I never used GNOME. In a way, I can't forgive them for fragmenting the desktop Linux back in the 1990s (yes, it was because of the license, but that was fixed soon after in KDE, and became a non-issue, yet, GNOME marched on). If we had one good desktop, it would have been more conducive to adoption. And no, this is not an area where 'users can pick from alternatives'. So called choice in the desktop environment was bad fragmentation that Linux desktop never recovered from. That was compounded by GNOME 3, and Unity came in to try to fill the void. Others resisted the over bloated desktops, and therefore we see the minimalists like XFCE, LXDE,
I have been using KDE Ubuntu (kubuntu) for over 15 years as my only desktop. With the 14.04 to 16.04 upgrade, KDE started down the path of 'protecting the user from themselves' by dumbing down things. Some things were missing (a weather widget), and other thing could not be customized (e.g. notifications stay in a place where you can check them later).
So, I did something I was contemplating for a long time, for minimalism and other reasons: switch to XFCE (Xubuntu 16.04). I am happy with it.
I disagree that Ubuntu has bad package management. All these years, I rarely had any repository conflict. One or two times in the over 15 years I have been using Ubuntu. If you add a lot of PPA's then yes, you may get conflicts. I don't have many PPAs. I only use the odd one for a specific software that is not up to date (e.g. GIMP 2.9.x, which has 16-bit image support), and that is it.