Synfing announced recently that the chosen development priority for October is the single-window interface. This is fantastic! Although, considering we’re focusing on partially re-designing the interface, I thought we could take a gander at the current major among the Blender community which is also focusing on redesigning the interface.
So what sparked the discussion, and why? Wasn’t Blender good enough already?
Well, it turns out that, for the NEW users, it just isn’t. And there still are some quirks that confuse even veteran users currently. So Andrew Price (also known as “Blender Guru”) decided to post a four-part video about improving Blender (only two of which are online as of writing). But while his intentions are for Blender solely, the principles of UI design that he points out is VERY MUCH useful for Synfig’s development and refinement too.
I’ve read it through. And I’m totally with Ton on this one.
However, I also support the user-end perspective: that a software, no matter how much unfinished, is far more usable with a good UI than a finished feature-full software with a hindering UI. The former still focuses on productivity, though incomplete, but the latter slows you down. Hence the UI structure may need to be a priority every year or two.
The UI of an application should be worked upon whenever it becomes apparent that something is wrong with it. The apparent UI issues should be solved at that point, no more, no less. Then the software can continue gaining new features, until another UI rework becomes necessary.
The UI needs to evolve at the same time as the features do. When the UI development falls behind then more and more issues start to appear. If UI keeps falling behind for longer periods of time then it will take that much more work for it to “catch up”.
Well, that’s the ideal. But you know how developers are, the UI is the last thing on their minds when implementing new features.
If you following Genete and Konstantin’s G+, you would already see, they (as developers) have been doing this when implementing new features, Insert smart Items and Offset Waypoint are two good examples in this case.
Insert item smart and Offset waypoints are new features, not really UI improvements. The former was just added to the right-click menu (increasing the clutter there) and the latter was just added as a button besides the Animate one (now the user has to worry about two animation related modes/buttons).
On the other hand, the single window UI is a great UI improvement. As is the new menu top bar that was added at the same time. Those provide easier access to existing features.
Of course, new features are also good. Just trying to highlight the difference between new features and improvements to the UI.
In a way they also improve the UI, as in making it easier to do certain things. But they also add new buttons/menu entries/etc which make the UI more complex.
Pure UI improvements which make the UI better without implementing new features are also necessary, to reduce the clutter and simplify/reorganize things.
Lets say that 5 new animation mode related features are added, so 5 new buttons are added besides the Animate button. Would that make the UI better? No, it would make it much worst. Same if 5 new features where added to the right click menu. It would make the menu cluttered and reduce usability.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that at the moment the new features don’t harm the UI usability much. But as the feature set of the software grows the problems will become evident. At that point new features won’t really solve the problem, only make it worst.