How we designed the new Ubuntu Desktop installer
Tags: Flutter , Subiquity , Ubuntu Desktop
Back in 2021, Ubuntu Desktop engineering manager Ken VanDine talked about Canonical’s investment in Flutter support for Linux. To demonstrate the versatility of the Flutter toolkit, we committed to redesigning the Ubuntu installer experience as part of a larger overhaul of the underlying technology behind the Ubuntu installer.
Up until now, the Ubuntu Server and Desktop installers had two separate underlying code-bases. By unifying these experiences we reduce the maintenance overhead and enable additional Desktop functionality that Ubuntu Server already benefits from.
As part of this transition, we improved the user experience to reflect the new functionality of the installer and the values of Ubuntu Desktop. By using Flutter we benefit from the ability to rapidly iterate and polish the user experience, meaning we can continue to evolve the experience more easily over time.
As the user experience designer for Ubuntu Desktop, I’ll be taking you through an overview of the improvements, big and small (but mostly big), we have introduced in the new installer for Ubuntu Desktop 23.04.
Try or Install
We redesigned the welcome screen to make it easier to get started. Users’ focus is now drawn directly to the two radio choices centered in the window. This change significantly decreases time-on-task and helps you progress faster through the flow.
P.S: Something which you will notice in quite a few screens is how we used space more wisely, centering a great amount of the content on screens. This allows the new layouts to be the focus of your attention (literally).
Keyboard layout selection
You can select your keyboard layout from a single list, minimising visual clutter and streamlining the user interface for a simpler flow.
We refactored the keyboard selection screen heavily, focusing on the most common keyboard layouts and deprioritising variants into a separate dropdown.
Want to skip the scrolling and let us automagically tell you what keyboard layout you have? You can still rely on the Detect wizard (now at the top of the screen). Some things are that simple.
Dark or Light theme, right from the installer
Our latest update to Ubuntu now allows users to change the system theme at any point in the installer. Quick settings, available with GNOME 44, offer a quick and easy way to switch the system theme of your desktop during the installation process. You don’t need to wait for the installation to finish to get the look you want right from the start.
If you’re an Ubuntu user starting from a Windows 10 or 11 device, you may have encountered challenges with Windows’ default BitLocker encryption, such as restricted read and write access on drives and various other complex edge cases.
The new installer is designed to provide more flexibility when dealing with BitLocker-enabled drives. You can now erase BitLocker-enabled drives and install Ubuntu on top of them, install Ubuntu alongside on a separate drive or in unused space next to a BitLocker-enabled partition.
For advanced users who prefer to configure their own partition table, we’ve added indicators for BitLocker-enabled partitions in the Manual partitioning view, along with available actions for BitLocker partitions.
Ubuntu aims to make the transition from Windows as smooth as possible, ensuring you have the flexibility and control you need for your Ubuntu installation, even when dealing with BitLocker-enabled drives.
We always want to ensure our users make informed decisions, and such a critical step as confirmation of the partitioning table deserved more attention. Now the installation summary lives on a separate screen with an improved layout to highlight changes, making it easier to scan than before.
The redesigned Ubuntu Desktop installer brings a fresh and modern look to the slideshow component that runs during the installation process. We wanted to talk more about the activities that Ubuntu users enjoy doing, such as coding and gaming, as well as emphasizing our values as an open source operating system.
Accessibility-wise, the new installer introduces improved color contrast, font legibility, and slide controls, making the slideshow content more readable and accessible to users with health conditions or impairments.
To the moon!
Whether this is your first time using Ubuntu (if so, welcome aboard!) or you are an experienced Linux enthusiast, we are excited to see how the new design makes it easier and more intuitive to install and configure your desktop.
For more tips on how to get started with Ubuntu Desktop 23.04, check out some of the links below:
If you want to join the conversation and provide feedback on your experiences, consider joining the Ubuntu Discourse. To keep up to date on all the latest news around Ubuntu Desktop, sign up to our newsletter at the side of this post!
Thank you for being part of our ever-evolving journey!