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A peek into the research being done around the dark or light visual theme for PatternFly 4 navigation

A major goal with PatternFly 4 was to create an updated, modern look and feel with our visual design language. To meet that goal, we revamped every component to provide something that looks great and is flexible enough to be applied across the system.

One of the most obvious differences between the new visual language and previous versions of PatternFly is the direction to proceed with a light versus a dark visual theme for the navigation.

So far, the new light theme has been met with mixed reactions from the PatternFly community, so we leaned on research to help us make an informed decision on the best direction forward. To proceed with the light theme, or adjust to a dark theme?

examples of dark and light navigation color themeLight theme vs. dark theme

Here’s a recap of what’s been done and what’s still to come..

The Study

At Red Hat Summit 2019, we conducted a study to gather both objective and subjective feedback on two visual design variations for PatternFly’s navigation system. The light theme was designed for PatternFly 4, and the dark theme came from a previous version of PatternFly (see image above). In addition to the navigation color, the themes also differed in font, overall spacing, and layout.

During the study, we  gathered 68 survey responses and worked with 6 participants in a moderated research setting. We also worked remotely with 61 Mechanical Turk users from IT domains to reach higher confidence in reporting the results. In total, we had 135 respondents who were primarily Engineers, SysAdmins, and Developers.

We looked at the designs from three different user perspectives: performance, perception, and preference. Participants were asked to complete two first-click tasks and two general tasks within the mock-ups to gather performance data. Then we asked participants to provide feedback on their perception and preferences.

The Data

Quantitative

  • Performance: There were no statistically significant differences between the two variations
  • Perception: There were no statistically significant differences between the two variations when users evaluated each theme individually
  • Preference: Users generally preferred the dark variation when they evaluated the two themes side-by-side

Qualitative

A good number of respondents suggested that the light theme seemed higher quality and they liked the simplicity of it. However, most respondents also stated that the light version appeared “too white/plain and need[ed] more contrast”. They also mentioned that they liked the clear separation of space in the dark variation.

Discussion

Results showed that the dark variation is generally preferred mostly due to  the higher contrast between different sections of the page. However, respondents suggested that the light theme looked more modern and high quality compared to the dark theme.

Also, while performance data suggested that the light theme resulted in a slightly higher success rate (though not statistically significant), we can’t be confident this result is due to the color of the navigation. We suspect that the bigger font and better spacing in the light theme may have made the text more legible and easier to read, but we can not be sure at this point.

Study Constraints

  • Since the two variations were different in terms of font, spacing and layout, and navigation color, we can’t say which UI factor played a more prominent role in the results, especially when it comes to the legibility of the designs.
  • We utilized a survey as the main method of data collection at the Summit because that seemed to be the most feasible method for that context. But that resulted in presenting design variations in a non-realistic format.
  • The mockups of PF3  that were used in the survey missed a vertical visual pointer on the left side of a category in the navigation bar. We suspect that mistake could have impacted the success rate of a task in the dark variation.
  • Additionally, according to our previous research we suspect the content areas may also affect user preference and perception and requires further investigation.

Future Research

Given the constraints, in the next round of study we’ll:

  • Have consistent font, spacing, and layout across variations to investigate the effect of color more precisely.
  • Use an unmoderated platform that will allow participants to see the designs in their real states.
  • Make sure the test materials are identical and that the only difference is the color theme.
  • Include two different variations of the content area (list view vs. dashboard).

Our goal is to address the following questions in the upcoming follow-up research to help the team to make an informed decision about the color theme:

  • Which color theme results in a better performance?
  • Does the content within the content area affect performance?
  • Do color and content interact to affect performance?
  • Do users prefer one color over the other?

We expect to complete this study and have a summary of the results in the coming weeks. Once we have this, we will post another update sharing the findings and explaining PatternFly’s next steps. Feel free to reach out in the meantime with any questions or comments.

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PatternFly 4 version rc.2 is live!

We’ve added a bunch of features and improvements with our latest release. Check out what’s new and changed:

What’s new

Refined and improved charting in React now available on the website
Improved TypeScript support – updated 23 components that were using handcrafted d.ts files to natively written TypeScript

What’s fixed

Updates and fixes to documentation for tables, charts, alerts, about modal, and grid props
– Added support for groups in dropdown, compact wizard nav width, alerts in about modal, nodes in Alert title, and dropping columns in a table

Breaking changes – PatternFly 4 React charts

Due to improvements and updates made to charting, this release includes breaking changes that could impact any products that have adopted the React charting package in PatternFly 4.

In order to help resolve these breaking changes in products quickly, we added detailed information about what’s changed and instructions on how to resolve issues in release notes for charting.

Check out the latest updates on the PatternFly 4 website. For more information, see our GitHub release milestones for React and Core or check out our release notes for React and Core.

If you have feedback or questions, head over to the PatternFly forum. New ideas are always welcome!

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PatternFly was built to drive product consistency and unify teams. With its guidelines, standards, and code, PatternFly has made it possible to scale usable and consistent design across the entire company.

We’re excited to announce the official launch of PatternFly 4!

An updated look

We’ve completely revamped the look and feel of the system to provide something modern, clean, and flexible enough to work for all of our products, personas, and use cases.

A fresh website

The new PatternFly 4 website focuses on helping you make the most of the design system, with updated styling, overarching improvements to search and information architecture, and a new approach to design guidelines that help you use the right components and patterns to solve common design challenges.

A completely new PatternFly

PatternFly 4 is built to be accessible, responsive, and modular, so it’s easier to adopt and maintain. It’s also decoupled from Bootstrap, meaning we have full control and are no longer tied to another team’s product decisions or release cycles. And our streamlined focus on the React framework helps ensure consistent design, development, and community support.

What’s been added since beta?

Since the release of the PatternFly 4 beta, we introduced 41 modular, accessible, and responsive components and demos.

We’ve also onboarded several teams, like Red Hat Managed Integration, OpenShift, and Red Hat Insights and cloud services, who have begun successfully developing using PatternFly 4.

We want to extend a thank you to those teams for all of their help and collaboration throughout the beta!

Get connected

To follow along as we continue to improve (or become a contributor, if you’re feeling ambitious), take advantage of GitHub, join us on Slack, and subscribe to our mailing list. You can also ask questions and get support on the PatternFly forum.

Get PatternFly 4 today

Visit the new PatternFly 4 website to take a look at the updated visual design and explore our styles, guidelines, and code samples.

If you’re a PatternFly 3 user interested in migrating to PatternFly 4, be reassured that PatternFly 3 and PatternFly 4 will work side-by-side so you can migrate at your own pace.

Check out our PatternFly 4 migration guide to learn more.

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We’re excited to announce a new beta release of PatternFly 4!

PatternFly 4 introduces updates to our visual language along with improvements to modularity, accessibility, and responsiveness. This beta milestone represents the hard work of our Red Hat UXD team combined with fantastic support and feedback from our product teams.

This release includes breaking changes that will potentially impact products that have adopted PatternFly 4. The reason for these changes include absorbing recent brand changes as well as refinements to the architecture. For specifics, you can check out the GitHub Milestones, React release Milestone and Core release Milestone.

In order to help resolve these breaking changes in products as quickly and easily as possible, we have provided information about what has changed as well as direction on how to resolve it in our Core release notes and our React release notes.

Interested in getting your hands on the latest and greatest? Check out the PatternFly HTML/CSS workspace or the PatternFly React workspace to get started. If you have feedback or questions, head over to the PatternFly forum. We always welcome new ideas, so don’t be shy!

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We’re excited to announce the beta release of PatternFly 4!

PatternFly 4 introduces updates to our visual language along with improvements to modularity, accessibility, and responsiveness. The beta milestone represents the hard work of our PatternFly team combined with fantastic support and feedback from our product teams.

With this beta, we delivered a prioritized set of HTML/CSS components and also took on a number of infrastructure issues to improve stability across the system.

Interested in getting your hands on the latest and greatest? Check out the PatternFly HTML/CSS workspace to get started. For everyone who has already started using an earlier alpha release of PatternFly 4, heads up: the npm package has changed for beta and you’ll need to change your package.json to point at @patternfly/patternfly.

If you’re kicking the tires on the beta release and have feedback or questions, head over to the PatternFly forum. We always welcome new ideas, so don’t be shy!

The team will continue to develop and deliver new components. Take advantage of GitHub to stay on top of everything we’re working on.

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The PatternFly team is always looking for new ways to improve communication with the PatternFly community. A while back, we sent out a survey to get a better understanding of how you want to receive information and share feedback.

We got responses from 22 people, a mix of designers and developers, and discovered that 70% of participants liked the idea of a forum for all things PatternFly.

Why a forum?

  • It allows you to easily search for information.
  • It gives you access to old conversations.
  • It provides the ability to categorize information and organize conversations, making it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Well, you spoke and we delivered! Today, we’re happy to announce the PatternFly forum!

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After lengthy discussion, the PatternFly team has chosen React as the JS implementation for PatternFly 4. We want to stress that we will continue to maintain our current PatternFly 3 Angular repos (angular-patternfly and patternfly-ng).

The JS framework question has gotten a lot of attention, so we wanted to talk a bit about how we made our decision and why we think it’s the best way forward for the project.

  • We chose React based on its popularity within the PatternFly community as well as the broader industry.
  • We elected to focus on one JS framework because this approach will enable our team to ensure quality design, development, and community support.

The React strategy was discussed at length and we took many factors into consideration. If you’re interested in understanding more of the history and reasoning behind our decision, read on!

Quick History

We started the patternfly-ng and patternfly-react repos over a year ago in response to rising requests to provide PatternFly implementations for the newer JS frameworks.

The Metrics

At the time, we didn’t have any metrics to help us prioritize one framework over another, and so we made the best choice that we could and decided to add both. Since then, we have evaluated the activity and contributions around the various repos and observed that patternfly-react had become significantly more popular in recent months. We also took a look at observations from the broader industry and factored that research into our decision-making process.

Given all of this, we made the informed decision to take a more focused approach, enabling our team to improve PatternFly 4 and ensure quality design, development, and community support.

A big thanks to the PatternFly community for all of the engagement and interest we’ve been getting around PatternFly 4. Stay tuned for more updates.

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As development on our shiny new design system continues to push forward, we wanted to share a quick update about migration for existing users of PatternFly 3. Let’s dive in.

What’s the plan?

This is the question we get most frequently, and we’re still working to fully flesh out tooling and best practices. Here’s what we know:

  • PatternFly 4 component documentation will provide information about the PatternFly 3 component it replaces so you can easily map one design system to the other
  • We’ll provide examples of the PatternFly 3 HTML structure alongside the updated PatternFly 4 code so you see exactly what’s changed
  • PatternFly-React users will be provided with codemods (scripts) to migrate components from PatternFly 3 to 4
  • PatternFly 3 and PatternFly 4 will be able to work side-by-side so you can migrate at your own pace

How are we going to address inconsistencies between PatternFly 3 and 4 as different project teams start to adopt the new system?

The UXD and PatternFly teams are exploring avenues to address inconsistencies introduced to applications and the Red Hat portfolio. Investigations are ongoing and we’re making POC’s a priority. Stay tuned.

How long will we maintain PatternFly 3?

PatternFly 3 isn’t going anywhere. To learn more, check out our latest blog on this topic.

Head over to our GitHub to stay on top of everything that’s happening, from issues to milestones. Finally – we are tracking work around migration via issues in GitHub and tagging them accordingly.

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PatternFly 4 is generating a lot of excitement in the community. A more modular, accessible, and responsive design system will go a long way toward providing a better user experience. Anytime there is something new, that also generates a lot of confusion and uncertainty about the future. We wanted to share a bit more about how PatternFly 4 will impact existing users of PatternFly 3, and how we plan to address those concerns.

Why a full rewrite?

One question we’ve heard a lot is, “Why do you have to do a full rewrite?” The web community has been burned by forklift upgrades. The cost of rewriting a full web application using a new framework is usually daunting enough to prompt users to start looking at what else is out there. This is a normal reaction, but one that can completely decimate an existing community.

So why the full rewrite? PatternFly 3 is based on Bootstrap 3, and the Bootstrap team recently released Bootstrap 4. Since Bootstrap 3 is a float-based layout system and browser capabilities have evolved since it was released, it’s not a tenable long term solution. But migrating PatternFly to Bootstrap 4 would mean a full rewrite for our users, and we’d still be tied to another team’s release cycle with no guarantees that we’re not having this conversation again in a few years. Decoupling PatternFly from Bootstrap was the best decision we could make for our community.

What are we doing to support our community?

  • We will not abandon PatternFly 3. We are committed to PatternFly 3 long term. This may mean the new PatternFly 4 structure will also have a PatternFly 3 theme, enabling people to maintain a consistent application while they work to migrate. Whatever the solution, we will continue to support all of the people still using PatternFly 3.
  • We will provide a clear way to use PatternFly 4 alongside PatternFly 3. Using parts of PatternFly 4 should not destroy your application or force you to rewrite everything. Some applications are many years old now, and a full rewrite of things that are working just fine doesn’t make sense for many people. But we still want to make it possible for those teams to leverage and use new PatternFly 4 components. While this has proven technically possible, we also plan to investigate avenues for addressing the visual discrepancies that are introduced by mixing PatternFly 3 and PatternFly 4 to ensure the end user still has a good user experience.
  • We will provide a simpler migration path for users of the framework repos.  One additional benefit we have with PatternFly is the framework repos (PatternFly-React, for instance). They provide a surface that allows us to migrate the HTML/CSS to the new structure with minimal impact to users. While the package the component is coming from will change (allowing PatternFly 3 and PatternFly 4 components to live side by side), the interface should remain consistent.

If you have questions, please contact us via the communication channels listed on our community page.  We are also active in the patternfly4-core and patternfly4-react channels on slack.  Finally – we are tracking work around migration via GitHub and tagging them accordingly.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) aims to build awareness around accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. The goal is to get everyone thinking and talking about how we can build inclusive digital experiences that work for everyone.

We’re so glad it’s GAAD! We thought it’d be the perfect day to update you on some of the progress we’ve been making to improve our own approach to accessibility.

Finding insights with felt

Back in March, we introduced you to the work we’ve been doing with the rockstar students from Governor Morehead School (GMS), the flagship school in Raleigh serving the special needs of visually impaired students.

We’ve continued to build on our GMS partnership over the last few months, and in April we hosted our first hands-on design workshop. We gave each student a felt board and several pieces of felt representing different types of web content like navigation, article, or comments. We asked the students to design a webpage, organizing the pieces of felt on their boards in a way that would make it simple for them to navigate on a laptop.

Once they’d had a chance to work as individuals and refine their designs, we asked them to present their boards to their group. All of the students had great insights to share. One student with no vision said that when she uses a website, she visualizes where the content might be rather than only thinking about it sequentially.

GMS Workshop Student and Board

Another student with low vision compared the process of designing to a popular computer game, saying “I like to visualize the end product…web design can be compared to visualizing the end structure in Minecraft before starting a design.”

GMS Workshop Student and Board 2

Listening to the students explain their choices helped us gain a better understanding of how they think about and access content on a webpage. These observations will inform our research moving forward.

Making contributions inclusive

Starting today, we’re asking that contributions to the current version of PatternFly meet new accessibility criteria before they can be added to the pattern library. The criteria may seem simple, but they make a big impact:

  • Patterns have to be keyboard accessible.
  • Patterns have to meet to the 5 rules of ARIA.

Looking ahead

Recently, we released an alpha.1 of the next major version of PatternFly (learn more about PatternFly-Next in the Roadmap Update). With that alpha, we included the first version of the PatternFly accessibility guide, providing techniques and suggestions to help design, develop, and test UIs to ensure that everyone has a good user experience.

We’re still in the early phases of design and development for PatternFly-Next, and the accessibility guide is also a work in progress. Your feedback is always welcome, so if you have an idea or recommendation, visit our community page and learn how you can get in touch.

We’re committed to improving our approach to accessibility and learning more every day. As we build on our approaches, we hope we’re able to help PatternFly designers and developers build accessibility into components and products from the beginning of a project to support an inclusive and accessible user experience.

GAAD is about education, conversation, and sharing, so we’d love to hear about your own approach to and experience with accessibility in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this post to help us spread the GAAD word.