Few things about kdm that do not make much sense to me
One of the main goals of KDE 4 was to improve the user experience. We knew that to succeed in the desktop market KDE doesn’t have to be just powerful, fast and good looking, but it also needs to be easy to understand and user friendly. It has to give a great user experience.
After a KDE based linux distribution is installed, the first thing the user will use is KDM, KDE’s login manager. Unfortunately, not much work has been done on KDM in terms of usability and interaction. Since we are already very well covered on Oxygen icons, I decided to make an effort to try to understand what are the major KDM problems and how they could be solved.
The scenario for the following considerations it’s a fresh Kubuntu installation with KDE 4.2.1 installed as default.
The login dialog in Kubuntu is made of two parts: a list of users on the left and a form on the right. Since I just installed Kubuntu and I only created one user for my machine I got prompted with a list of … well, just me. But let’s proceed step by step:
- My name appears 3 times in the same login dialog. 2 times in the list and 1 time as a pre-filled value in the username form field. I like my name but maybe that’s too much.
- There’s an awful empty space before the user name in the list. Probably that area was intended for a user icon.
- There’s no login button. Even if most users will just press enter, there should be a login button that perhaps appears when the user starts typing his password.
- The username input field is redundant since there’s only one user. In the case there were more users it would still be redundant because the user can be selected from the list on the left.
- To access root or hidden users I would rather prefer to have a button that activates the username field in case it’s needed.
The menu is probably the biggest problem of KDM. In fact I think there shouldn’t be any menu and labeling a menu “Menu” it’s not really helpful. The “Menu” entries are the following:
- Switch User: this is useless because there’s only one registered user.This option would make sense only if there were two or more users and one is already logged in. Even so it would probably be better to just click on another user icon/name and type the password to switch.
- Restart X Server: I would like a different, less techy label, something like “Restart graphical environment” or even more nebulous like: “Soft restart”. In any case, this should be grouped together with the other shutdown/restart options.
- Remote Login: I’m not totally sure why this option is present. Clicking this it switches to a dialog with an empty list of hostnames to connect to. The visual interface looks different from the local login and there’s no “go back” button to return. It took me a while to figure out that I have to click on the “Menu” (which moved from the bottom of the screen to be inside the remote login dialog) and select “Local login”.
- Console Login: this option really makes me mad. Imagine a curious newbie who clicks on “console login” to “find out” and suddenly gets a black screen with the bash prompt. It would have been much better to have confirmation dialog with some basic instructions about how to come back to KDM. But really, I don’t think a graphical shortcut to the console is really needed in KDM.
- Shutdown: Restart and shutdown should be one of the primary functions presented to the user, instead they are hidden inside the “Menu”. To perform a reboot from KDM it takes a total of 3 clicks.
Session Type menu
This radio button menu is meant to let the user select the desktop environment he wants to use to login. However, in Kubuntu, KDE is the only desktop installed by default and the “failsafe” session type currently doesn’t work.
I believe that “session” options belong to the login dialog and are misplaced in the current layout, The failsafe session should be treated differently from KDE, GNOME, Xfce etc and maybe look like check box. By taking “failsafe” apart, KDM would show available sessions only if there is more than one DE installed.
Ok, I think I listed all the things that really bugs me out from a user experience perspective. I also believe this is a good point to start working on how to redesign KDM from scratch keeping the user in mind this time.
If you have more inputs on how to make KDM better, please let me know, I’ll be more than glad to know.