Tor GUI Competition: Design Phase Feedback

Below is some of the judges' feedback on the entries submitted to the design phase of the GUI competition. Those interested in submitting an entry for the implementation phase of the competition may find the feedback useful in guiding their implementations.

Tor users who would like to have a usable, well-implemented GUI for Tor should also add their feedback on some or all of the design entries below. Also, if you have an idea for a feature that wasn't mentioned in any of the design documents but would really like to see implemented, feel free to add it to this page.

CMU's FoxTor

Judges' Feedback

Discoverability: 9/10

Useful guidance is provided during the installation procedure; the persona bar is easy to understand (the apparent geographic origin is a very nice and intuitive indicator); the configuration panes generally include good explanations of the various settings. It is easy to see how to switch between masked and unmasked modes in Firefox. There is no particular clue to how to get to the right-click privacy menu from the persona bar, however.

Consistency: 9/10

Almost everything in this design uses standard or well-known controls in familiar and expected ways. The persona bar is a bit unusual, but it has precedents in the status bar and the Firefox information bar.

Workflow: 8/10

I agree with the submitters' position that anonymous web browsing will be the most commonly used application. Given that assumption, the idea of incorporating a Tor interface into Firefox makes a lot of sense. The additional privacy configuration pane and the persona bar are well integrated with the workflow of the browser.

The cookie information bar is suboptimal in my opinion, but it is still far better than the cookie prompts in other popular browsers. (I consider it suboptimal because the true risk decision point is the *sending* of cookies, not the receiving of cookies.)

I am concerned that there may be some user confusion about the interaction between the FoxTor settings and the Tor (system tray) settings. It appears that the user could choose any combination of: (a) Privacy: masked or unmasked; (b) Privacy level: High, medium, low, or custom; (c) Privacy needs: Critical, selective, or basic. When privacy is "unmasked" but privacy needs are "critical", do the captions make sense?

Visual Design: 8/10

The appearance of the interface is fairly clean, appealing, and understandable, with the exception of the traffic monitor window, which i find potentially confusing. The traffic monitor window has two similar-looking grey boxes, each with an icon above and an IP address below -- but the two boxes represent completely different things. The two boxes appear to be connected by a large green arrow, but the information shown is not consistent with any interpretation of the arrow i can imagine (it is not a translation, a data flow, or a network connection).

Correctness and Completeness: 7/10

The submitters have provided an extensive and fairly complete description of the interface design and its motivations. The design covers most aspects of using Tor, though it lacks access to the Tor log (or equivalent support for troubleshooting).

The instructions in the traffic monitor window are very likely incorrect. It's risky to rely on the user to detect text in the raw network data -- the presence or absence of readable of text is not a reliable indicator of privacy, and it is simply not feasible to expect the user to be monitoring the raw data constantly as it scrolls by.

Additional comments include:

  • concern about the download time of a whole new Firefox package.
  • confusion in figure 3.2: what does it mean to configure "all"


  • Figure 3.3 : protect vs. mask?
  • Figure 3.4: How do I start tor manually? add instructions to the dialog
  • figure 3.12: add what to the exceptions list? This site?

Several judges expressed strong concerns about figure 3.19: Is this supposed to show sniffed traffic? What if the selected traffic is a long cookie or an image? We'd strongly like to see testing around this. There were also questions about the synchronization between the Mozilla GUI and the toolbar icon.

Public Feedback

April 3rd's entry

Judges' Feedback

Discoverability: 9/10

The captions in each pane of the configuration dialog, contextual help, and labels on most fields combine to make discoverability very strong in this design.

Consistency: 8/10

The design combines idioms from a variety of sources (tabs, pull-down menus, underlined hyperlinks). The overall effect is pretty, though it looks a bit unusual in a Windows configuration dialog. A note on the design points out that "Proprietary controls make for a visually attractive user interface"; while some of the subtle changes can make the interface prettier, I don't agree with the claim in general. There are a few cases where I would prefer a more standard-looking control, particularly for drop-down lists.

A significant inconsistency exists between the help captions shown in the main window and in the configuration window. On a smaller note, some hyperlinks are underlined while others are not.

Workflow: 7/10

For tasks where the user knows what he or she wants to do, finding and achieving the task appears fairly straightforward. However, the interface doesn't do much to suggest possible avenues for solving a problem when something is wrong.

Visual Design: 9/10

The overall look of the design is very appealing. I appreciate the attention paid to details such as the de-emphasis of application version numbers and use of lighter line weights. The graph period label is very well placed.

The little computer icons in the "onion layers" column are superfluous and visually distracting. Colour-coded numbers alone would be more readable and less busy.

Correctness and Completeness: 3/10

Big parts of the design are missing. Most of the help text is not actually written, and there are no designs shown for the other five tabs in the configuration window. The wizard for setting up Tor for new applications -- perhaps one of the most interesting and most used features of this design -- is left unspecified.

Public Feedback

Corinna Habets's TorGUI

Judges' Feedback

Discoverability: 6/10

The discoverability of the status icon is good. Clicking on a status icon to get a configuration panel is a familiar idiom.

The discoverability of the configuration panels is not as good, because the names of the panels aren't all clear. "TorGUI" is a poor name, and would be better named "Appearance" or "Indicators". Also, "Details" is a poor name, and would be more appropriately named "Applications". These are easily fixable.

Consistency: 4/10

The menu bar on the dialog window is inconsistent with its function. Most of the menus aren't even menus. A series of tabs would make much more sense and would be more consistent with common practice.

I would turn the "QuickInfo" pane into a "Status" tab, and move the "Start" and "Stop" commands from the "TorGUI" menu to buttons visible in the "Status" tab. The "Preferences" pane under "TorGUI" would become a separate tab entitled "Indicators". "Routing" and "Profiles" would be other tabs. The "Window" menu would become unnecessary and go away.

Workflow: 7/10

I like the idea of a "Profiles" feature for saving and restoring configurations. The rest of the workflow seems fairly reasonable, neither unusually good or unusually bad. However, there is no guidance for the user as to how to resolve a particular problem when one occurs.

Visual Design: 7/10

I like the concept of a single icon to indicate the overall state of Tor, with a click to open more detailed panels. This keeps the interface simple and compact, while configuration settings are a convenient click away.

I have concerns about the appearance of the icon. Shrunk down to an icon size, the logo looks more like a bomb than an onion. It may also be hard to read the concentric layers at a small size; perhaps a flat horizontal fill (like a thermometer) would be more visibly distinguishable.

The layout of some of the preference panes (especially "Routing" and "Explicit Routing") could use some adjustment to improve their clarity and usability.

Correctness and Completeness: 7/10

The interface provides access to most of the important features of Tor, but not all of the configurable options. It also lacks access to the Tor logfile. A rudimentary display of applications using Tor is provided.

Author's Feedback on the Feedback

First of all I'd like to say, that the feed back was really valuable. It helped me a lot and will improve my future GUIs, but I will not continue work on this one, as I'm just to busy right now.

Now to some of the critized parts:

Discoverability: Yes, I agree the wording could be much better. But "TorGUI" is the (not very original) name of the whole application and it is usual to offer functions like "Quit" under a menu item with the same name as the application.

Consistency: Hell yeah, you're right! Now that I read the feedback, I wonder how I could ever arrange that as a menu...

Workflow: I imagined there would be a "Help"... At least there is in my menu ;)

Public Feedback

Matt Edman's TorCP

Judges' Feedback

Discoverability: 7/10

Like all the other designs, this one uses a status icon to indicate whether Tor is running. However, the icon doesn't appear to show whether there is a problem with Tor.

Most of the labels make sense, and the four-step explanation in the server configuration pane is helpful.

Consistency: 10/10

Everything in this design uses standard Windows controls in their normal and expected ways.

Workflow: 5/10

The pop-up menu presents an immediate workflow problem: the user has to figure out the difference between "Settings" and "Configure Tor".

The "Send Signal" menu needs to be reworked: the user should not be required to navigate three levels deep to reload the configuration. It's not clear how this interacts with the configuration panels -- does the user have to open the panel, manipulate the settings in the user interface, close the panel, and then send the "reload" signal in order for changes to take effect? If the settings can be applied directly from the panel (as they should be), then there's no need for a "reload" command.

Filtering flags should be integrated directly into the log window, not in a separate option window that has to be opened and closed.

Visual Design: 7/10

The appearance is standard: neither especially beautiful nor especially ugly.

Correctness and Completeness: 7/10

The interface provides partial access to the Tor configuration, as well as access to the Tor logfile. It doesn't really provide the user with a sense of how anonymous they are, though.

Public Feedback

Michael Kropat's LeekyPipe

Judges' Feedback

Public Feedback

Otto Wyss's TorMgr

Judges' Feedback

Discoverability: 2/10

Discoverability is generally poor. There is no guidance as to where to start, and no explanation of what all the configuration parameters mean or how one should decide how to set them. For a Tor expert this would be fine, but not for a new Tor user.

The hostname tab (or hostname entry field) at the top of the dialog is unlabelled and unexplained.

Consistency: 7/10

The interface provides access to all its functions in a single window, which is a virtue, and provides consistent access to all the configuration options. However, it doesn't look or feel much like a typical confifugration panel.

Workflow: 5/10

The simplest operation (start/stop) is easy to access, but other settings are hard to get at. The pull-down menus are not described. I attempted to compile and build a working demo from the source code, but did not succeed.

Visual Design: 7/10

Like Habets's submission, this uses a single icon to indicate status and a click on the icon reveals a configuration panel. This design uses the same icons and raises the same concerns.

Correctness and Completeness: 7/10

This interface provides complete access to the Tor configuration, since it allows editing of all the parameters in the configuration file. However, it does not provide access to the Tor logfile, and doesn't show anything about currently running applications.

Public Feedback

Author's note

I don't have Tor installed therefore I've no idea what Tor actually needs. I also don't intend to win the contest but just show what's possible with wyoGuide. Since I'm also rather reluctant to install Tor for phase 2 my submission probably won't be improved and usable. Since I don't care for winning but for a working solution, therefore anyone joining my project, telling me what's needed and tests my code, can have whatever is rewarded.

Other Design Ideas

Last modified 6 years ago Last modified on Jun 11, 2011, 2:59:58 PM