KDE usability team lead Thomas Pfeiffer posted on the future roadmap of the KDE user interface and user experience on his blog. While he acknowledges that the great power and flexibility that comes with KDE Plasma and associated applications is the main reason behind its huge fanbase, in his opinion these are also the reasons why newbies get intimidated by the overwhelming number of features exposed at one place.
Thomas prefers a layered feature exposure so that users can enjoy certain advanced features at a later stage after they get accustomed to the basic functionality of the application. He quotes the earlier (pre-Plasma era) vision of KDE 4 – “Anything that makes Linux interesting for technical users (shells, compilation, drivers, minute user settings) will be available; not as the default way of doing things, but at the user’s discretion.” And he goes ahead to remind the simplified form in KDE HIG (Human Interface Guidelines) – “Simple by default, powerful when needed.”
Thomas also explained how that goal can be reached. The first step should be a well defined target audience and relevant use cases of an application. Once those are available, the goals of the application can be determined. These goals need to be categorized based on the frequency of using that goal by the target users.
As a practical example of this idea, Thomas discusses the new KMail UI which had 3 categories of such goals – common, uncommon and rare. Only the common goals were exposed in the main UI of the application by default. The only two functionalities chosen were quick checking of mails or replying to them. This aligns with the idea of “Simple by default”. Separate UI flows were designed to do not so regular tasks like retrieving an email from an otherwise rarely used folder or tag or writing a new mail with HTML formatting and attachment adding options. These options are presented on demand in agreement with the “powerful when needed” part.