[LAD] User eXperience in Linux Audio

Fons Adriaensen fons at linuxaudio.org
Fri Apr 24 21:40:08 UTC 2015

On Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 09:47:16AM +0200, Thorsten Wilms wrote:
> Writing a letter sitting safely at a desk leads to slightly
> different requirements for a UI than piloting an airplane ...

Certainly. But mixing a live show or controlling a complex
broadcast setup would be more similar.
> You do not seriously believe common aspects of mainstream desktop
> environments and core applications like the behavior of radio
> buttons, checkboxes, menus, dialogs and so on came to be without
> many rounds of research and refinement, do you?

No, but I know very few apps that use them correctly, despite
all the guidelines. Even the simplest things often go wrong.
Consider a button that toggles between 'stop' and 'play'. Does
it show the current state of the player, or the one you get
when you click on it ? Similar situation with 'slider switches'
which show 'on' or 'off' on the flat part. If you have no other
feedback, the state of the button or slider gives you a very
ambiguous hint at best. To remain in the flight deck context,
imagine such a widget being used to control your landing gear... 

Checkboxes are another common problem, they all look the same.
There's no hint at all if they control something essential or
some irrelevant detail.

Returning to audio, how many apps do you know where the rotary
or linear controls will assure you at a glance, without having
to read text, that they are set to approximately the value you
expect ? Even in audio you often have to preset things before
they become active, in other words before you have any feedback
apart from the widgets themselves.
> There may admittedly be a problem with cargo-cult guideline writing,
> copying without taking first principles into account. Plus the
> people now working at Microsoft, Apple or Gnome and KDE are at risk
> of forgetting some of the things the GUI pioneers already
> understood.

Not only at risk...
> Now in intensity and information load, applications like Blender or
> Ardour may come closer to a cockpit than a spreadsheet application
> does. But I guess the glass cockpits, just the screens, are not
> meant for direct manipulation, which surely influences the design.

Yes, the screens are display only, but the actual controls are
designed in the same way. There's a lot of subliminal hinting
everywhere. For example on the FCU (the 'autopilot') you have
rotary controls to set your target airspead, heading and altitude.
They are the same size and color, but they all feel differently.
Just by touching one of them you know if you have the right one,
without looking or thinking.



A world of exhaustive, reliable metadata would be an utopia.
It's also a pipe-dream, founded on self-delusion, nerd hubris
and hysterically inflated market opportunities. (Cory Doctorow)

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