The Ubuntu Desktop Team aims to produce a desktop environment that is:
- discoverable, and
- immediately useful.
- Stability is achieved through testing and subsequent triage and fixing of resulting bugs. The desktop should never accidentally lose a user's work, ideally this should be achieved by making it bug-free; since that is an impossible task, it should also be robust in the case of failure and recover state.
- Usability is often confused with the other aims since a desktop that fulfills those will inherently be pleasant to use. Usability is more than that though, it's about picking appropriate metaphor: a button to print a document should look like a printer; more subtly, a button to save should only be a floppy disk if that's the default location to save to! A usable desktop aids the user in their work, but does not give them challenging obstacles. If it aids the user by automatically opening a CD Player application when they inserts an Audio CD, it should also do something sensible if they close that application -- otherwise they may not be able to open it again, or even eject the CD!
- Accessibility ensures that everybody can benefit from our desktop. We do not care about 90% of our users, we care about 100% of them. This is about ensuring that users with disabilities, and users who speak languages other than English, can use the desktop as efficiently as anyone else.
- Attractiveness makes people want to use the desktop. Appropriate use of colour, fonts, icons, shapes and visual effects can improve the user experience. Without them, a user would simply "not hate" to use Ubuntu, even if all the other aims were met.
- Consistency is often mistaken for usability, or referred to as being intuitive; it is the aim of making the desktop easy to learn, because everything works the same way. If an icon for a configuration program uses a spanner to illustrate configuration, then all icons should use a spanner to illustrate configuration (and not a screwdriver); additionally a spanner should not be used for anything else. If you double-click to open a file or application in a window, then all places where you can open a file or application should also be double-clicks and never a single-click or right-click.
- Discoverability is also often mistaken for being intuitive; it is the goal of making sure that a user can learn how to use the desktop by using it. Often this is through placement of clues, e.g. the keyboard shortcut for closing a window in the tooltip of the button, and in the window menu.
- Immediate usefulness is the aim that somebody installing Ubuntu should be able to begin work immediately, without needing to perform any more than the minimum configuration necessary (mostly accessibility related). That isn't to say we shouldn't allow the user to customise the desktop to their preference; instead they should be able to do that from the comfort of an already operational desktop.