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Background Basics

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and providing a level of "individuality," backgrounds (also known as "wallpapers") are images used on the desktop. Typically a number of icons and applications are imposed on top of the background. It is important to remember that backgrounds are to serve as complements to the workspace and not as the primary focus.

The background should not diminish the ability for users to work. It should not be distracting. The background should not call attention to itself, but should rather direct the user's eyes to what's imposed on it. It should not require the user to discern where the background ends and the content begins.

So, what makes a good background? Keeping the above in mind, the following are some simple elements of what makes for a good background.

  • Dark or Light...choose one and stick with it. Try not to have too many high contrast areas.
  • Simple shapes and large "open" areas (ie, grassy plain, blue sky) are good. When complex illustrations are covered, the brain will try to figure out what is being covered by the icon or application window, thus distracting the user from working effectively.
  • Minimal to no text. Being that we'll have to incorporate the Fedora tag, we'll need bend this point a bit. However, generally, unless the type is scaled large is best to keep text to a minimum as it competes with the text of icons and is generally more distracting than informative.

These are just some quick key points to keep in mind when designing a good/usable background.