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Old 11-21-2007, 09:40 PM
David Nielsen
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

ons, 21 11 2007 kl. 22:31 +0100, skrev Martin Sourada:

> I think, David, if you know about issues with Echo usability why not
> point them out? I think we should take a look at it too a reach some
> consensus between our desires and usability, it is completely useless to
> make a icon theme which someone, e.g. colourblind people, will have
> problems using it. I encourage everyone to use same hue for borders so
> that the shapes would be easily distinguishable even if only used
> without colours (i.e. grey), for one. It is probably not enough, but it
> certainly makes them more usable.

I tried that in the past, with less than succesful outcome. Colorblind
issues however should likely be solved by the compiz plugins, that is
free for you guys and solves the problem (hopefully) for the 3 major
kinds of colorblindness without having to have 3 additional iconsets
differing only in color scheme. I'm unsure if there'll be issues with
shape and the appearance of the icons (clashing colors e.g.) but as part
of the testing of any theme it might be nice to run a real world desktop
image through VisCheck[1]. Likewise we should figure out a way to
simulate common vision impairments, people with slightly blurred vision,
basically people who need glasses but don't wear them. I'm unsure of any
research or products being available to aid in this kind of testing - I
suspect we could apply a slight blur filter in gimp to get an idea of
how washed out the desktop and applications look.

Echo has no defined shape, in my limited testing people with poor
eyesight seem to have great difficulty reading information from icons
that lack a strong outline. For those users, and there are a lot sadly,
the kind of look Tango has seems to yield better results. I'll try to
get more test subjects to play with my laptop with the different
iconsets to get more input. Basically though, Echo is not designed with
this in mind and I suspect reworking Echo would be a lot of work.

Aside that I have noticed that emblem use is somewhat odd, you seem to
use both + and * to indicate new and add (last time I checked - this
might have changed). I filed a bug against this and was basically told
there was a reason but not given said reason. I'd love to hear why this
kind of confusion is preferable to selecting a standard akin to what
Tango has done.

> As for the suggested spin, I think it is a good idea and I see reasons
> for it. Yes, surely all the usability features should be available in
> the classical spins as well, but we don't need to enable all of them by
> default. Especially the artwork could be optimised specially for people
> with disabilities and enabled on such a spin. BTW. is there a SIG for
> usability? As you say, we (Fedora Project) care about usability but the
> applications does not support it as we'd like, so it would be good to
> coordinate our efforts to improve the situation.

I fundamentally disagree with making handicapped people second class
citizens. It's perfectly simple to opt-out, at-spi doesn't draw many
ressources and we need it for section 508 compliance. It makes more
sense to enable it by default and make the cases like colorblindness a
simple configuration option in the a11y capplet that would enable the
compiz plugin and configure it for the sight issue.

Similar with more extreme sight requirements like high contrast, we can
provide it in the theme capplet. The main problem here is that not all
of our applications obey the session settings, not to mention there's no
option to make it apply to the system. For a single user system, being
able to read the test and see the icons even at boot up would be the
desirable long term goal. I'd rather work towards fixing those problems
and selecting a good default - making a specific spin just for every
combination of a11y friendly artwork seems excessive, for special cases
it's definitely a good option though, like special tool requirements.

I am unaware of the existance of an a11y SIG but usability was handled
on the desktop-devel list way back in the day and Daniel Durand I think
lead up a SIG on the subject. I think ultimately though that the board
(or who ever makes technical decisions like this, there are so many
acronyms and groups I get confused as to who does what) should make the
decision if accessibility is an overall longterm goal to be prioritised
in Fedora or not - then the SIGs can take it into consideration. I will
naturally be happy to help with testing. Given time to schedule testing
it's likely I can arrange to get any such testing done on demand, I'm
fortunate enough to have good relations with a company who exclusively
hire handicapped people so we should be well covered in terms of
impairments. The access is likely going to be timelimited though, these
people suffer and I'd like to not put them through to much so we
definitely need to setup some kind of test protocol - this however is
not really an artwork issue, we can test most poor sight via
simulation.

[1] http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/
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Old 11-21-2007, 10:37 PM
Martin Sourada
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

On Wed, 2007-11-21 at 23:40 +0100, David Nielsen wrote:
> [1] http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/

Thanks for the link,

to have some material to talk about, I've taken some of the newer Echo
icons (all the 'category' icons [1] are done that way, and more or less
finished) and run through the filters. I don't see any big issues with
them, what do you think? I attach the original, plus the processed
images, that are sadly saved in jpeg which does not give the best
results...

Martin

References:
[1]
https://hosted.fedoraproject.org/projects/echo-icon-theme/wiki/IconThemeStatus/Categories


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Old 11-21-2007, 11:42 PM
David Nielsen
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

tor, 22 11 2007 kl. 00:37 +0100, skrev Martin Sourada:
> On Wed, 2007-11-21 at 23:40 +0100, David Nielsen wrote:
> > [1] http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/
>
> Thanks for the link,
>
> to have some material to talk about, I've taken some of the newer Echo
> icons (all the 'category' icons [1] are done that way, and more or less
> finished) and run through the filters. I don't see any big issues with
> them, what do you think? I attach the original, plus the processed
> images, that are sadly saved in jpeg which does not give the best
> results...

Generally, iso prespective make the icons look smaller, please remember
that at this size both detail level and shape affects how easily you can
utilize the brains wonderful pattern recognition abilities. I would
strip the detail level down as much as possible and go for head on
prespective. I would wager that the icons we display most often would be
menu ones so they really deserve that extra attention and love. Another
consideration with regards to prespective is that orientation matters in
preception of size, twisted left seems smaller than twisted right
because you appear to show off less surface area. The human brain is a
strange beast.

Add/Remove Software is very good, easy to spot, good shape use, colors
work well across the colorblindness spectrum and it's head on
prespective. A really good icon.

The graphics icon is very hard to make out. I cannot I have to admit
figure out what the office icon is suppose to look like, it does however
seem to get better when the colorblindness filters are applied.

Also notice how well the shape works for recognition for the games icon,
low level of detail - despite even appearing small due to the iso
prespective usage. It's also the only one to have a defined outline
which really helps make the icon appear crisp and easy to recognize.
This makes it work really well in every filter applied and I can make it
out without my glasses on even from around 1m away.

Where sexy and usable clashes is really the prespective, don't do iso
unless at desktop icon size or above, you can candy it up with detail as
size increases. Jimmac has a great article on his blog regarding the
problems surrounding sizes and scaling icons[1].

[1] http://jimmac.musichall.cz/log/?p=177
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Old 11-22-2007, 07:36 AM
Martin Sourada
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 01:42 +0100, David Nielsen wrote:
> Generally, iso prespective make the icons look smaller, please remember
> that at this size both detail level and shape affects how easily you can
> utilize the brains wonderful pattern recognition abilities. I would
> strip the detail level down as much as possible and go for head on
> prespective. I would wager that the icons we display most often would be
> menu ones so they really deserve that extra attention and love. Another
> consideration with regards to prespective is that orientation matters in
> preception of size, twisted left seems smaller than twisted right
> because you appear to show off less surface area. The human brain is a
> strange beast.
>
Well, they does not only look smaller, but they also are smaller - you
have a wider view when looking at iso perspective than when you reduce
to plain 2D head on perspective. When creating new icons we are trying
to simplify the 22x22 sizes enough so they should be easily perceptible
if though they are in the isometric perspective.

I don't see the problems you list, but it might be because I am only a
half a metre from the screen (which has 98 DPI). The icons appear only
less colourful after applying the filters, but the shape remains well
defined.

In 16x16 size all icons in Echo are done in the head on perspective and
I have to admit they are usually harder to create than the perspective
22x22 ones...

Yet, the isometric icons you'll mostly see on the desktop, in file
browsers and in the main menus. The rest are either action icons or
displayed at 16x16. And for action icons we does not use isometric
perspective.

The orientation was chosen by Diana and we just follow it, I cannot
imagine how the opposite orientation worked better.

> Add/Remove Software is very good, easy to spot, good shape use, colors
> work well across the colorblindness spectrum and it's head on
> prespective. A really good icon.
>
> The graphics icon is very hard to make out. I cannot I have to admit
> figure out what the office icon is suppose to look like, it does however
> seem to get better when the colorblindness filters are applied.
>
> Also notice how well the shape works for recognition for the games icon,
> low level of detail - despite even appearing small due to the iso
> prespective usage. It's also the only one to have a defined outline
> which really helps make the icon appear crisp and easy to recognize.
> This makes it work really well in every filter applied and I can make it
> out without my glasses on even from around 1m away.
>
> Where sexy and usable clashes is really the prespective, don't do iso
> unless at desktop icon size or above, you can candy it up with detail as
> size increases. Jimmac has a great article on his blog regarding the
> problems surrounding sizes and scaling icons[1].
>
> [1] http://jimmac.musichall.cz/log/?p=177
We are aware of some of the problems listed in the article. That's why
we decided to include 22x22 sizes as well. All new created icons should
come in 16x16, 22x22, 24x24, 32x32, 48x48 and scalable sizes and should
be optimised for these. The shape of the icons is the basic thing and we
are doing our best to define it well while retaining more realistic look
than tango does.

I would much appreciate if you take some time and went through the Echo
styling guidelines [1] and point out the problems that leads the icons
to not being ally, or propose some additions. Save for the perspective,
which we already agreed on (and because of the help of SVG versions it
is far more easier to change styling of the icons than their
perspective), we are quite open to changes.

Thanks,
Martin

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Old 11-22-2007, 09:17 AM
David Nielsen
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

tor, 22 11 2007 kl. 09:36 +0100, skrev Martin Sourada:

> Well, they does not only look smaller, but they also are smaller - you
> have a wider view when looking at iso perspective than when you reduce
> to plain 2D head on perspective. When creating new icons we are trying
> to simplify the 22x22 sizes enough so they should be easily perceptible
> if though they are in the isometric perspective.
>
> I don't see the problems you list, but it might be because I am only a
> half a metre from the screen (which has 98 DPI). The icons appear only
> less colourful after applying the filters, but the shape remains well
> defined.

I just walked away from the screen to see which icons would work at that
distance - I would disagree that you have well defined shapes to begin
with. I also remind you that having a strong black outline helps the
brain define the shape which is why the games icon appears to work so
well.

> In 16x16 size all icons in Echo are done in the head on perspective and
> I have to admit they are usually harder to create than the perspective
> 22x22 ones...

I would heavily argue that for usability and accessibility reasons, the
iso prespective needs to not be used for menu icons, they appear way to
small and you lose a lot of the shape that we rely on for pattern
recognition.

> Yet, the isometric icons you'll mostly see on the desktop, in file
> browsers and in the main menus. The rest are either action icons or
> displayed at 16x16. And for action icons we does not use isometric
> perspective.
>
> The orientation was chosen by Diana and we just follow it, I cannot
> imagine how the opposite orientation worked better.

Why am I suddenly reminded of that old game Lemmings?

> We are aware of some of the problems listed in the article. That's why
> we decided to include 22x22 sizes as well. All new created icons should
> come in 16x16, 22x22, 24x24, 32x32, 48x48 and scalable sizes and should
> be optimised for these. The shape of the icons is the basic thing and we
> are doing our best to define it well while retaining more realistic look
> than tango does.
>
> I would much appreciate if you take some time and went through the Echo
> styling guidelines [1] and point out the problems that leads the icons
> to not being ally, or propose some additions. Save for the perspective,
> which we already agreed on (and because of the help of SVG versions it
> is far more easier to change styling of the icons than their
> perspective), we are quite open to changes.

To be honest, that sounds like a waste of time to me given that I spend
an hour typing up a mail with a list of issues for you and you replied
that you did not see them. You are really not making a good case for
Echo as being able or willing to change to adapt to the needs to the
visually impaired, I am more than will to accept that as your choice but
it will remain a strong argument against Echo as our default iconset.

- David
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Old 11-22-2007, 11:15 AM
Martin Sourada
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 11:17 +0100, David Nielsen wrote:
> I just walked away from the screen to see which icons would work at that
> distance - I would disagree that you have well defined shapes to begin
> with. I also remind you that having a strong black outline helps the
> brain define the shape which is why the games icon appears to work so
> well.
>
OK, then assume they are not so well defined. BUT. As I look at the
filtered images I see no difference as to how well is the shape defined
in original and in filtered images. It's just that some details are
washed out, but the shape remains defined to same extent (which you
think is not enough).

> I would heavily argue that for usability and accessibility reasons, the
> iso prespective needs to not be used for menu icons, they appear way to
> small and you lose a lot of the shape that we rely on for pattern
> recognition.
>
I can only say I have to disagree. I see there more degrees of freedom
when defining 3D (meaning isometric perspective) shape than in defining
2D (meaning head on perspective) shape, which basically means that we
are able to further distinguish in 3D between shapes that are
indistinguishable in 2D. And I think one should be able to clearly
distinguish *between* the shapes.

> Why am I suddenly reminded of that old game Lemmings?
>
Sadly, I don't know this game.

> To be honest, that sounds like a waste of time to me given that I spend
> an hour typing up a mail with a list of issues for you and you replied
> that you did not see them. You are really not making a good case for
> Echo as being able or willing to change to adapt to the needs to the
> visually impaired, I am more than will to accept that as your choice but
> it will remain a strong argument against Echo as our default iconset.
>
> - David

That I don't see them it does not mean that I don't care about them. I
appreciate what you did, but I fail to see the problem there - my eyes
or brain just are not capable of seeing the problem where you see it (so
your guidance in this matter would be appreciated). You are the one with
experience, so if You could help to improve the guidelines, it would
make Echo better in the future.

And once more to the shape... My eyes aren't so good when seeing distant
objects, so I tried to go further from my PC while looking at tritanope
image. All shapes there lost their clear differences between themselves
more or less at the same time, so when I say I do not see there a
problem it means that I do not see it physically, from which one could
assume that the problem isn't here, but you say it is here, so I am most
likely wrong.

Martin

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Old 11-22-2007, 02:54 PM
David Nielsen
 
Default Usability - SIG, Spin, Echo icons [was Icon theme for ubuntu]

tor, 22 11 2007 kl. 13:15 +0100, skrev Martin Sourada:
> On Thu, 2007-11-22 at 11:17 +0100, David Nielsen wrote:
> > I just walked away from the screen to see which icons would work at that
> > distance - I would disagree that you have well defined shapes to begin
> > with. I also remind you that having a strong black outline helps the
> > brain define the shape which is why the games icon appears to work so
> > well.
> >
> OK, then assume they are not so well defined. BUT. As I look at the
> filtered images I see no difference as to how well is the shape defined
> in original and in filtered images. It's just that some details are
> washed out, but the shape remains defined to same extent (which you
> think is not enough).

Colorblindness as such should only affect the shape definition if you
have clashing colors. Shape issues would tend to be more pronounced with
poor eyesight such as simulated with a blur filter (I seem to remember
jimmac having scripts to automate this). I didn't mean to give the
impression that shape was affected by colorblindness, information
exchange can be though.

Colorblindness will affect the information you convey, it's largely
important that you don't depend on things like red indicating bad and
green indicating good (as the extreme examples). The absolute best way
to avoid that is to regularly take a snapshot of your desktop in real
use and run it through VisCheck. If you aren't colorblind it's hard to
take it into consideration in the design phase since you are not living
with it. The best option is simulation on a regular basis for you as a
designer.

> I can only say I have to disagree. I see there more degrees of freedom
> when defining 3D (meaning isometric perspective) shape than in defining
> 2D (meaning head on perspective) shape, which basically means that we
> are able to further distinguish in 3D between shapes that are
> indistinguishable in 2D. And I think one should be able to clearly
> distinguish *between* the shapes.

By reducing the surface area you are reducing the effective amount of
information carried. That has a pronounced effect on usability and
accessibility.

> > Why am I suddenly reminded of that old game Lemmings?
> >
> Sadly, I don't know this game.

It's a fun game, here's a version reimplemented in DHTML:
http://www.elizium.nu/scripts/lemmings/

> That I don't see them it does not mean that I don't care about them. I
> appreciate what you did, but I fail to see the problem there - my eyes
> or brain just are not capable of seeing the problem where you see it (so
> your guidance in this matter would be appreciated). You are the one with
> experience, so if You could help to improve the guidelines, it would
> make Echo better in the future.
>
> And once more to the shape... My eyes aren't so good when seeing distant
> objects, so I tried to go further from my PC while looking at tritanope
> image. All shapes there lost their clear differences between themselves
> more or less at the same time, so when I say I do not see there a
> problem it means that I do not see it physically, from which one could
> assume that the problem isn't here, but you say it is here, so I am most
> likely wrong.

Okay remember that eyesight is tricky, the evolution of the human eye
has brought about some interesting quirks like the blind spot it's
definitely not simple to adjust an interface to suit this complex
system. Let alone possible to ensure it works universally. I mean there
are good evolutionary reasons why green is a restful color to the eye so
we might be tempted to make the whole thing green - that means we have
to care deeply about the use of red since a significant amount of users
will experience issues with that combination.

The general concerns with regards to colorblindness is clashing colors
and reliance on specific colors to convey specific information -
red/green colorblindness being the most common makes those the prime
suspects. This however does not mean you can't use those colors, but
that certain combinations are bad.

Shape is important and size is important, remember that most people
walking around you wear glasses or need them. Also remember that no
eyesight correction with glasses is perfect, this means you can win some
recognition by going for a clear shape and reducing detail level. Try
applying a mild blur to a screenshot.

Another great way of testing if the information you are trying to convey
is getting across. Switch your language setting and pick something which
you know nothing about - I like chinese. If a user can navigate the
desktop using only the icons then you win.. big time (also I'll buy you
beer and cake since that would be heroic). Optimally we would have a
kind of test language that turned every string into "----------" since
that would not be subject to untranslated strings, use of similar words
and such that might affect the test subject but for now just picking a
language the user doesn't know which has good coverage will suffice.

I would propose these general guidelines:

Less detail at small sizes
No isometric prespective at small sizes
Defined outlines are your friend

Test a real world scenerio with VisCheck and blur filtering, single icon
testing does not tend to yield as convincing a result as a whole picture
in real size since you get the environment colors as background.

Switch your language and get <elderly person or child of choice> to play
around with the desktop, ask them to perform real world tasks like
opening the web browser, doing a bit of wordprocessing e.g. That should
give you a good idea of problem areas for color, shapeness and
information.

- David
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