This is why Ubuntu Unity is developing into an epic fail. Jono Bacon has at least the good sense to admit he isn’t a designer. But he doesn’t take the next step and say “maybe I really don’t know what I’m doing and should step aside”.
One of the dumbest things Ubuntu is doing is hiding various controls. (Admittedly, this is a screwup Apple is making as well in OS X Lion.) In Unity 0.2 (Let’s not call it 2.0 or even 1.0. This nonsense isn’t even quarter-baked.) they chose to hide the window controls in addition to the menu. This is his justification:
My thesis as to why is pretty simple: people learn by exploration. Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down on a piece of paper the last three devices that you purchased. They might televisions, cell phones, kitchen appliances, games consoles, or whatever else. Every one of these devices comes with it’s own interface to operate it.
You learned those devices by poking around, trying things out, clicking, pressing, pushing, and otherwise playing with and exploring it. Some elements of the interfaces will have been obvious (e.g. buttons protruded to indicate that they can be pressed) and some elements less-so.
People like to explore, and it will take next to no time for Ubuntu users to discover that hovering over the text in the panel will display the menu and the window controls. [W]hen you have discovered that the menu is there, you don’t need it to be visible all the time.
I decided to look around at some things in my home to see what their interfaces looked like. I could not find a single one which had buttons unlabeled or hidden until I used it. My stove has a permanently labeled dial. Every button on every remote has labels on it. Surprising me, even the light switches on the wall said “ON” and “OFF”. Even the iPhone — which likely convinced people like him that the Mystery-Meat Interface is OK is pretty well labeled. “Slide to Unlock”. An icon forever on the bottom of the screen that says “Phone”. A push-button with a home icon on it!
More importantly, the devices that don’t clearly show you how to do things are the ones that are hated. Do you remember which sequence of buttons to press to set your digital watch? (They’re labeled, but poorly with vague words like “Mode”, “Date”, “Adjust”...and you have to push these in a special order to set the time, or the alarm, or whatever.)
Remember the game “Myst”? That one where you walked around for hours upon hours on a virtual island until you realized you had to do stuff like find clues and activate things and whatever. That might have been a fun game to play (and opinions vary on that), but no one wants to be forced to play Myst just to print a letter or exit Firefox. People don’t explore their interfaces anymore than they want to explore for the pencil they thought they left on the table. If they can’t find a command, they rightly assume the command doesn’t exist.
Perversely, the Ubuntu Unity designers discovered how to introduce the drawbacks of the command-line into the GUI. Now they want us to remember which magic light-up key hides the function we want and where they hid that magic light-up key.