Canonical Voices

Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

If you’re transitioning a fixed-width website into a responsive one with several time and resource constraints, updating all your content to be mobile-friendly will likely not be an option.

It’s important to understand what your constraints are and work within them. This is what makes a good designer great — you could even say it’s the definition of our jobs.

This was certainly our case: very early in the process of converting ubuntu.com into a responsive site we knew we wouldn’t be able to edit the existing content. We did, however, follow a few ‘content rules’, and this is something you can define within your projects too.

Evergreen content

We created the Ubuntu Insights site to hold dated content like case studies, news and white papers, and to keep a constant influx of fresh content into ubuntu.com and other Ubuntu sites. Not only did creating Ubuntu Insights allow us to keep ubuntu.com fresh, it gave us a place to move a lot of the detailed content that previously existed on the main site to. We end up with fewer pages and also with shorter pages, which is one of the challenges of converting a site to be responsive with no content updates: the pages become too long.

Ubuntu InsightsThe latest iteration of Ubuntu Insights.

We’ve been working on this project for a few months now, and will be releasing its final update soon, which will include a dedicated press area.

No content or information architecture updates

Once you go back to work you’ve completed some time ago, it’s natural that you start seeing lots of things, big and small, you want to improve. However, when the scope of a project is really tight (and which project isn’t?), it’s important not to fall into temptation.

Updating the structure and content of the website in preparation for making it responsive was not an option for us, as that would involve a fair number of people and time that were not at our disposal.

We decided to flag anything we’d want to look at again in the future, but moving things around was out of the question.

A couple of sections of the site were going to suffer some changes that might impact content and information architecture, but those had been flagged at earlier stages, and we knew to only start reviewing and working on those later on in the responsive project.

No hidden content

A decision we made early on was that we weren’t going to hide any content from small screens.

We could still use common patterns like accordions and tabs to show content in a more digestible format, but all content should be available in small screens, just as it would in larger screens.

AccordionAccordions chunk the content nicely at smaller screen sizes.

Future plans

Improving the content on ubuntu.com will be a gradual process. As new pieces of content are added and updated, we’re now making sure that content is optimised for a smaller screen experience, being mindful of endless scrolling and keeping the message clear and focused on each page and section of the site.

Looking at mobile first has already pushed us towards simplifying our content. We’re trying to think about shorter, more carefully written text that relies less on images and animations. This includes paring down on charts, cutting out text that really is there to support images, and considering the reason for existence of any new fourth-level pages.

In the future, we’ll likely want to do a content revamp of the entire site, but that’s a huge project on its own and probably one that deserves its own series of posts.

We’d love to hear about your experiences and tips on improving content for a responsive iteration of your sites: add your thoughts in the comments section!

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: making our grid responsive”

Reading list

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Inayaili de León Persson

Latest from the web team — May 2014

We’re fast approaching the summer, and the first few sunny days have already arrived in London. The web team cannot slow its pace though…

In the last few weeks we’ve worked on:

  • Responsive ubuntu.com: we’ve had a sprint to clean up our processes and CSS files after the big responsive release last month
  • Ubuntu.com: we’ve updated our Jumpstart service to include the exciting new Orange Box Micro-cluster and Your cloud product pages in preparation for the OpenStack Developer Summit
  • Juju GUI: we’ve finished creating new personas
  • Ubuntu OpenStack Interoperability Lab: we’ve completed the report design
  • Ubuntu OpenStack Installer: the installer was presented at the OpenStack Developer Summit last week, and we’ve done iterations on the designs based on recent user research
  • Fenchurch: we’ve moved Fenchurch into a proper Django project, nearly completed the first phase of a new asset server with a new Juju charm, and set up a new Fenchurch instance for the new legal website
  • Ubuntu Insights: we’ve made the move from Ubuntu Resources to Ubuntu Insights, and launched the desktop version of the site
  • Las Vegas sprint: we worked on updated, mobile-first bundle and charm details pages and started planning for the next cycle
  • Partners: we’ve completed the final UX and copy for this new Ubuntu website

And we’re currently working on:

  • Responsive ubuntu.com: we’re now in the process of updating our web style guide documents before the public release of the new styles
  • Ubuntu Insights: we’re adding the final touches before launching the press centre in the next few weeks
  • Juju GUI: we’re planning the work for the next cycle
  • Fenchurch: we’re working on getting the Juju charms in production for the new legal site, finishing up the asset server and planning the development of our new partners website
  • Partners: we’re currently building the new partners website
  • Legal pages: we’re now in the process of building the new hub that will hold all our legal information
  • Chinese website: we’ve finalised UX and copy for this upcoming Ubuntu site

If you’d like to join the web team, we are currently looking for experienced user experience and web designers to join the team!

Design team moving desksThe design team getting ready to move desks, at the end of April.

Have you got any questions or suggestions for us? Would you like to hear about any of these projects and tasks in more detail? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Carla Berkers

As the number of Juju users has been rapidly increasing over the past year, so has the number of new solutions in the form of charms and bundles. To help users assess and choose solutions we felt it would be useful to improve the visual presentation of charm and bundle details on manage.jujucharms.com.

While we were in Las Vegas, we took advantage of the opportunity to work with the Juju developers and solutions team to find out how they find and use existing charms and bundles in their own deployments. Together we evaluated the existing browsing experience in the Juju GUI and went through JSON-files line by line to understand what information we hold on charms.

carla.jpg

We used post-its to capture every piece of information that the database holds about a bundle or charm that is submitted to charmworld.

 

We created small screen wireframes first to really focus on the most important content and how it could potentially be displayed in a linear way. After showing the wireframes to a couple more people we used our guidelines to create mobile designs that we can scale out to tablet and desktop.

With the grouped and prioritised information in mind we created the first draft of the wireframes.

 

In order to verify and test our designs, we made them modular. Over time it will be easy to move content around if we want to test if another priority works better for a certain solution. The mobile-first approach is a great tool for making sense of complex information and forced us to prioritise the content around user’s needs.

jaas-store

First version designs.

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Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

Following the designers and developers sprint, we had a full web team workshop day to discuss our findings and plan the work for the following weeks.

Planning and scoping was tricky because we had to balance the work required to make the site responsive with incoming work requests from the business — there was a big release of Ubuntu coming up and lots of content updates along with it.

We carried out a few team exercises that helped us to deconstruct the project into smaller chunks that we could prioritise and plan around other commitments, so that it didn’t feel like building the Titanic but rather something more manageable.

Creating a wishlist

Initially, it’s good to have an idea of what each person considers important for the project.

The simplest way to capture everything you want to do in a project is to write all ideas on separate sticky notes. This approach helps to identify common themes and priority tasks.

This is a good opportunity to get the entire team together in a room and give everyone space to say what they hope to achieve in the near, and not so near, future.

At the end, though, it’s only natural that you’ll be left with a huge amount of ideas, so it’s necessary to organise them into groups, like projects or topics.

Dividing work into phases

Following the wishlist exercise, and based on the resources and time available, fixed deadlines, and business goals, the list was trimmed down into four time frames:

  • To be completed before the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release
  • To be completed for the release
  • To be completed soon after release
  • To be completed later

If you have hard deadlines for other projects that are in your team’s plate, start adding those into a calendar overview (we used four sticky notes columns) and discuss what can be done within the time that is left available.

For example, we knew that, in preparation for Ubuntu’s presence at the Mobile World Congress at the end of February, the content of the tablet and phone sections of the website would have to be updated ahead of any responsive work going live.

Defining high priority tasks

In terms of the responsive project itself, we defined the priority tasks:

  • Update our CSS with the components that had been created for the two initial responsive projects and that would be useful across our sites
  • Find an initial solution for main, second and third level navigation, and multiple footers
  • Create updated image assets where necessary

And we also defined what we wouldn’t do at this stage:

  • Rewrite copy
  • Restructure and reorder content
  • Change the information architecture of the site
  • Update the site’s visual style

It was important to have these restrictions in place in order to keep the scope of the project as small and as feasible as possible. Most times, it’s impossible to do everything you wanted in the first instance of moving to responsive, so deciding what would be the biggest wins for the amount of time you have available is an important step in planning the work.

At the end of the workshop, we all felt more comfortable with the amount of work ahead: following a few simple exercises, we had identified pain points, set realistic goals and expectations, and established priorities.

Content risk assessment

Matt went through all the pages of the site to assess what, in terms of the design, could become an issue once the site was responsive and once the content had to fit into small screens. These findings were added to a document divided into five different types of content:

  • Images
  • Graphs
  • Tables
  • Layout and behaviour
  • Text

With this document we could see how much work we potentially would have when transitioning all the pages of the site to the updated responsive styles, and which would be the trickier problems to solve.

Estimating time

With the content inventory at hand, Ant estimated the degree of difficulty of converting each page for responsive, using a scale of 1 to 3. He then estimated how many ‘points’ he should be able to get done in one day, which left us with an estimated time of completion of the first pass at fixing rendering issues.

Something to bear in mind when estimating times is that, while fixing the rendering issues that came with converting all the pages of the site to the responsive styles proved faster than initially estimated, the testing across different devices and screen sizes that followed was time-consuming for both designers and developers.

The complexity of testing and how long you should allow for it will depend on the site’s design and the CSS being used: for example, when using newer techniques you should allow for enough time to create suitable fallbacks for browsers with fewer capabilities. Another thing to keep in mind is that testing across devices should be done as you go, rather than at the very end of the process. Just a quick look at a couple of different devices and browsers (for example, previous Android versions and Opera Mini) before you start the estimation process will you give you clearer idea of the amount of work that lies ahead.

Even though our time estimates were a little off, creating those spreadsheets and dividing the work into very small blocks made us feel more in control, and, as we ticked pages off, it made us feel motivated.

Conclusion

When you’re working on a large living and breathing website, you know that all the updates and changes that come along with it don’t stop just because you want to make your site responsive. It’s important that everyone involved understands that you should be putting your website first, and that responsive is not necessarily the top priority. That’s why it’s important to be smart about the way you plan the project and give yourself some parameters to work within — the transition isn’t going to happen overnight.

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: approach to content”

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Giorgio Venturi

With the unstoppable rise of mobile apps, some pundits within the tech industry have hastily demoted the mobile web to a second-class citizen, or even dismissed it as ‘dead’. Who cares about websites and webapps when you can deliver a superior user experience with a native app?

Well, we care because the reality is a bit different. New apps are hard to discover; their content is locked, with no way to access it from the outside. People browse the web more than ever on their mobile phones. The browser is the most used app on the phone, both as starting point and a destination in the user journey.

Installing
Source: xkcd

At Ubuntu, we decided to focus on improving the user experience of browsing and searching the web. Our approach is underpinned by our design principles, namely:

  1. Content is king: UI should recede in the background once user starts interacting with content
  2. Leverage natural interaction by using gestures and spatial metaphors.

In designing the browser, there’s one more principle we took into account. If content is our king, then recency should be our queen.

Recency is queen

People forget about things. That’s why tasks such as finding a page you visited yesterday or last week can be very hard: UIs are not designed to support the long-term memory of the user. For example, when browsing tabs on a smartphone touchscreen, it is hard to recognise what’s on screen as we forgot what that page is and why we arrived there.

Similarly, bookmarks are often a meaningless list of webpages, as their value was linked to the specific time when they were taken. For example, let’s imagine we are planning our next holiday and we start bookmarking a few interesting places. We may even create a new ‘holidays’ folder and add the bookmarks to it. However, once the holiday is the bookmarks are still there, they don’t expire once they have lost their value. This happens pretty much every time; old bookmarks and folders will eventually start cluttering our screen and make it difficult to find the information we need.

Therefore we redesigned tabs, history and bookmarks to display the most recent information first. Consequently, the display and the retrieval of information is simplified.

Browser tabs

In our browser, most recent tabs come first. Here is how it works:

Browser tabs

In this way, users don’t have to painstakingly browse an endless list of tabs that may have been opened weeks or days ago, like in Mobile Safari or Chrome.

History

Browser history has not changed much since Netscape Navigator; modern browser still display a chronological log of all the web pages we visited starting from today. Finding a website or a page is hard because of the sheer amount of information. In our browser we employ a clustered model where you display the last visited websites, not every single page. On tap, you then display all webpages for that websites, starting from the most recent. In this way scanning the history log is much easier and less painful.

Browser history

Loving the bottom edge

We believe the bottom edge is the most pleasurable edge to use. It is easily accessible at any time and ergonomically friendly to the typical one-hand phone hold. Once discovered, it will slowly build into our muscle memory and become a natural and intuitive way of interacting with the application.

Bottom edge

This is why we combined tabs and history and made them accessible through the bottom edge. As a team, we spent months building and refining a sleek, intuitive and fluid user experience.

Here’s a sneak preview of how it will look like:


Video: Browser interactions

Bottom edge gesture will have three stages:

  1. Dragging from the bottom edge will hint and reveal the most recently viewed tab
  2. Continue dragging and the full tab spread is revealed
  3. Keep on dragging and browser history will be fully revealed.

All elements will support gestural interaction: user can swipe to delete a tab or a website from history.

That’s all for now. In the next blog post, we will talk more about gestural interaction in Browser. Stay tuned!

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Alejandra Obregon

Last week a few of us flew to Las Vegas for a Juju sprint at the world-famous Flamingo casino (where Hunter S. Thompson stayed in Fear and Loathing).

It was the first time in Las Vegas for most of us so we weren’t quite sure what to expect…

fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegas

And while there were plenty of distractions within reach at any stage…




…we managed to get through a large amount of work!




The focus of the sprint was to explore ideas and define specs for work we will be delivering in the next six months. Amongst other things we covered topics such as:

  • A new search and browse experience for charms and bundles
  • The best way to prioritise and present information to help users to assess and select charms and bundles. For this we employed a mobile-first methodology. Carla will be writing more about this in an upcoming post
  • How to improve the juju service block
  • Lots of other exciting features we should be able to unveil soon!

So by the end of the sprint we felt a little bit more like this…

If you want to find out more about Juju visit Ubuntu.com

Or have a play with Juju itself! Juju is the quickest way to deploy services to any cloud running Ubuntu.

We are currently hiring designers, UX consultants and engineers to work on Juju. Maybe you could come along to Vegas next time!

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Tom Macfarlane

The new DVD designs feature:

Desktop Edition
- 14.04 wallpaper
- Modified design of the folded paper numerals

Server Edition
- An integrated, 14 module graphic

14.04_DVD_bundle_FINAL

Trusty Tahr – hidden reveal within the DVD pocket

pocket_reveal

Design exploration – folded paper numerals

14.04_folded_numerals

Design exploration – graphic numerals

1404_numerals

Alternative Desktop Edition concepts

14.04_desktop_concepts

Alternative Server Edition concepts

14.04_server_concepts

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Inayaili de León Persson

Latest from the web team — April 2014

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is out and it’s great! The period after release tends to be slightly less hectic than the lead up to it, but that doesn’t mean that the web team is not as busy as ever.

In the last few weeks we’ve worked on:

  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release: we’ve published the latest updates to www.ubuntu.com that go alongside the latest release of Ubuntu
  • Ubuntu.com: ubuntu.com is now responsive! Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on this, and keep following our series on how we made ubuntu.com responsive; we’ve also launched a new and improved cloud section
  • Juju GUI: we’ve moved the inspector to the left of the screen, which should be live in the coming weeks, and we’re finalising user research
  • Fenchurch: we moved downloads, contributions and search to Fenchurch, so we’re now effectively off our old Drupal site, with a better geolocation solution for download mirrors
  • Ubuntu Resources: we’ve released the beta version for large screen sizes of Ubuntu Resources
  • Future of Web Design: I attended and spoke at the Future of Web Design conference, in London, where I talked about letting mechanisation into our work as web designers, and how we can move further in our profession

And we’re currently working on:

  • Responsive ubuntu.com: we’re currently working on tweaks and improvements following the release on 17 April
  • Web style guide: we’re updating the Ubuntu web style guide (still in alpha) to reflect the changes from making www.ubuntu.com responsive
  • Ubuntu Resources: we’re currently working on making the transition from Ubuntu Resources to Ubuntu Insights, after that we’ll be working on creating a press centre on the new Ubuntu Insights
  • Fenchurch: we’re working on a new front-end for our asset server and upgrading the ubuntu.com CMS to the version running www.canonical.com
  • Las Vegas sprint: a few of us are travelling to the USA next week for some intense Juju planning and work
  • Legal pages: we’re in the process of defining the information architecture and wireframing for a new hub that will hold all our legal information
  • Partners: we’re finalising wireframes and content for a new Ubuntu partners site

And, if you’d like to join the web team, we are currently looking for an experienced user experience designer to join us! Send us an email if you’d like to apply.

Delicious treats for the Ubuntu releaseDelicious treats on release day

Do you have any questions or suggestions for us? Would you like to hear about any of these projects and tasks in more detail? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Canonical

Have you submitted your app for the App Showdown contest? With just under one week to go, there’s still time to enter and have the opportunity to win a Nexus/Meizu device with your app running on the handset. Deadline for submissions is Wednesday 9th April, 2014.

Here are the details once again:

The contest is open to everyone. The four dedicated categories that you can enter:

  1. QML: original apps written in QML or those with a combination of QML and JavaScript/C++

  2. HTML5: original apps written using web technologies, be it pure HTML (and CSS/JavaScript) or with platform access using Apache Cordova

  3. Ported: apps ported from another platform, regardless of the technology used

  4. Chinese apps: apps in this category will have to be original and specific to China and the Chinese culture. They will be judged by three native experts in our jury.

To enter the competition and get further information click here.

Winning entries will be announced by Canonical once the judging process has been completed – anticipated to be end of April 2014.  Good luck!

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Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

At this point in time, once the pilot projects were either completed or underway, we had already:

We had a better understanding of what was involved in working on this type of project, with different constraints and work flows. With lots of ideas and questions floating in our minds, we decided that the best next step was for designers and front-end developers to spend two or three days right after the release of the new canonical.com website to discuss and capture the findings.

It’s important to take time to take in the pros and cons of certain approaches we try as a team, so that we can try to avoid repeating past mistakes and keep doing more of the things that make projects run smoothly and produce great results.

Developers sprintingDevelopers sprinting and a wall of sticky notes

Things we learned

Make sure you have a solid grid

Our new responsive grid seemed to adapt well from large to small screens (I will be publishing a post on this later in the series, so stay tuned!) and this was mostly because when we initially created the CSS and HTML we opted for using percentage and relative units rather than absolute units (like pixels).

Use Modernizr for feature detection

The introduction of Modernizr to our developer tools proved essential to easily detect features across browsers, such as SVG support, and provide adequate fallbacks and is something we’ll keep using in the future.

SVG icons and pictograms

We started the move from bitmap-based images to SVG for things like pictograms and UI elements. This was easy from a design perspective, as all of our icons and pictograms are already created as SVGs (as well as other formats). There were some hiccups when we tested the PNG fallback solution in some operating systems and browsers, like Opera Mini. But more on this in an upcoming post dedicated to images!

Things we had to work on

Defining visual layout across screen sizes

We were used to creating large, desktop-focused visuals and we had the tools to do so quickly — our style guide. Because the deadlines were looming, we decided we wouldn’t create lots of different mockups for each page in canonical.com and instead create flat mockups for large screen and work alongside the developers on how that would scale and flow in small and medium sized screens.

The wireframes were kept as linear as possible — they were more of a content and hierarchy overview to guide the visual designers — , and the content was produced so that it wasn’t too long for small screens.

Canonical wireframeA wireframe created for canonical.com

The problem with this approach was that, even though we all agreed with the general ways in which the content and visual elements would reflow from small to large screens, by creating comps for the large screen problems invariably arose and reflows that sounded great in our own minds didn’t really work as easily or smoothly as we thought.

It’s important that you define how you’re going to tackle this issue: in this case, canonical.com was designed from scratch, so it was more difficult to visualise how a large design could adapt to a small screen across the team. In the case of ubuntu.com, though, the tight scope means we’re adapting existing designs, so it makes sense to work almost exclusively in the browser and test it at the same time.

Canonical prototypesInitial small screen canonical.com prototypes: ‘needs work’

In the future, when we need to produce mockups we will make sure they are created initially for smaller screens and then for larger screens. When mockups aren’t necessary — for example, if we’re creating pages based on existing patterns — we are already building directly in code, for small screens first, and enhancements are added as the available screen space gets bigger.

Animations

Even though the addition of CSS animations to our repertoire made for more interesting pages, making sure that they are designed to work well and look good across different screen sizes proved harder than expected.

In the future, we’ll need to carefully think about how having (or not having) an animation impacts small screens, how the animation should work from small to large screens, and what the fallback(s) should be, instead of assuming that the developers can simply rescale them.

The process going forward

As a final note, it’s important to mention that in a fast-paced project, where decisions need to be made quickly and several people are involved in the project, you should keep a register of those decisions in a central location, where everyone can access them. This could be anything from a solution for a bug to even the decision of not fixing an issue, along with the reasoning behind it.

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: scoping the work”

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John Zannos

Canonical and Cisco share a common vision around the direction of the cloud and the application-driven datacentre.  We believe both need to quickly respond to an application’s needs and be highly elastic.

Cisco’s announcement of an open approach with OpFlex is a great step towards to an application centric cloud and datacenter. Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure policy engine (APIC) makes the policy model APIs and documentation open to the marketplace. These policies will be freely usable by an emerging ecosystem that is adopting an open policy model. Canonical and Cisco are aligned in efforts to leverage open models to accelerate innovation in the cloud and datacenter.

Cisco’s ACI operational model will drive multi-vendor innovation, bringing greater agility, simplicity and scale.  Opening the ACI policy engine (APIC) to multi-vendor infrastructure is a positive step to open source cloud and datacenter operations.  This aligns with the Canonical open strategy for the cloud and datacenter.  Canonical is a firm believer in a strong and open ecosystem.  We take great pride that you can build an OpenStack cloud on Ubuntu from all the major participants in the OpenStack ecosystem (Cisco, Dell, HP, Mirantis and more).  The latest OpenStack Foundation survey of production OpenStack deployments found 55% of them on Ubuntu – that’s over twice the number of deployments than the next operating system. We believe a healthy and open ecosystem is the best way to ensure great choice for our collective customers.

Canonical is pleased to be a member of Cisco’s OpFlex ecosystem.  Canonical and Cisco intend to collaborate in the standards process. As the standard is finalised, Cisco and Canonical will integrate their company’s technology to improve the customer experience. This includes alignment of Canonical’s Juju and KVM with Cisco’s ACI model.

Cisco and Canonical believe there are opportunities to leverage Ubuntu, Ubuntu OpenStack and Juju, Canonical’s service orchestration, with Cisco’s ACI policy-based model.  We see many companies moving to Ubuntu and Ubuntu OpenStack that use Cisco network and compute technology. The collaboration of Canonical with Cisco towards an application centric cloud and datacenter is an opportunity for our mutual customers.

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Mark Shuttleworth

Every detail matters, and building great software means taking time to remove the papercuts. Ubuntu has over the past 5 years been refined in many ways to feel amazingly comfortable on the cloud. In the very early days of EC2 growth the Ubuntu team recognised how many developers were enjoying fast access to infrastructure on demand, and we set about polishing up Ubuntu to be amazing on the cloud.

This was a big program of work; the Linux experience had many bad assumptions baked in – everything had been designed to be installed once on a server then left largely untouched for as long as possible, but cloud infrastructure was much more dynamic than that.

We encouraged our team to use the cloud as much as possible, which made the work practical and motivated people to get it right themselves. If you want to catch all the little scratchy bits, make it part of your everyday workflow. Today, we have added OpenStack clouds to the mix, as well as the major public clouds. Cloud vendors have taken diverse approaches to IAAS so we find ourselves encouraging developers to use all of them to get a holistic view, and also to address any cloud-specific issues that arise. But the key point is – if it’s great for us, that’s a good start on making it great for everybody.

Then we set about interviewing cloud users and engaging people who were deep into cloud infrastructure to advise on what they needed. We spent a lot of time immersing ourselves in the IAAS experience through the eyes of cloud users – startups and industrial titans, universities and mid-sized, everyday companies. We engaged the largest and fastest-moving cloud users like Netflix, who have said they enjoy Ubuntu as a platform on the cloud. And that in turn drove our prioritisation of paper-cuts and significant new features for cloud users.

We also looked at the places people actually spend time developing. Lots of them are on Ubuntu desktops, but Windows and MacOS are popular too, and it takes some care to make it very easy for folks there to have a great devops experience.

All of this is an industrial version of the user experience design process that also powers our work on desktop, tablet and phone – system interfaces and applications. Devops, sysadmins, developers and their managers are humans too, so human-centric design principles are just as important on the infrastructure as they are on consumer electronics and consumer software. Feeling great at the command line, being productive as an operator and a developer, are vital to our community and our ecosystem. We keep all the potency of Linux with the polish of a refined, designed environment.

Along the way we invented and designed a whole raft of key new pieces of Ubuntu. I’ll write about one of them, cloud-init, next. The net effect of that work makes Ubuntu really useful on every cloud. That’s why the majority of developers using IAAS do so on Ubuntu.

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Maarten Ectors

A few months ago, Canonical started to work with a set of partners to address the challenges around single sign-on for new services within an organisation. We created a committee to develop a solution that would ensure service authentication could happen instantaneously, saving organisations often months in the roll out of new services.

Today, we’re announcing that two of our partners, Gluu and ForgeRock, will lead the Committee to develop the standards which will enable organisations to integrate any enterprise-grade security infrastructure in minutes with any compliant application. The Committee will define the relationships needed to enable orchestration between applications and common security components, like user provisioning systems, authentication services, and API access management. Where possible, we’ll use existing standards and best practices. For example, OpenID Connect could be adopted for authentication, the Simple Cloud Identity Management (SCIM) API for user provisioning, and the User Managed Access protocol (UMA) for API access management.

Juju is already saving enterprises time by enabling rapid deployment, integration and scaling of sophisticated applications across a number of different platforms. With the work of the Committee, Juju  could have a significant impact on how organisations design and deploy a cloud infrastructure that scales to meet modern security requirements, making it easier for developers to move away from managing user accounts and for domains to offer stronger authentication and trust elevation.

“By providing a standard Juju framework for application security, we can reduce the ‘last mile’ cost that organisations face when securing an ever-expanding array of  websites and mobile applications.” said Lasse Andresen CTO at ForgeRock. “Driving down the deployment and operational costs are essential for improving security on the Internet.”

“The Juju labs project will enable businesses of all sizes to implement an enterprise-grade security infrastructure,” said Mike Schwartz, CEO at Gluu. “Our vendor agnostic and interoperable approach will support open source, SaaS and commercial applications. We want to give domains as much flexibility as possible to choose a security solution that makes sense for their requirements, and to integrate a wide array of applications quickly and easily. Canonical is a clear industry leader in orchestration, which is key to driving down the cost and complexity of domain security.”

More information

Gluu
Juju Labs

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Inayaili de León Persson

Latest from the web team — March 2014

Spring has officially (but not technically…) arrived, and we’re getting busier and busier in preparation for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS release next month.

In the last few weeks we’ve worked on:

  • Ubuntu Resources: we’ve just launched a new version of the site
  • Ubuntu.com: we’ve launched a localised Chinese homepage that highlights Ubuntu Kylin
  • Juju GUI: Matthieu has worked on a new icon set for charms which will be released in the next few weeks
  • Fenchurch: we completely rewrote the Juju charm that updates canonical.com
  • Landscape sprint: Carla has been to Rome for the Landscape team’s sprint, where she helped to wireframe changes for 14.04 and beyond

And we’re currently working on:

  • Ubuntu Resources: we’re now working on expanding the styles of the site to accommodate desktop screen sizes and adding even more features
  • Ubuntu 14.04 release: we’re reskinning the OpenStack Horizon dashboard for the OpenStack 14.04 release, and we’ve started working on updated images for the release
  • Responsive ubuntu.com: we’ve been testing on various devices and fixing lots of little rendering issues; we’ve also been tackling larger challenges like the navigation and footer; you can follow our progress in the series of posts we’re publishing on this blog!
  • Fenchurch: we’re currently updating the contributions and download pages so that it works on Fenchurch
  • Juju: we’re doing some user research to understand engineer workflows
  • Cloud section: we’ve finished wireframing and the first round of designs for the 14.04 refresh of www.ubuntu.com’s cloud section
  • Partners section of ubuntu.com: we’re at the wireframing stage of this project

This month we’ve also welcomed a new member of the team: Robin is our new back-end developer.

Testing Ubuntu Resources on a Kindle Fire HDTesting Ubuntu Resources on a Kindle Fire HD

Have you got any questions or suggestions for us? Would you like to hear about any of these projects and tasks in more detail? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Inayaili de León Persson

Ubuntu Resources — beta 2!

A new version of the Ubuntu Resources site is now live, with many tweaks and layout improvements targeted mainly at visitors using medium-sized screens, such as tablets.

Resources homepage on a Kindle Fire HDUbuntu Resources homepage viewed on a Kindle Fire HD

Filtered search

If you search for a specific term, you can now filter the search results by topic (such as cloud, phone, support, etc.) or type (case study, white paper, event, etc.). Further down the line, we’d like to expand this so people are able to sort the results by date, popularity and more, and filter by date, language and other options.

Search result filtersSearch results filters

Still on the subject of search, some users mentioned that their phones didn’t necessarily show a “Go” button in the keypad when typing inside the search box, so we’ve added a search icon which doubles as a “Go” button inside the input field but doesn’t get in the way if you have no need for it.

Search input field on a Nexus 7Search input field, viewed on a Nexus 7

Layout and font sizes

We’ve added a maximum width to text areas instead of the full width text blocks that were optimised for small screen view, so visitors to the site using tablets and other medium sized screens won’t have to deal with really long text lines. This can be seen in screens such as the homepage and topic landing pages, but most importantly in single article views, where we’ve also moved the content that followed the article text to the right hand side. In future versions of the site, we might review the order in which these right column elements appear and perhaps their content too.

News page on iPadA news page with sidebar viewed on an iPad

Following the typographic scale that we introduced in the new canonical.com website, the font sizes and spacing between elements in medium sized views have also been updated: everything is slightly larger, as there is more screen real estate and elements can have a little more breathing space.

We’ve made some tweaks to the spacing between elements, namely in the homepage and landing pages, like adding more space between articles to make lists clearer to understand.

‘Add to’

We’ve also added links to “Add to Instapaper” and “Add to Pocket” in single article view screens, which we hope will be useful for anyone that wants to save a resource for later.

Colour consistency

A hardly noticeable change, but one that we thought was important in order to keep consistency across different Ubuntu products and platforms was the update of the grey colour we were using in tags, labels and event details. The new grey now matches the new phone greys: we went from #AEA79F to a slightly darker and more readable #888888. If warm grey is used on dark aubergine, the HEX reference is now #B2B2B2.

Darker grey textDarker grey in event details

Even more changes

We’ve also fixed many other bugs and issues like 404 pages, incorrect tagging, elements’ positioning, incorrect title tags, errors in the email sharing default text, and more.

Next steps

In the next few weeks we’ll be focusing on extending our styles to accommodate larger screens nicely and improving the medium screen size layouts based on the feedback we’ll receive from users.

We hope you have a look at the updated site and let us know your thoughts on it. You can use the handy feedback link at the bottom of the site or just comment here!

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Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

The rules document we drafted proved a useful and good guide for those few development days, and a proof of concept was created and presented to the rest of the team.

When we all sat down to review the result, a few things were clear:

  • Even though lots (and lots) of tweaks and design thinking were needed, our desktop style guide did not look bad at all in small screens — the result was promising
  • The main places where things looked broken were custom hero and background images
  • Some one-off overriding styles applied in some pages did not play well in small screens, as they might have been added in absolute sizes (like pixels) or weren’t flowing as they should
  • Some pages that were long on the desktop quickly became very long at small screen sizes

First responsive prototypeFirst ubuntu.com responsive prototype.

Since this was a ‘quick and dirty’ test of some common-sense responsive rules, a lot had not been done in the code that would eventually have to be done, such as:

  • Refactoring the original Sass files to be mobile-first
  • Cleaning up the existing Sass files as much as possible: as websites grow, the need for custom, one-off exceptions increases, so we needed to set aside some time to rationalise some of these sneaky overrides

However, the exercise showed us that our existing framework was indeed flexible enough to be converted to be responsive, but it also showed us that we still had a lot of work to do!

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: pilot projects”

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Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

Making www.ubuntu.com responsive has been an ongoing goal of ours for a while, and we’ve been discussing and preparing for it for over a year. However, the rest of the world doesn’t wait, and the work doesn’t stop coming in!

We knew that a couple of other projects, namely Ubuntu Resources and the new Canonical site, were going to have to be completed before the main site, and that they would have to follow mobile-first and responsive philosophies, which posed a few questions:

  • How were we going to manage three consecutive projects trying to find solutions for similar problems?
  • Which project was going to influence which? If we did something new on a new project, how was that going to affect ubuntu.com in the future?
  • In the case of canonical.com, the site structure was much simpler than ubuntu.com: how would solutions developed for such a case apply to something more complex?
  • Ubuntu Resources had a start date before the responsive ubuntu.com project, but a completion deadline after it: how would this impact the responsive solutions we were going to try to come up with?

These and other questions seemed to us tricky to solve at the time. However, we had time and resourcing constraints, and deadlines that we just had to work with.

In the end, the work that we did (and are still doing) on the two other sites helped and influenced the work that we’d be doing on ubuntu.com.

Ubuntu Resources

We launched the alpha version of Ubuntu Resources in November last year. This was our first look into creating a mobile-first website. We’ve recently released the beta version, which is still focused on improving the small screen experience. Right now, we are working on the medium screen size layouts of the site, which should be going live very soon.

Even though work on this project started before work on responsive ubuntu.com, we knew the deadline for completion of its final stages (adapted to large screen sizes) was likely to be after the first release of the retrofitted ubuntu.com.

Ubuntu Resources beta homepageUbuntu Resources homepage.

These are some of the lessons we’ve learnt whilst working on this project:

  • To save space at the top of the screen and allow for more content to be visible, the global navigation (which links to other sites within the Ubuntu universe) could be relegated to the bottom of the screen, in small screens. To keep its visibility, we added a link from the site’s main navigation
  • Simply decreasing the typographic scale that we were using in our style guide wasn’t enough for small screens. We had to slightly reduce the largest sizes and increase the smallest ones to improve readability
  • Space is at a premium in small screens, so we massively reduced row and box padding and margins between elements
  • We’ve reused the grid from the Ubuntu phone, which divides the portrait phone screen in 40 square grid units (horizontally) and where spaces between elements are usually counted as one or more grid units. Since the objective was to have a more condensed version of margins and padding across the small screen version of the site, using this grid allowed for more flexibility, with much smaller spaces between elements, without having to create a new grid — reuse and recycle!
  • It was important to keep the strong Ubuntu brand at the top of the screen, even on small screens, and to keep the navigation as straightforward to use as possible. This meant keeping the Ubuntu orange navigation background and a clear Ubuntu logo (when at first we tried a simplified version of the logo without the Ubuntu wordmark, user feedback revealed landing on the site was confusing, as they didn’t recognise the simplified logo or why the word “resources” was in the navigation)

Phone gridThe phone grid.

Ubuntu Resources navigation before
Ubuntu Resources navigation afterBefore (top) and after (bottom) Ubuntu Resources navigation: with and without the full Ubuntu logo.

Canonical.com

Early this year we launched the new and improved canonical.com, which is mobile-first and responsive.

While we were working on canonical.com, work on Ubuntu Resources was paused, which meant we could borrow some of the learnings from Resources but we’d need to find solutions to other problems we hadn’t yet addressed, such as scaling from small to medium and large screen sizes and defining those breakpoints.

From this project, we took away:

  • The medium screen size font sizes, again slightly adjusted for readability
  • Improved spacing between elements and padding on medium sized screens, which can be larger than in smaller screens, but slightly tighter than large screens
  • The use of the new folded paper background, developed for the phone designs
  • The use of flat colour blocks (mainly white and dark aubergine) to divide content, as opposed to divider lines
  • The use of SVG images for interface elements and icons, and a PNG fallback for non-supporting browsers
  • Patterns for reflowing images next to text in small screens: in most instances, when the image is to the left of the text, it can be moved above it in smaller screens; if the image is to the right of the text, it can be moved below it in smaller screens
  • An accordion pattern for small screens and tabs for larger screens

Margins in small, medium and large screensFrom left to right: comparison between margins and padding in small, medium and large screens.

Folded paper backgroundThe new folded paper background.

Small and large tabsTabs in small screens (left) and large screens (right).

Once canonical.com was launched, it was time to get back onto making ubuntu.com responsive. We felt that testing out ideas and strategies in smaller responsive projects before going full speed on our largest site was a positive experience, and would advise teams in similar scenarios to try and follow a similar strategy if the prospect of starting with your most popular site seems daunting or is simply impractical.

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: lessons learned”

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Sally Radwan

A few years ago, the cloud team at Canonical decided that the future of cloud computing lies not only in what clouds are built on, but what runs on it, and how quickly, securely, and efficiently those services can be managed. This is when Juju was born; our service orchestration tool built for the cloud and inspired by the way IT architects visualise their infrastructure: boxes representing services, connected by lines representing interfaces or relationships. Juju’s GUI simplifies searching, dragging and dropping a ‘Charm’ into a canvas to deploy services instantly.

Today, we are announcing two new features for DevOps seeking ever faster and easier ways of deploying scalable infrastructure. The first are Juju Charm bundles that allow you to deploy an entire cloud environment with one click. Secondly we are announcing Quickstart which spins up an entire Juju environment and deploys the necessary services to run Juju, all with one command. Juju Bundles and Quickstart are powerful tools on their own but offer enormous value comes when they are used together: Quickstart can be combined with bundles to rapidly launch Juju, start-up the environment, and deploy an entire application infrastructure, all in one action.

Already there are several bundles available that cover key technology areas: security, big data, SaaS, back office workloads, web servers, content management and the integration of legacy systems. New Charm bundles available today include:

Bundles for complex services:

  • Instant Hadoop: The Hadoop cluster bundle is a 7-node starter cluster designed to deploy Hadoop in a way that’s easily scalable. The deployment has been tested with up to 2,000 nodes on AWS.

  • Instant Mongo: Mongodb, a 13-node (over three shards) starter MongoDB cluster and has the capability to horizontally scale all of the three shards.

  • Instant Wiki: Two Mediawiki deployments; a simple example mediawiki deployment with just mediawiki and MySQL; and a load balanced deployment with HAProxy and memcached, designed to be horizontally scalable.

  •  A new bundle from import.io allows their SaaS platform to be instantly integrated inside Juju. Navigate to any website using the import.io browser, template the data and then test your crawl. Finally, use the import.io charm to crawl your data directly into ElasticSearch.
  • Instant Security: Syncope + PostgreSQL, developed by Tirasa, is a bundle providing Apache Syncope with the internal storage up and running on PostreSQL. Apache Syncope is an open source system for managing digital identities in enterprise environments.

  • Instant Enterprise Solutions: Credativ, experts in Open Source consultancy, are showing with their OpenERP bundle how any enterprise can instantly deploy an enterprise resource planning solution.

  • Instant High Performance Computing: HPCC (High Performance Computing Cluster) is a massive parallel-processing computing platform that solves Big Data problems. The platform is Open Source and can now be instantly deployed via Juju.

Francesco Chicchiriccò, CEO Tirasa / VP Apache Syncope comments; “The immediate availability of an Apache Syncope Juju bundle dramatically shortens the product evaluation process and encourages adoption. With this additional facility to get started with Open Source Identity Management, we hope to increase the deployments of Apache Syncope in any environment.”

 

Bundles for developers:

These bundles provide ‘hello world’ blank applications; they are designed as templates for application developers. Simply, they provide templates with configuration options to an application:

  • Instant Django: A Django bundle with gunicorn and PostgreSQL modelled after the Django ‘Getting Started’ guide is provided for application developers.

  • Instant Rails: Two Rails bundles, one is a simple Rails/Postgres deployment, the ‘scalable’ bundle adds HAProxy, Memcached, Redis, Nagios (for monitoring), and a Logstash/Kibana (for logging), providing an application developer with an entire scalable Rails stack.

  • Instant Wildlfy (The Community JBoss): The new Wildfly bundle from Technology Blueprint, provides an out-of-the-box Wildfly application server in a standalone mode running on openjdk 7. Currently MySQL as a datasource is also supported via a MySQL relation.

Technology Blueprint, creators of the Wildfly bundle, also uses Juju to build its own cloud environments. The company’s system administrator, Saurabh Jha comments; “Juju bundles are really beneficial for programmers and system administrators. Juju saves time, efforts as well as cost. We’ve used it to create our environment on the fly. All we need is a quick command and the whole setup gets ready automatically. No more waiting for installing and starting those heavy applications/servers manually; a bundle takes care of that for us. We can code, deploy and host our application and when we don’t need it, we can just destroy the environment. It’s that easy.”

You can browse and discover all new bundles on jujucharms.com.

Our entire ecosystem is hard at work too, charming up their applications and creating bundles around them. Upcoming bundles to look forward to include a GNU Cobol bundle, which will enable instant legacy integration, a telecom bundle to instantly deploy and integrate Project Clearwater – an open source IMS, and many others. For sure you have some ideas about a bundle that gives an instant solution to some common problems. It has never been easier to see your ideas turn into reality.

==

If you would like to create your own charm or bundle, here is how to get started: http://developer.ubuntu.com/cloud/ or see a video about Charm Bundles:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYpnQI6GZTA.

And if you’ve never used Juju before, here is an excellent series of blog posts that will guide you through spinning up a simple environment on AWS: http://insights.ubuntu.com/resources/article/deploying-web-applications-using-juju-part-33/.

Need help or advice? The Juju community is here to assist https://juju.ubuntu.com/community.

Finally, for the more technically-minded, here is a slightly more geeky take on things by Canonical’s Rick Harding, including a video walkthrough of Quickstart.

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Inayaili de León Persson

This post is part of the series ‘Making ubuntu.com responsive‘.

The front end framework that powers www.ubuntu.com represents the visual evolution of the site over the past few years: designs have become cleaner, lighter and more open. It was designed without responsiveness in mind, but it has proven flexible, robust and great for our needs: user experience designers can quickly create wireframes for new and updated pages based on existing patterns and developers can create new pages that look good with little input from designers.

Web style guideWeb style guide front page.

Even though the framework uses a fixed-width container to wrap the content, the containers within it were built to percentages, which means that if that surrounding container were to be removed, the site would become fluid.

Ubuntu.com with no wrapperOne page of the current site without a wrapping container.

We didn’t want to lose the work that has been put into this style guide. After a long discussion, we agreed that even though we were going to convert the CSS powering the site into mobile-first — so the media queries would be added for larger screen sizes instead of the other way around —, we were going to keep the desktop version as it was initially defined in the style guide.

This is likely a restriction that many other teams share: where there is a will and need to make an existing site responsive, but no budget and/or resources to start from scratch.

We decided that it would be a good idea if our developers, Anthony, Graham, and Karl, could sit in a room for a few days and create a ‘quick and dirty’ prototype of what our current site, using the current styles, would look like in a responsive world.

The main goals of this exercise were:

  1. To see how disastrous, or indeed how well, the style guide would play when a handful of responsive guidelines were applied
  2. To give the developers a better understanding of the effort required and issues involved in converting the existing stylesheets into a mobile-first, responsive format

We created a Google doc, structured in the same way as our style guide, where we laid out some rules that would get the developers started on the prototype.

The document started with the more broad and general rules:

  • Try to create breakpoints that fit our content, instead of just random device-specific sizes
  • Try to keep breakpoints to a minimum, with fluid designs in between each breakpoint

We then laid out some scaffolding (layout and grid) rules:

  • Content that is divided in half or thirds should convert into single column when it becomes too narrow
  • If the content is divided into quarters, there might be a step in the middle (halfs)
  • In rows that include an image to the left or right of the text, the image should move above or below the text, respectively
  • Hero images might need to be looked at individually rather than a single rule for all
  • Experiment reducing padding inside rows and boxes incrementally as the screen size decreases
  • Remove column dividers at smaller screen sizes

We then moved on to forms rules:

  • Our forms are already quite vertical, at this stage, make sure we are using correct HTML5 input types

And tables rules:

And finally JavaScript rules:

  • No forcing of equal-height boxes
  • Make tabbed content into expanding/collapsing accordion widgets

Many of our styles didn’t need changing at this stage and this was all written down in the doc too.

We also knew that, at this point, we couldn’t look into trickier problems such as the navigation, the typographic scale or how our multiple footers would play in a small screen, so we decided to leave this for later.

Multiple navigation levels in ubuntu.com
Multiple footers on ubuntu.com

Navigation and multiple footers were too complex an issue to be solved at this early stage.

Now it was time for the developers, with this doc in hand, to take a first go at making www.ubuntu.com responsive!

Read the next post in this series: “Making ubuntu.com responsive: making the rules a reality”

Reading list

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Inayaili de León Persson

Making ubuntu.com responsive: intro (1)

We’ve known for a while it was time to convert our main site, www.ubuntu.com, into a responsive site, and we’re now nearing the end of the project!

The main www.ubuntu.com site receives millions of visitors every month and it holds information on the variety of Ubuntu products and services, allowing people to download Ubuntu, get in touch with Canonical or find support.

In an ideal scenario, if you were going to convert a non-responsive site into a responsive one, you would start from scratch and do everything right and perfectly from the beginning. But what would be the fun in that?

In reality, starting from scratch on a site the size of ubuntu.com is just not practical or easily achievable. We evolve, grow and iterate the site constantly for releases, upgrades, launches and design updates. It is a living, breathing site, and we can’t really afford to stop, and start again. We realise other teams will also be faced with this reality, so we want to share the journey we have taken and some lessons we learned along the way.

In this series of posts, we’ll document the process we’re following in making that transition. We hope to give others an insight into what’s going on behind the scenes, the obstacles we’re facing, the solutions we’ve tried, the questions we have, and basically the nitty gritty of a real world responsive retrofitting project.

We will be covering:

  1. Intro (this post!)
  2. Setting the rules
  3. Making the rules a reality
  4. Pilot projects
  5. Lessons learned
  6. Scoping the work
  7. Approach to content
  8. Making our grid responsive
  9. Adapting our navigation to small screens
  10. Dealing with responsive images
  11. Updating font sizes and readability
  12. Ensuring performance
  13. JavaScript considerations
  14. Testing on multiple devices

I’ll update the list above with links to new posts as we go along. We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and solutions you’ve tried in your own projects, and how we can make this series more useful: leave your comments below, and we hope you enjoy the posts!

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