I've just installed (upgraded) Ubuntu 11.04. For those of you not familiar with Ubuntu, 11 is the year and 04 is the month. Ubuntu has a six month release cycle, so the next version is around the corner (11.10).

The new version is slick, but I was a bit... confused. On startup, instead of having the system menu at the top of the screen as used to be the case, there is a navigation bar at the left of the screen. This is the Unity interface.

Ubuntu 11.04

In the unity bar (however it's called), there are some applications I frequently use, some I hardly ever use and no system tools or accessories, or any of the visual indicators we're used to.

After some fooling around, it's not so bad, but my feeling is that for new users, the interface offers no indicators about what's really possible, so the learning curve will be steep.

This is the graphical user interface that's closest to the command line I've seen in a while.

So now I come to the question: Are there any usability studies out there testing this type of interface that offer hardly any visual clues? What are their conclusions?

  • 1
    suggestion: try modifying the question so it's less of a rant and more of a question. Also, what do you mean by "testing this type of interface"?
    – user4662
    Oct 4, 2011 at 21:29
  • @Christofian: Nah, I like to rant sometimes. A serious user test. How do users find things they need to do or change. For instance, I had a hard time configuring the mike because I couldn't find the right configuration tool.
    – GUI Junkie
    Oct 4, 2011 at 21:31
  • And consider that I'm an experienced user with more than two years of Ubuntu under my belt (apart from ms-dos, unix and about every windows version since 3.1)
    – GUI Junkie
    Oct 4, 2011 at 21:34
  • let me be more specific: I don't get what you mean by "this type of interface". What feature(s) of the user interface are you talking about here?
    – user4662
    Oct 4, 2011 at 21:34
  • 1
    @GUIJunkie So I guess the question is more about how discoverable the applications and other features are. It might be a good way to orient the question, towards something like 'how should an OS make features discoverable' or something along that line? Oct 4, 2011 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


Usability studies have been done by Canonical on the Unity itself, you can read a summary on the Ubuntu mailing list.

Another test here: http://design.canonical.com/2010/11/usability-testing-of-unity/

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