Does Ubuntu need a new theme?

Ubuntu developers certainly think so. They’ve started a new initiative to try and find a new GTK theme (as well as new GNOME Shell theme and icon set).

But is Ambiance really outdated and unfit for purpose? It’s a question that i’m not sure anyone’s actually asked yet.

*breaks glass, pushes ‘New Poll’ button*

Some people don’t like Ambiance, that’s for sure

Ubuntu ambiance gtk theme in nautilus

The general sentiment shared in the comment sections of Linux blogs, forums and social media is that Ambiance is antiquated.

Ambiance has been the default theme for a long time. It’s managed to become synonymous with the Ubuntu brand having ignored fluctuating designs fads in favour of presenting a reliable, palatable appearance.

But those happy with the default look and feel are unlikely to rant and rave about their love for it.

And we know that Canonical was planning a visual revamp with Unity 8. They obviously felt the the theme didn’t fit with their vision going forward.

The United GNOME Darker gtk theme
United GNOME is a GTK theme inspired by the look of Unity 8

Themes affect usability, and usability is important

Although some will sneer at GTK themes as pointless fluff it’s actually a rather important piece of a much larger puzzle. The choices the theme makes can improve or hinder the overall usability of an OS.

It’s not just a lick of paint here. Thought has to be given to every part of the user experience, from the look of unfocused windows and the appearance of buttons for features you can’t use, to the weight of window shadows, the legibility of tooltips, and the spacing between icons.

Well-known GTK themes like Adapta, Arc and Numix have tens of thousands of users and several years of iteration, fixes and polish under their belt; many of their ‘flaws’ have been noted and fixed.

Ubuntu’s desire to create an entirely new GTK theme in under 6 months, for a flagship LTS product, the one you’ll be recommended people use, no less, is …Well it’s a gamble!

Even more of a gamble is opting to design by committee.

Does Ubuntu Even Need a New GTK Theme?

Below is a poll. It asks you if you think Ubuntu needs a new GTK theme.

“New theme” in this poll means anything other than Ambiance. It doesn’t have to be a literal new theme. Use the comments section below to share more details on your theme recommendations.

Poll GTK+ Themes