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Make Sailfish UI consistent and easy again. Please!

asked 2018-11-03 16:53:23 +0200

ossi1967 gravatar image

updated 2018-11-03 23:00:22 +0200

rozgwi gravatar image

With Sailfish 1, the UI was really consistent, beautiful and easy. I especially loved the fact that almost everything could be done by dragging/swiping. No need to hit small buttons.

Version 2 already changed for the worse. The quick actions on the app covers were no longer a swipe action, but required me to tap on the tiniest icons. This was, as far as I remember, a consequence of the introduction of a mysterious "partner space" that, as it turned out, nobody was interested in ever since.

During the end of 2.x, an even worse change was introduced: The new image viewer: Everywhere else in Sailfish, you drag from left to right in order to leave a view and return to the previous; the navigation path is indicated by a glowing circle on the upper left. Now there's one single view that you close by swiping from top to bottom - without any visiual indication at all that this is possible. To add to the chaos, there's an additional Windows 3.11 style [x] for closing on the top right. The easily accessible menu items (remember? just drag down...) have been replaced, yet again, by tiny symbols.

Now with 3, the situation became even worse. To save one single swipe, the status menu was made accessible from everywhere. (Before it was a swipe from left to right to reach the events screen, then you could swipe down. Now you can swipe down without the one swipe to the right before.) Because this conflicts with the well-known gesture for closing an app, the upper edge of the screen has been divided into 3 (!) parts... and if you're lucky, you hit the right one. Within the status menu, the various status indicators no longer follow the Sailfish style language.

What used to be a pretty and consistent UI when it started is now a wild mixture of SFOS remains, Android and things that were probably just thrown in because nobody had the time to finish them.

It seems to me there's nobody responsible @Jolla for UI and visual design at the moment. I don't feel the visions of a master mind behind all this.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to advocate one certain style (although I really loved 2014/2015). Jolla could copy iOS 1:1 if they had the lawyers to do so, they could go down the Android route, could invent something new yet again... That's not all that important to me. What is important, though, is that the UI should be consistent and easy. And yes, it doesn't hurt if it looks good.

Please. Maybe for SF4...

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I agree with everything you say about SfOS1 vs SfOS2 all the way through last update. But I actually like the new three part top swipe to access the status menu. Even though I prefer the SfOS1 with events from the bottom and status above I think the global status menu is better (even if it copies IOS/Android).

Mohjive ( 2018-11-03 18:25:45 +0200 )edit

I love the top menu and had this kind of top menu enabled in SFOS2 with the help of a patch. What I don't like about the new one is the design of the icons. Those are so Androidish. Before in SFOS2 we had the small glooming dots. However those require more space. About the three areas for swiping: I'd preferred distinguishing the actions by the distance swiped. E.g. 20% Swipe just locks screen, 40% Swipe closes app and 60% swipe keeps the menu open.

naytsyrhc ( 2018-11-03 18:59:57 +0200 )edit

There is nothing wrong about copying good ideas.

pisarz1958 ( 2018-11-03 20:16:00 +0200 )edit

There is nothing right about copying bad ideas.

vattuvarg ( 2018-11-03 22:37:56 +0200 )edit

Copying can be good or bad, that's true. In this particular case I think copying the top pull gesture from IOS/Android is better than keeping the SfOS2 way. BUT(!) I still stand by the opinion that SfOS1 was better than both IOS and Android and that Jolla got lost trying to do something like everybody else. For me SfOS1 was as ground breaking as IOS was, compared to the existing UX then, when it was first released.

Mohjive ( 2018-11-03 23:15:16 +0200 )edit

6 Answers

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answered 2018-11-05 17:53:06 +0200

jsommer gravatar image

Unfortunately I have to agree to the post. The Sailfish UI is not consistent any more and has a worse user experience in my point of view.

  1. Ugly status menu. I would prefer the consistent lightning checkboxes without a text for the button. The current design breaches the concept.
  2. The contrast between the lighter background and white font of the event view is worse, because the background was darker before. Personally I preferred the darker colour with less gauss filter anyway.
  3. Pop-up overlay views with the cl instead of animated navigation.

I love the simplicity, minimalism and beautiness of the original concept. Almost no visible buttons or menues. Just the interactive content. Sailfish still makes a difference to iOS and Android. Please be on track, Jolla, to be the company, that "thinks different".

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It's a sad thing: users were crying out for new features, most or all of which are available on other OSes, and what got delivered was reshuffled screen decorations, which best I can tell was at the top of nobody's wish list. I hope Jolla is listening; they don't seem to have been.

depscribe ( 2018-11-05 18:13:24 +0200 )edit

They are listening, but sadly the community is not the first priority.

vattuvarg ( 2018-11-05 18:34:44 +0200 )edit

In which case: if what was just released is the answer, what was the question?

depscribe ( 2018-11-05 18:46:44 +0200 )edit

Indeed. The listed changes remind me of requirements of corporate customers. Typical claims and requirements are:

  1. Users don’t understand new UI concepts. The UI should be adopted to that, what people know.
  2. Add a text, tooltip, description, button here and there.

The impact is complexity, breach of consistence and prevented innovation. This is, what I learned in many year of product management and solution business.

jsommer ( 2018-11-05 18:53:02 +0200 )edit

In which case: if what was just released is the answer, what was the question?


Sailfish OS has matured to its third generation, Sailfish 3, which now fully packetizes the offering for multitude of corporate solutions. In line with the regional licensing strategy, Sailfish 3 has a deeper level of security making it a solid option for various corporate and organizational solutions, and other use cases. New enhanced features include e.g. Mobile Device Management (MDM), fully integrated VPN solutions, enterprise WiFi, data encryption, and better and faster performance. For daily users Sailfish 3 brings essentially better performance, deepened security, and smoother user experience.

With Sailfish 3 we are also better equipped to offer full support for regional infrastructures including steady releases & OS upgrades, local hosting, training, and a flexible feature set to support specific customer needs.

vattuvarg ( 2018-11-05 19:21:56 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-11-06 18:06:40 +0200

MartinK gravatar image

I like the new changes. :)

The new detailed gallery view seems much more discoverable to me than before and make it possible to still swipe between the picture details & making it easy to go back. It might not be the most elegant think on Earth, but it certainly works for what it does.

The same thing for the new top menu. I really like it and don't mind it is basically cloned from Android or iOS (I wonder where thy cloned it from) because it works very well and makes often used settings easy to access.

I have also realized how used one can get to the Sailfish OS UI after using it for ~5 years after a non-power user family member started using a Sailfish OS device. Having things discoverable and logical really makes a difference for newcomers and non technical people. They might eventually get used also the the more advanced options and gestures, but might never get there if the learning curve is too steam from the start.

Please note that I am not advocating for dumbing down the UI, just to make it accessible to people who might not have been following the Maemo/MeeGo/Sailfish for years and that might not be power users. Otherwise I think we risk painting ourselves to a niche instead of expanding the community and making Sailfish OS accessible for more people.

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But the point of OP was/is that copying/immitating other OS's is not the way to go and mixed UI elements (gestures vs buttons) lead to inconsistent UI and therefor will make it harder for people to understand. The gesture based navigation has a lot of advantages and is/Was something unique to SFOS. It's sad that Jolla seems to abandon these ideas (e.g. buttons on app covers instead of gestures from SFOS1 to SFOS2, now a more android/iOS like Design of the top menu).

naytsyrhc ( 2018-11-06 19:02:13 +0200 )edit

SFOS3 with the 3-part-top-gesture feels great. Before, one (me) always had to watch out to not accidently close an app.

chappi ( 2018-11-06 19:11:17 +0200 )edit

@MartinK You mention the learning curve - and this is what consistency is all about. It must not be necessary to re-learn a UI for each application separately. Let's just stick with the one example that you picked, the gallery. And let's just focus on one point: Consistency.

When you get you first SailfishOS device, you learn how things work: If there's a list of items and you open one of the items, the following screen will show the full content. A swipe to the right will bring you back to the list. A visual indicator on the top left reminds you of this swipe. Depending on the context, additional commands are available via a pulley menu. Additional details about the object you're viewing are available when you swipe to the left one level deeper. Once you got that, it works everywhere: notes, contacts, messages, documents, store... You don't need to learn a new UI concept for each and every app.

Now, with the new image view, there are new app-specific UI concepts that users have to learn. New users as well as experienced users. First: While everywhere else a content view is closed by swiping to the right, in this one particular case it's closed by swiping down. Also, there is no visual indicator at all that this is even possible. (So: Not "discoverable".) Second: Instead of the pulley menus you use in other apps, you now use icons.

Now you might argue that for some esoteric reason, viewing a pic is something completely different than viewing any other content and really requires a different UI. (Which would raise the question why it didn't require a different UI before.) Even then you have yet another inconsistency:

Apart from the gallery, the use case "open one of many pictures, maybe manipulate them" is also covered in the messenger app. Interestingly, yet another variation of the content view appears there: swipe right to close (Sailfish style), but icons instead of pulley menu.

So we have 3 (!) UIs for the user to learn. /me unhappy.

ossi1967 ( 2018-11-07 12:42:22 +0200 )edit

Viewing pictures did require a different UI before, it just didn't exist yet and the one we used to have was a nightmare to use. Feel free to criticise the new UI, but please don't make it seem like the previous one had any good aspects to it.

nthn ( 2018-11-07 13:40:36 +0200 )edit

@ossi1967 Actually, I think the gallery and top menu redesign is an indication that other screens and applications will be redesigned in a similar (maybe a bit boring and not very original, but discoverable and easy to use) manner. Once that is done it will be consistent again. :)

Also some personal remarks about Sailfish OS UI principles:

  • for new users the pull down menus are not very discoverable and the don't notice they are there
  • list view + long list + pull down/up menu -> disaster, you have to scroll to top/bottom (loosing your position in the listview) to activate the menu, for this reason all list views in my applications have headers that can be used to access the menu at any time
  • the swipe from the left/right pages are almost undiscoverable and even Jolla developers mentioned they are very dissatisfied about how they used them in the email client
  • dialogs suck, often it is not even apparent one is looking at a dialog that needs to be accepted & how (for that reason there are no Sailfish OS style dialogs in my apps, just simple screens that ask you to press a yes or no button)
  • remorse timers are almost always a bad idea, they delay the user by 5 seconds at arbitrary time and one can be never sure what happens if he leaves a screen with a remorse timer running or quits an application when a remorse timer is running, a simple "are you sure" dialog/popup would be much preferable
  • the long-press-to-get-additional-options also feels more like a last minute cludge than an elegant UI concept and while at least used relatively consistently, it's not discoverable (which things will show more stuff when I long press them and which will not ?)
MartinK ( 2018-11-07 18:01:12 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-11-07 22:56:16 +0200

chappi gravatar image

updated 2018-11-08 01:19:26 +0200

Mmh, despite the many upvotes I have a totally different opinion:

  • consistency improved a lot by the fact the the status menu is available from everywhere in the same way. It's super simple now:

    • top-middle -> status / top-corners -> close app
    • left -> event view
    • right -> back to home
    • bottom -> menu-icons.

    Works without thinking, I love it

  • the app cover actions were too smart. I think it was good that they have been removed (but I would like to close the apps by 'swiping-away' the app-covers, iirc WebOS had this)

  • as you say, the photos in the gallery app are a bit 'abnormal'. But one has to be pragmatic and an app, imho, should be allowed to deviate if it makes sense:

    • left/right -> previous/next picture (I think this has to be a horizontal swipe)
    • (if you know) top/down -> back to overview
    • (if you don't know) use the x-close-button -> back to overview

'Sailfish style language' could maybe be refined a bit, ok. But SF3 feels consistent for me. Please keep

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why does previous/next picture has to be horizontal? vertical would do just fine if a proper indicator is in place for new users. And if there are exceptions they should be consitent throughout the app. Not one page this next page that.

michel ( 2018-11-08 12:37:01 +0200 )edit

I have formatted has in italic as it is a highly subjective area. For me, previous and next work better with left and right (compared to up down). This is the same as in the calender btw.

chappi ( 2018-11-09 14:07:56 +0200 )edit

but in calender its the main-window so u don't expect it to go back to the upper hierarchy level. Espescially since that is the way the upper levels are designed.

Best way to get consistency into SFOS would be to only use edge-gestures since they don't interfere with the apps content. If you split the other edges similar to the top with the new menu and closing 2 more functions are possible.

michel ( 2018-11-09 19:34:16 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-11-07 23:57:25 +0200

michel gravatar image

Imho what keeps SFOS from becoming consistent is the combination of two things:

  1. the back-flip gesture doesn't work at all with horizontal scrollable content in apps.
  2. the pulley menus doesn't work well with vertical scrollable content in apps.

Obviously some apps just have scrollable content so at least one of those gestures can't be implemented (or with negative impact on usability like pulley menus that are only accessable from the top of the scrollable content or a ugly, space-consuming pulley-handler on top of the screen).

Best example is the gallery were neither of mentioned gestures is implemented consistently. On the second page we have the back-flick available along with a pulley (that is only accessable at the top of content). Additionally we get a long-press context menu wich could easily replace the pulley on top (why 2 seperate menus with just one item each).

On the picture view it gets even worse with vertical flicks getting you back to the preview page for some reason along with buttons for the (menu)-options.

As vertical-scrolling is much more common, I conclude that the pulley-menu has to go and to be replaced by the known long-press context menus. Maybe they could even be merged so that by long pressing a menu appears above instead of below the finger and if you drag away it gets pulled while if you drag on the items you select by release like its now. Placing the menu above your finger also increases readability.

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answered 2018-11-15 02:32:25 +0200

pisarz1958 gravatar image

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I don't agree with OPs opinion about gallery, the split view was and still is super confusing. It's super apparent in Document viewer. Why do I have to swipe down from somewhere in top part of the screen to access one option?

I don't get the hate about top menu either. Everyone sounds like if all they cared about was being different just for the sake of being different. Can't we just all agree that it's better to have actual useful buttons available where that (nice looking but pointless) ambience switcher was? There were patches for that, you guys actually wanted this so much, someone went out of their way to make and maintain this. Can someone unironically say - it was soo much better when I had to go to Events screen and swipe down to toggle orientation lock, at least I got a huge button for switching to PARTY MODE whenever I was getting ready to rave hard.

Buuut, here is a thing. I can't get used to this new way of closing apps. It gets in the way all the time. And to be fair, SFOS1 did feel different and well planned out, even if certain things were a bit tedious. I guess certain trade-offs had to be made along the way. Like dropping that huge party mode button. Rest in peace.

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@pisarz1958 I think there's a misunderstanding on two levels:

Can't we just all agree that it's better to have actual useful buttons available where that (nice looking but pointless) ambience switcher was?

The discussion is not about "the buttons" (=the new top menu) vs. the ambience switcher, it's about the new top menu vs. the old "close app" swipe. I know there used to be a ambience switcher somewhere, but I never used it so I don't know where it was. What I used a lot - and much more than any of the functionality the top menu has - is the close app gesture. That was easy and there was no way to get it wrong. Now you have to aim very cerafully at the edge of the display and then try to pull down, making sure you don't accidentally activate the menu.

The second misunderstanding is that it's about

the hate about top menu

It's not so much the top menu as such - even though I admit in my opinion it's no good. It's about complicating what used to be "one action, activated by swipe down" to "2 actions, activated by swipe down either on the left edge or on the right edge or in the middle - but be prepared for wrong results, we don't tell you how wide the respective areas are".

No matter what you think about the new top menu as such, you have to admit that the concept of 3 swipe areas for 2 actions is more complicated than 1 swipe area for one action.

ossi1967 ( 2018-11-15 11:24:27 +0200 )edit

Yes, I agree with ossi1967. I don't have problem with top menu itself but with the fact that Jolla broke heavily used (at least for me) top swipe to implement it.
BTW I caught myself yesterday to go left swipe and pull to switch on the wifi connection... It would make much more sense to me to access this menu with left swipe.

sepuka ( 2018-11-15 15:39:45 +0200 )edit

Right. Yeah, it's garbage, I totally agree.

pisarz1958 ( 2018-11-15 20:36:30 +0200 )edit

I for one think it's not very difficult to adapt to (I mean its the corner how can you miss that?) and since edge swipes don't interfere with app-content I found the split rather nice to get more useful gestures to the system. I would actually split every side comparably and make going back a edge swipe frome the side corners and (pulley)menu from the bottom corners.

michel ( 2018-11-16 01:06:27 +0200 )edit

answered 2018-11-07 21:39:36 +0200

kandelabra gravatar image

I can't say that changes are polished to perfection. Imageviewer is still quite poor. But they made SFOS more similar to my version of SFOS - tweaked with patches. After the release of SFOS 3 I removed some patches since their benefits are availabe as native. Some things on SFOS 1 really annoyed me (please note that I never owned Android or Apple device so it's not due to my habbits).

App covers quick actions (aka multitasking)? How many apps has really useful and QUICK action on its cover that do not open app (=no multitaskin)? Email and music players? App cover swipe in my still tweaked SFOS is used for closing app and this is great. Yes, it's one more swipe but these two swipes are easier then one top swipe. I think this patch should be implemented as native feature -

Pulley menus? I still didn't mastered it (after several years!).

BTW In terms of consistency it's good to have status menu available from both home and event screens - since launcher is also available from both.

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Asked: 2018-11-03 16:53:23 +0200

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Last updated: Nov 15 '18