Convergent File ManagerConvergence is going to be a major theme for Ubuntu 14.04, not just at the OS and Unity 8 levels, but also for the apps that run on it. The Core Apps, those apps that were developed by the community and included by default in the last release, are no exception to this. We want to make sure they all converge neatly and usefully on both a tablet and on the desktop. So once again we are asking for community design input, this time to take the existing application interfaces and extend them to new form factors.

How to submit your designs

We have detailed the kind of features we want to see for each of the Core Apps on a Convergence wiki page. If you have a convergence design idea you would like to submit, send it as a file attachment or link to it online in an email to design@canonical.comalong with any additional notes, descriptions, or user stories. The design team will be reviewing the submitted designs live on their bi-weekly Design Clinics (Dec 4th and Dec 18th) at 1400 UTC. But before you submit your ideas, keep reading to see what they should include.

Extend what’s there

We don’t want to add too many features this cycle, there’s going to be enough work to do just building the convergence into the app. Use the existing features and designs as your starting point, and re-imagine those same features and designs on a tablet or desktop. Design new features or modify existing ones when it makes the experience better on a different form factor, but remember that we want the user to experience it as the same application across the board, so try and keep the differences to a minimum.

Form follows function

There’s more to a good design than just a good looking UI, especially when designing convergence. Make sure that you take the user’s activity into account, plan out how they will access the different features of the app, make sure it’s both intuitive and simple. The more detail you put into this the more likely you are to discover possible problems with your designs, or come up with better solutions that you had originally intended.

Think outside the screen

There is more to convergence that just a different screen size, and your designs should take that into consideration. While it’s important to make good use of the added space in the UI, think about how the user is going to interact with it. You hold a tablet differently than you do a phone, so make sure your designs work well there.

On the desktop you have even more to think about, when the user has a keyboard and mouse, but likely not a touch screen, you want to make sure the interface isn’t cumbersome. Think about how scrolling will be different too, while it’s easy to swipe both vertically and horizontally on a phone or tablet, you usually only have a vertical scroll wheel on a desktop mouse. But, you also have more precise control over a mouse pointer than you do with a finger-tip, so your interface should take advantage of that too.

Resources available to you

Now that you know what’s needed, here are some resources to help you. Once again we have our community Balsamiq account available to anybody who wants to use it to create mockups (email me if you need an account). I have created a new project for Core Apps Convergencethat you can use to add your designs. You can then submit links to your designs to the Design Team’s email above. The Design Team has also provided a detailed Design Guide for Ubuntu SDK apps, including a section on Responsive Layouts that give some suggested patterns for different form factors. You can also choose to use any tools you are comfortable with, as long as they Design Team and community developers can view it.