  • The pattern isn’t flexible: some of our labels are long, and only a small number of links fit horizontally, even on a large screen

One thing that we are almost certain of is that we will not be able to remove third level links completely from our site, so we need to improve the way we show them.

The most interesting suggestions on how to handle this issue were:

  • Include a table of contents for the section at the top of pages (like GOV.uk)
  • Key third level links could be highlighted in the main navigation menu

 

GOV.uk third level navOn GOV.uk, sections which have sub-sections include an overview of all the sub-sections at the top of every page. This makes it easier to understand the type and breadth of content of that section

 

Improving the footer

 

ubuntu.com's footerubuntu.com’s “fat footer” with three levels of links

 

Ubuntu.com’s footer is certainly the simplest of the problems we want to solve in terms of navigation. But, nonetheless, there are some issues with the current solution:

  • There are too many levels of links in the footer
  • The download section is hidden in the second footer level, despite being one of the main top level links

The most popular idea that came out of the sketching session was to use the space available better, so that sections can be listed in a masonry type grid, rather than one per column like they currently are.

This means we’d need fewer columns to list all important content and expose the IA of the site. It also means we can ditch the middle level of the current footer design (which now holds the About, Support and Download sections).

Next steps

The next step in the navigation redesign project is to build prototypes to test some of the ideas we had in our workshop, and refine the visual direction. We want to see if the assumptions we’ve made are true, and if the patterns are easy and intuitive to use across different screen sizes and devices.

We will then do some user testing and iterate based on the feedback we get.

We might also have to do some IA work alongside the redesign of the main navigation, if we do want to have links that are listed in different sections and if we want to present more curated links based on user tasks in each of the sections.

Stay tuned!

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Anthony Dillon

The Juju web resources are made up of two entities: a website jujucharms.com and an app called Juju GUI, which can be demoed at demo.jujucharms.com.

Applying Vanilla to jujucharms.com

Luckily the website was already using our old style guidelines, which we refactored and improved to become Vanilla, so I removed the guidelines link from the head and the site fell to pieces. Once I NPM installed vanilla-framework and included it into the main sass file things started to look up.

A few areas of the site needed to be updated, like moving the search markup outside of the nav element. This is due to header improvements in the transition from guidelines to Vanilla. Also we renamed and BEMed our inline-list component, so I updated its markup in the process. The mobile navigation was also replaced with the new non-JavaScript version from Vanilla.

To my relief with these minor changes the site looked almost exactly as it did before. There were some padding differences, which resulted in some larger spacing between rows, but this was a purposeful update.

All in all the process of replacing guidelines with Vanilla on the website was quick and easy.

Now into the unknown…

Applying Vanilla to Juju GUI

I expected this step to be trickier as the GUI had not started life using guidelines and was using entirely bespoke CSS. So I thought: let’s install it, link the Vanilla framework and see how it looks.

To my surprise the app stayed together, apart from some element movement and overriding of input styling. We didn’t need the entire framework to be included so I selectively included only the core modules like typography, grid, etc.

The only major difference is that Vanilla applies bottom margin to lists, which did not exist on the app before, so I applied “margin-bottom: 0” to each list component as a local override.

Once I completed these changes it looked exactly as before.

What’s the benefit

You might be thinking, as I did at the beginning of the project, “that is a lot of work to have both projects look exactly the same”, when in fact it brings a number of benefits.

Now we have consistent styling across the Juju real estates, which are tied together with one single base CSS framework. This means we have exactly the same grid, buttons, typography, padding and much more. The tech debt to keep these in sync has been cut and allows designers to work from a single component list.

Future

We’re not finished there, as Vanilla framework is a bare bones CSS framework it also has a concept of theming. The next step will be to refactor the SCSS on both projects and identify the common components. The theme itself depends on Vanilla, so we have logical layering.

In the end

It is exciting to see how versatile Vanilla is. Whether it’s a web app or web site, Vanilla helps us keep our styles consistent. The layered inheritance gives us the flexibility to selectively include modules and extend them when required.

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Rae Shambrook

We previously posted about the clock app’s new look and today we are getting to know one of the developers behind the clock ( as well as other community apps.)  Bartosz Kosiorek gives us a glimpse into developing for Ubuntu and how he got started.

1) First, can you give us a bit of background about yourself and tell us how you started developing for Ubuntu?

My name is Bartosz and I’m from Poland. Currently I’m the developer for the Ubuntu Clock and Ubuntu Calculator. I started contributing to Ubuntu in 2008, by submitting bug reports into launchpad and fixing translations. Later I participated in the One Hundred Papercuts project. I made SRU verifications and eventually started developing.

My adventure with Ubuntu started from Ubuntu 8.10 (Interpid Idex). Previously I tried many different distributions (Debian, Fedora, SuSE etc.). I chose Ubuntu because it is easy to use and after installation, I have fully functional system. I like that after Ubuntu is installed, there are no duplicate applications and those already installed work perfectly with the system.

2) How long have you been working on the Clock and Calculator? How did you get involved in these projects?

I started to develop for Ubuntu about two years ago when I first heard about Ubuntu Touch and convergence. I started by contributing to Ubuntu Core Apps by testing, submitting bug reports and patches. Most commits were done for Ubuntu Calculator and Ubuntu Clock by fixing bugs which were approved by Riccardo Padovani, Mihir Soni and Nekhelesh Ramananthan. After some time, I became member of Ubuntu Core Apps. It’s very fun to work with these guys and the Ubuntu community. I’ve learned a lot about Qt/QML and user experience design.

3) How do you approach implementing a design in your apps?

Generally I follow the design document during implementation and sometimes find parts that need to be improved. After speaking with the Ubuntu UX team, we discuss various issues and agree on a final design solution. Sometimes the UX team gives us freehand, so we could design some parts by ourselves (eg. Stopwatch, Welcome Wizard, Landscape View). It’s really fun to work with such awesome guys.

4) What feature would you like to see in the future?

I think from user perspective, longer battery life is a very important topic. The power usage is higher with white background: https://www.quora.com/Does-a-white-background-use-more-energy-on-a-LCD-than-if-it-was-set-to-black especially with OLED screen. I wish that Ubuntu Touch came with a darker theme, to save battery on OLED screens.

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Robin Winslow

It’s becoming more and more important for websites to carefully consider how their resources are cached in users’ browsers. Get the caching wrong, and you either end up with a woefully slow experience for the user, or a very strange looking website as users are left with stale CSS files and images.

Or often both.

For our China site, we’ve decided that the HTML pages should be cached for 5 minutes, and the CSS and JavaScript can be cached for a year – as every time we update them we change the URL.

Caching headers in Django

Telling the browser how long to cache a resource is done with one of two headers:

  • Cache-Control: In HTTP/1.1, this can set the maximum age before a resource should be re-downloaded.
  • Expires: In the older HTTP/1.0 standard, this sets the date and time that a resource becomes outdated and should be refreshed.

To control these headers in Django is less simple than you might think. If you’re happy to use the cache framework then it will take care of these headers for you, but as we have a separate Squid cache in front of our application, this was a more heavyweight solution than we needed.

Modifying HTML responses using View classes

In our case, all of our HTML pages are served with an extended version of the TemplateView class:

To add headers, we need to modify the HTTPResponse, which we can intercept by extending the render_to_response method.

Django also provides patch_response_headers a handy helper function to generate our caching headers for us and attach them to the response:

And now we can see our extra caching headers in the HTTP response:

Browsers and proxies will now cache the HTML pages for 5 minutes.

Controlling caching for static files

Django recommends serving static files separately from the rest of your application.

However, for simplicity and dev-prod parity we’ve been using DJ-Static to serve static files with the Django WSGI app, as introduced by Kenneth Reitz. This was also, at the time we implemented it, the method recommended by Heroku for managing static files in Django.

However, as it turns out DJ-Static doesn’t offer any control over caching headers. And Heroku now recommend using WhiteNoise instead.

Serving static files with WhiteNoise is pretty simple (as it was with DJ-Static):

WhiteNoise will add a Cache-Control header, although it doesn’t support set the older Expires header. By default, the Cache-Control header is initially set to no caching:

We wanted our static files to be cached for a year, so we set the WHITENOISE_MAX_AGE setting in settings.py:

This will set the max-age in the Cache-Control header to achieve the browser caching we’re looking for:

Now we have control

Leveraging browser caching is an invaluable tool in performance, and so understanding how we can control the user’s cache with Django is very helpful.

Hopefully I’ve demonstrated some ways that this can be achieved, which we’ve just implemented on cn.ubuntu.com.

Also published on my blog.

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Jouni Helminen

Visual design of convergent apps

It is an exciting time as we’re starting to see more and more of the new, convergence-enabled UI toolkit and features for Unity 8 come to life. Some classic X11 apps (Gimp, Libre Office and a few others) are already running on Unity 8 using new hardware from our partners, including the award winning M10 tablet from BQ – very cool.

At the same time, we want to help people write or port more applications to our platform, using our modern UI toolkit designed to smoothly flow the user experience through touch and pointer inputs, a range of screen and keyboard types and all of the permutations in between! It has been an interesting design challenge to imagine, design, and begin to build a world where all interfaces, regardless of input type or form factor, all emerge from the same core user experience and design language.

Where we are now

Our UX and SDK teams have been working on version 1.3 of Qt based UI toolkit, which allows developers to write applications that can be used comfortably with both touch and pointer interfaces. The work is still very much in progress, but some of it can be used today. You can check out the developer docs here.

Suru, our visual design language, has evolved into a new, much lighter, flatter and modern approach. It not only looks great (in our humble opinion), but helps app developers design good looking and well-functioning apps with less effort. Continuous visual and user experience refinements will will be rolling out across the whole OS (scopes, shell and apps) this coming year.

The new design guidelines for UX and UI patterns as well as Suru will be out soon. In the meanwhile hopefully these example apps will inspire you to have a look at the developer docs, get active on IRC and have a go yourself. We will also be releasing design source files and templates for the refreshed UI toolkit so that you can start applying them in your own app designs.

Dekko – Email

email-phone-tablet

The first example app is Dekko – the default email client  for mobile and tablet devices from BQ and Meizu. We have been very lucky to have the incredible talents of our community member Dan Chapman working on the development of Dekko, and the app is progressing at a fantastic rate. James Mulholland helped Dan with the UX and I have been working on the UI.

Like many apps, Dekko uses a list view to represent the primary level, and a detail view to show the secondary level. Where there’s room, these views can be displayed side by side, but on small screen screens or very shrunk windows, a PageStack showing only the list becomes the primary screen. On larger screens or expanded windows, the page stack automatically progresses into the familiar two-panel configuration. This adaptive layout is common on responsive websites, and our SDK team have built a component in the UI toolkit that does most of the hard work for you – AdaptivePageLayout.

email-desktop

The list item, which lives in the list component, is another example of ready made component that helps developers write convergent apps with less effort. The new ListItem in our toolkit has useful, well designed default layouts baked in when using ListItemLayout. It is also optimised for both touch and pointer interaction – via ListItemActions. A common pattern of interacting with list items on touch devices is to drag them left or right revealing key actions such as delete. When using a pointer, however, you would typically right click and use the contextual menu to access the same actions. Our UI Toolkit supports both types of input at all times, so you could drag the item left or right using a mobile or touch-enabled monitor, or right click using a mouse. We believe users should be free to mix how they interact with our components using whatever means is at their disposal and to their liking.

This behaviour is already baked into our ListItem component, so users will have a consistent experience when using apps, and developers will save time not having to roll their own solutions.

Music

 convergence-music
The music app is another example of the super talented Ubuntu community getting involved in building some of our core apps together with our internal teams. You might remember Andrew Hayzen and Victor Thompson from a previous interview on this blog. They have since been adding features and functionality to the app, and a convergent music app using multiple panels is currently working in a branch and will be landing in the master release soon. We are also looking at adding support for streaming music functionality, keep an eye out for this in the near future :)

music-closeup

The multi-panel music app reacts to window size changes intelligently – the album cards resize and shuffle themselves on window size changes. On smaller screen devices we have a persistent “Now playing” control bar at the bottom of the screen, but on larger screen sizes we have enough real estate to reimagine the play bar as an extra panel on the right with “Now playing” information, along with cover art, controls and a scrollable queue.

Calendar

convergent_calendar

The calendar app has been on the phone for a while but until now it hadn’t really had any UI design love or designs for larger screens.  We wanted to apply our visual language in the context of an app that is by default very minimal, allowing the few design elements to stand on their own.

Suru, our visual language, is light and flat, minimizing distractions, with carefully selected tones of gray, consistent spacing and margins to help the content breathe. We’ve added considered splashes of highlight colours that enhance the visual hierarchy without overwhelming it.

On the calendar app we are again making use of multiple panels, surfacing several layers when we have the real estate available. The same feature set of the app is of course available on all sizes, and the navigation feels intuitive with whatever input method or screen size you are using.

calendar-closeup

This design hasn’t been implemented yet, and in fact we are looking for new developers to join our Community Team. If you are a developer who would like to get involved in writing some of the core apps people use on Ubuntu – get in touch with alan.pope@canonical.com – we would love to hear from you!

Hopefully these examples have given inspiration and pointers to anyone who would like to have a go at designing apps for convergent Ubuntu. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out – jouni.helminen@canonical.com

 

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Steph Wilson

MWC stand: open for business

Take a look at the final pictures of the stand taken yesterday before we opened for business today!

Pods at MWC

Phone demo pods ready to be played with :)

Entrance to stand MWC

Entrance to the stand  “Phone + OpenStack + NFV + IoT”

Canonical meeting room MWC

The Canonical meeting room

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Steph Wilson

With MWC just two days away, the final preparations are now in full swing. The stand is looking bigger and brighter than ever and we cannot wait to share it with you.

Final preperations: MWC

IMG_4176

Final prep: MWC

 

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Steph Wilson

It’s day 3 and the stand is nearing completion. The funky lights have been fitted, the meeting rooms have curvaceous walls inspired by the Ubuntu shape, and the cloud and phone demo pods are ready to rock some products for you to try.

Stay tuned tomorrow for some final pictures of behind the scenes at MWC!

Canonical-Build-Photos-9

One of the meeting rooms

photo_2016-02-19_15-55-27

 

Canonical-Build-Photos-7

Rectangular demo pods that will feature various cloud products

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Steph Wilson

It’s day two behind the scenes at MWC and the stand is starting to take shape. The iconic orange Ubuntu flags are up, the walls and doors have been assembled, and the flooring has been put down. We are nearly there…

Day 2: MWC

 

Day 2: MWC

Day 2: MWC

Stay tuned tomorrow to see our final preparations for the stand.

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Steph Wilson

With Mobile World Congress just around the corner, work has now commenced on our biggest stand to date!

Over the next week we will be posting pictures of the stand so you can see how it all comes together.

Day one:

Day 1 MWC

This year we are in the Main Hall – taking up more space :)

Day 1 MWC

Day 1 MWC

The flags are up!

Stay tuned for more pictures of the stand tomorrow

 

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Inayaili de León Persson

A new look for tablet

Today we launched a new and redesigned tablet section on ubuntu.com that introduces all the cool features of the upcoming BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet.

Breaking out of the box

In this redesign, we have broken out of the box, removing the container that previously held the content of the pages. This makes each page feel more spacious, giving the text and the images plenty of room to shine.

This is something we’ve wanted to do for a while across the entire site, so we thought that having the beautiful, large tablet photos to work with gave us a good excuse to try out this new approach.

 

The overview page of the tablet section of ubuntu.com, before (left) and after

 

For most of the section, we’ve used existing patterns from our design framework, but the removal of the container box allowed us to play with how the images behave across different screen sizes. You will notice that if you look at the tablet pages on a medium to small screen, some of the images will be cropped by the edge of the viewport, but if you see the same image in a large screen, you can see it in its entirety.

 



From the top: the same row on a large, medium and small screen

 

How we did it

This project was a concerted effort across the design, marketing, and product management teams.

To understand the key goals for this redesign, we collected the requirements and messaging from the key stakeholders of the project. We then translated all this information into wireframes that guide the reader through what Ubuntu Tablet is. These went through a few rounds of testing and iteration with both users and stakeholders. Finally, we worked with a copywriter to refine the words of each section of the tablet pages.

 

Some of the wireframes

 

To design the pages, we started with exploring the flow of each page in large and small screens in flat mockups, which were quickly built into a fully functioning prototype that we could keep experimenting and testing on.

 

Some of the flat mockups created for the redesign

 

This design process, where we start with flat mockups and move swiftly into a real prototype, is how we design and develop most of our projects, and it is made easier by the existence of a flexible framework and design patterns, that we use (and sometimes break!) as needed.

 


Testing the new tablet section on real devices

 

To showcase the beautiful tablet screen designs on the new BQ tablet, we coordinated with professional photographers to deliver the stunning images of the real device that you can enjoy along every new page of the section.

 

One of the many beautiful device photos used across the new tablet section of ubuntu.com

 

Many people were involved in this project, making it possible to deliver a redesign that looks great, and is completed on time — which is always good a thing :)

In the future

In the near future, we want to remove the container box from the other sections of ubuntu.com, although you may see this change being done gradually, section by section, rather than all in one go. We will also be looking at redesigning our navigation, so lots to look forward to.

Now go experience tablet for yourself and let us know what you think!

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Joseph Williams

Embeddable cards for Juju

Juju is a cloud orchestration tool with a lot of unique terminology. This is not so much of a problem when discussing or explaining terms or features within the site or the GUI, but, when it comes to external sources, the context is sometimes lost and everything can start to get a little confusing.

So a project was started to create embeddable widgets of information to not only give context to blog posts mentioning features of Juju, but also to help user adoption by providing direct access to the information on jujucharms.com.

This project was started by Anthony Dillon, one of the developers, to create embeddable information cards for three topics in particular. Charms, bundles and user profiles. These cards would function similarly to embedded YouTube videos, or embedding a song from Soundcloud on your own site as seen bellow:

 

 

Multiple breakpoints of the cards were established (small, 300px and below. medium: 301px to 625px and large: 626px and up) so that they would work responsively and therefore work in a breadth of different situations and compliment the user’s content referring to a charm, bundle or a user profile without any additional effort for the user.

We started the process by determining what information we would want to include within the card and then refining that information as we went through the different breakpoints. Here are some of the initial ideas that we put together:

charm  bundle  profile

We wrote down all the information there could be related to each type of card and then discussed how that might carry down to smaller card sizes and removed the unnecessary information as we went through the process. For the profile cards, we felt there was not enough information to display a profile card above 625px break point so we limited the card to the medium size.

Just enter the bundle or the charm name and the card will be generated for you to copy the code snippet to embed into your own content.

embed card thing

You can create your own here: http://www.jujugui.org/community/cards

Below are some examples of the responsive cards are different widths:

 

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