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Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

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Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby Suntower » Sun Oct 21, 2018 8:41 am

Excellent article.

I completely agree with this.

As a user of Adobe Creative Suite for a long time, I have always appreciated their ability to allow users to customize the program layout

One other thing they offer is a 'Command Window'... basically a window that allows the user to create a custom list of most-often used commands. Any functions I haven't memorised, I just put in the Command Window.

Because the BIGGEST problem I have with most programs is not hiding things? It's remember WHERE THE HELL THEY ARE!

With the Command Window, I at least know -where- to look for things.

There needs to be a way to make -finding- program functions a LOT easier.

Thanks for the great magazine.

----JC
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Re: Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby Eddy Deegan » Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:04 am

I too enjoyed that article. My awareness of the challenges involved in all things to do with user interfaces grew exponentially when I started my current (non-musical) software business venture which heavily relies on a user interface to access all the mechanisms 'under the hood'.

On the one hand, you strive for simplicity for ease of use. On the other, you really want to provide users with as much flexibility and power as you can offer (and they can handle). It's a genuinely difficult thing to get right because every user has their own preferences.

Offering customisation is an option - we've tried to avoid this because there is a risk that a user new to the product would probably strip out all the medium-to-advanced features given a chance and although they may add one or two more in later they would almost certainly miss out on more advanced features (and this would result in more support tickets later, because if a feature is implemented but users can't find it that will result in a support request).

Support requests are expensive to field, so the lesser evil is to leave all features acessible by default. The challenge is then how to lay things out such that features are available as and when they are needed as opposed to being always available all the time.

We are lucky in that in our product some features only make sense in certain contexts, so the user interface adapts to that by placing options, menus etc. dynamically based on the current context. For DAWs it's much harder because even though some of that holds for them, traditional menu bars don't tend to work that way (more likely, certain options are grayed out of they don't apply).

We learned a lot about user interaction and crafting the user interface to support that, but we're learning more all the time.

About 50% of our product is pure interface code (no functionality, just giving users access to features) which says a lot about how difficult creating a good interface is. Personally, I think that the DAWs of this world do a pretty darn good job of it, considering the challenges they face but of course there is always room for improvement!
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Re: Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby awjoe » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:56 am

Eddy Deegan wrote:
Offering customisation is an option - we've tried to avoid this because there is a risk that a user new to the product would probably strip out all the medium-to-advanced features given a chance and although they may add one or two more in later they would almost certainly miss out on more advanced features (and this would result in more support tickets later, because if a feature is implemented but users can't find it that will result in a support request).


Or you could allow customisation via an activation code supplied on condition of the user passing a software skillset test. Power users can customise. All others must develop that skillset. ;)
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Re: Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:17 am

The versions of Photoshop and Premiere that I have at home have 3 buttons along the top; basic, intermediate, and advanced, that then filter the available controls and add increasing complexity to the interface as you go through.
Perhaps something similar but with a 'custom' option would give the power user a chance to create their own screen but still have an easy bail-out option to (hopefully) cut down on the support tickets?
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Re: Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby CS70 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:55 am

Guess it's like which pizza you like, it's so subjective that there isn't an answer. Some people loves big menus and toolbars and remember where stuff is. Some don't.

A degree of customization is useful but it's pretty expensive.. take office, I think I've used the customization like twice in twenty years.

There's software like Vegas which has two interface levels, like simple and advanced.., but also there, I've moved to "advanced" the first time I used the software and never looked back. The simple interface is way too simple.

Makes for a good column, but my $.01 is that you can't make everyone happy and trying is a waste of time. Like with music - do your thing, if people like it they will use (or listen) to it.
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Re: Paul White's Column (Hiding Features)

Postby desmond » Wed Nov 07, 2018 11:31 am

Logic already has a feature where you can turn on or off various advanced features. You can make it essentially very like Garageband. You can enable a few advanced features, but turn off, say surround, if you don't use it.

Customisation is a double-edged sword. My main problem with hiding stuff is that you remove it from sight, and thus, when you have a task to do later on, you scan through the menus to find the tool to do it, but it's not there. You either miss it completely, or have to go and start re-enabling things you've hidden - it's just a workflow pain. You never know what you might need, therefore, I want it all the tools to be available.

If you don't know what something is and don't need it, you tend to mentally skip over it in your brain really, so it's not like it gets in the way too much. And if we're just talking about reducing the amount of features available while learning, that's fair enough, but there are better tools for that than the new learner arbitrarily deciding what is or isn't important based on not knowing the software.

There are other things as well, but as for the original piece, I think Logic offers a good enough range of customisation and simplification options as it is - it's very customisable, and you can turn many of the more advanced areas off should you want to.
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