With Ubuntu 10.4, codenamed Lucid Lynx, Ubuntu will change its look completely. Everything will be brand new; the logo, the user interface, and the color scheme (no more brown). It’s set to be released on April 29, less than a month away.
We are very curious to see if this makeover will give Ubuntu a boost in popularity. It’s already the most popular desktop Linux distribution, but will this new look, this new branding, make it easier for Ubuntu to cast its net even wider and grow the Linux user base as a whole?
After all, looks do matter, especially if you want to reach the broad masses and steal users away from other operating systems.
The new look
Overall, the new Ubuntu will have a sleeker, more stylish look. According to Ubuntu’s branding page, the overall design theme from 2004-2010 was “human”, while the new version uses “light” as its overall theme.
We’re not going to discuss the UI or logo design details here. There are better places to read up on that, but to give you an idea of how big the changes are, here below you can compare the old and new logos and user interfaces. (The image at the top of this post is from Ubuntu’s new boot screen.)
Old vs. new Ubuntu logo
Old vs. new UI theme
As you can see, it’s a pretty big makeover, arguably the biggest visual change ever in Ubuntu’s history. Keep in mind that the design details are still being polished, so by the time the final version is released, it might be slightly different. (If you want to keep up to date with the ongoing Ubuntu design and UI changes in Lucid Lynx, have a look at for example OMG! Ubuntu.)
There’s always an element of subjectivity when judging what looks good and is appealing, and then there is the usability factor to consider, but we think most people will prefer the new style.
Good looks and popularity
As we mentioned in the introduction, what we’re really interested in is how these changes will affect Ubuntu’s popularity. Will the new, sleeker look bring in more users to Ubuntu?
Good looks is far from the only factor that users consider, but you’d be hard pressed to argue it doesn’t have a big impact. If Ubuntu (and Linux in general) wants to attract the broad masses, usability improvements alone won’t matter, things have to look good and deliver a consistent user experience.
The bottom line is that the more attractive Ubuntu becomes, the easier it will be to market to non-Linux users. These are the people Ubuntu has to pull in if it’s to grow the Linux user base as a whole. It has to steal users away from Windows and Mac OS X, and looking at least as good as these will pretty much be a must.
What do you think? Do you approve of Ubuntu’s makeover, and do you think it will help it gain users?