The 4.1 release will include what we’ve dubbed “cute qube” icons to replace the swath of padlocks, signifying qubes. Regrettably, that will be the limit of significant UI changes… but there will also be many sporadic small improvements across the UX. We hope to get the new app menu ready for 4.2, and to keep that release small and limited so it can get out much more quickly than 4.1 has been able to deploy (not “official” word, just what I’ve gathered from team sentiment as we hustle to get 4.1 out the door).
Also, off-record and unofficial feedback to your question: nobody disagrees with the desire to make Qubes OS’ UI more usable, attractive, and inviting. Qubes is currently coded and maintained by the tiiniest of teams. Single-digit number of paid contributors, not just to make things from scratch but also to test and merge code. For an operating system, that’s a significant burden. Qubes is also not just an operating system, but under-the-hood is incredibly complicated. Hardware compatibility ratchets that one up, ten-fold.
We need funding and money, to get more paid resources to help. I’m currently the only UX-practicioner contributing, and I don’t even get paid for about half my work. What little work I am paid for, comes from grants… which are always modest, for specific/limited features, and in and of themselves are expensive to secure. Qubes is also a non-profit project, and not out to get VC funding… which for the long-run, is a good thing—but means it’s harder to score a significant cash surge, today. If there are businesses or wealthy individuals you know of who’d like to make a charitable contribution, that could help, tremendously. I’d love to drop everything else I’m doing, to work on every part of the Qubes UI; as I’m sure Marek and team would love to hire an entire division to focus on hardware compatibility and stabilization of existing features. We all hate money and capital on the one hand, and yet money is what buys resources; cuz that’s what pays for us to put food on our tables and servers for our cats to co-opt as their beds.