We have some exciting news to share with you. Two weeks ago we started a project we’ve wanted to do for some time: Upgrading the Gitorious UI.
The goal is to simplify interaction, tone down some less useful features, improve code-browsing, and lose some technical debt on the front-end side of our code base. In short, we’re hoping to make Gitorious more useful and easier to work with.
Since we’re a small team of core committers with no professional designer on-board, we decided to base the new UI on Twitter Bootstrap to get a good visual baseline right off the bat. This provides us with a functional design that is easy to work with. Working with a component-based UI framework like this allows us to revise the UI fairly quickly, and will also improve our ability to iterate on and tweak the UI going forward.
We started working with the repository pages, partly because that’s where most people spend most of their time on Gitorious, and because code-browsing is one of the most important features Gitorious provides. Code-browsing is also one the areas where we feel Gitorious can benefit the most from a UI upgrade. Eventually we hope to redesign the entire UI, but that is a big undertaking so we’re shooting for finishing slices of functionality. For a transitional period, we will live with the old and the new UI side-by-side.
Some concrete improvements you can expect to see:
- Better syntax highlighting
- Support for vast amounts of new languages (through Pygments)
- Better repository tree browsing
- More mobile friendly pages
- Better visual separation between private and public repositories
- Less, yet more consistent navigation
How will this affect gitorious.org?
When the new repository pages are completed, we will deploy gitorious.org from the new branch (not yet available). In other words, you can expect to see the revamped repository live on gitorious.org in a few weeks. We will post an update when we have a better of idea of exactly when this happens.
How this will affect local installs?
- We will cut at least one minor version, probably several, of the mainline repo before we start merging the new UI into the master branch.
- Local installs are generally advised to stay with tagged versions. If you follow that advice, you will get the new UI when 3.0 is out.
- Custom frontend theming and other kinds of skinning will likely break. We’re not making efforts to keep these backwards-compatible, but we will document the main changes.
How will this affect local installs commercially supported by Gitorious AS?
We will work with our customers to find the best way to upgrade the UI, after the 3.0 version has landed and been proven stable in the wild.
We’re sure many of our users – be it on gitorious.org, or some local install – have some thoughts on what they want from the web UI. We invite you to give us your feedback: pain points, suggestions for new/improved features or any other ideas you might have. Please leave a comment here, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Status of the project
Currently, we’re developing a static prototype in order to quickly get enough pages up and running to make some observations on the overall coherence of the new UI. Next step is to start implementing the design in the actual application. The repository tree browser is a hot candidate to start with, as we will likely develop that as a separate library/application. You can expect to see commits on gitorious.org/gitorious before the end of August. In the meantime, you’ll have to do with the following screenshots:
We want to work with you on this upgrade, so please let us know what you think/want/don’t want!