Ubiquity: Visual Identity
As we near the release of Ubiquity 0.1.3, it’s time to start thinking about refreshing its visual identity. Abimanyu Raja’s new skin support makes it possible for artists and designers to drastically change the way Ubiquity is presented to the user. All it requires is some CSS: No programming required! The extra cool thing is that once you’ve made a skin, you can publish it on your website and others can subscribe to it with a single click — just like they can subscribe to any other Ubiquity command.
Yatrik Solanaki created a great Ubiquity skin called “Simpliquity”. It looks great, and we are considering adopting it as the default skin. It follows, however, the same interaction model that the original Ubiquity interface did. There are some problems with that model as a number of folks have pointed out.
The two major ones are: (1) The visual layout is confusing, and (2) There’s no clean way of using the keyboard to access the preview area. Here’s a new layout that tries to address some of these issues that I whipped up yesterday:
It tries to solve both problems using a left-right visual hierarchy. The up and down arrow keys can skip you between suggestions, and a right arrow key can put the focus into the preview area. This means that the various search commands’ results can be used without ever touching the mouse. The exact colors and layout aren’t exactly right, but the great thing is that it’s just a quick CSS tweak to change things around.
And that gets me to the thing I’m most excited about. All of this was done without ever breaking into the Ubiquity code. That, to me, is amazing. And a testament to the power of open-Web technologies.
For those interested, here is the CSS that makes the new skin. The current version doesn’t look exactly like the one in the picture (no pretty transparencies) because of this bug causing redraw problems on the Mac.
I look forward to hearing thoughts on the new design!
Gregory Raiz and others have been playing around with Ubiquity interfaces that go beyond even advanced skinning.
While this isn’t necessarily the direction I’d go, that’s okay. Ubiquity should enable experimentation with all sorts of UIs for accessing its modular functionality. The plan is that for Ubiquity 0.2, it should be possible to make those a reality with the new pluggable UI system.