GNOME is clean, simple and most importantly it generally Just Works™. Then again GNOME suffers somewhat from over-simplification shooting itself in the head. Prime example is the mystery of suspend button. There is a neat row of three buttons which admittedly looks stylish: settings, lock and shutdown. None of those trigger suspend. Where is it? Hold down shift and shutdown button changes into pause button! Luckily GNOME has extensions which can be easily installed straight from website with two clicks, which remedy many of the problems. Another good thing is that generally development is moving to good direction with brisk pace: 3.0 was unusable, 3.2 was unusable, 3.4 was borderline unusable, 3.6 was slow and glitchy, but all releases beyond and including 3.8 have been perfectly usable and getting increasingly refined with each relese. Do note that only even numbered releases are considered stable.
I tried to persuade GNOME designers to adapt my Adwaita tweak (Adwasmal) as the default window decoration for GNOME 3.14, as Adwaita was going to become the new GTK default theme, or at least make GTK2 titlebars smaller. I didn't succeed at that, since it didn't fit GNOME's design object and was hard to click they said (actually same size as Mist decoration). It can't be helped. I still think Adwaita GTK2 window decoration is absolutely bonkers. Why? Because it is the exact same size as the headerbar! But it only has window title and close button! Luckily, I think that
Early iteration of Adwasmal compared to Adwaita headerbar. Same size as headerbar, menu bar included.
Download Adwasmal for GNOME 3.10 here. Untar in home directory and enable in GNOME Tweak Tool. WARNING! It was a quick hack of metacity-2.xml for my own use, so do not enable it on anything else except Window Decoration or you'll get some pretty funky shenanigans. Deprecated.
As of GNOME 3.18, the titlebars are noticeably smaller, so no biggie. In general GNOME has evolved to be my preferred desktop environment. There are, however, still flaws which are rather aggravating. After long period of using GNOME, the "exposé effect" that happens every time user presses meta starts adding to irritation leves. I'd much prefer my windows not floating around like synchronized swimming manatees, thank you very much. It's cool at first, but like all unnecessarily cool things, it becomes an annoyance. I have disabled top left corner mouse over actication completely and started using the window list at the bottom, as well as classic menus. Maybe it's just how I grew up with computers, Windows XP and KDE teenager? Perhaps. However, I think this kind of excess twitchiness is simply bad design. For something so commonly done as switching application, the whole procedure is simply way too fancy for its own good. This should be a clear warning signal to developers that they are doing something wrong. Typically people grow into a new paradigm and get comfortable with it. For me, it was the opposite. I initially really liked how combined window switching and virtual desktops were done in GNOME 3... and worked around it.
I doubt I'm far from only with feelings like this. Consider the following: CentOS does not ship with vanilla GNOME 3. It ships with classic mode as default, which adds the application and location menus from GNOME 2, plus that window list panel. Red Hat is smart company, and surely they have done UX testing before releasing very long term support desktop to people who work on it from nine to five. And they decided traditional window list is the way to go. Again, this tells plenty in my view.