[LAU] Some new things to play with

alex stone compose59 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 13 16:43:37 UTC 2010

On Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 8:20 PM,  <fons at kokkinizita.net> wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 07:55:09PM +0400, alex stone wrote:
>> > Not being agressive is important. You should be able to look at a
>> > screen full of these for hours, without eye strain or getting
>> > nervous.
>> Correct. And as a user, it might be fair to say i spend, and have
>> spent, more time looking at apps for prolonged periods than most devs.
>> Saturated colours might seem a good idea at the time, but in my humble
>> experience, it's a sure fire recipe for headaches, feelings of ill
>> intent, bleeding eyes, the urge to decapitate something, monitor
>> destruction, etc,  when used for any length of time on a regular
>> basis.
> :-) Also, any attempt to base the colors for a non-trivial audio
> app on desktop themes is likely to produce something horrible.
> Getting layout and colors right is IMHO part of designing the app,
> and after that nothing should interfere with it.
> Having the choice between a 'dark' and 'light' version does make
> sense. But I find it quite difficult to get any light one right,
> and e.g. Ardour's light theme doesn't work at all or me.
> What do you (Alex) prefer ?
> Ciao,
> --
> FA
> There are three of them, and Alleline.

I think you've got it about right for the rev1 background. It's
neutral, and doesn't "draw the eye" away from the controls.
Dark themes generally, imho, suffer from the same thing. In order to
make the controls, or other visual components, stand out on a dark
theme, devs seem to favour the complete opposite, with garish colours,
each one competing with the next for the user's "eye".
In other words, very little middle ground. The light theme in Ardour
doesn't work for me at all, as it's all of the same thing, lighter
upon lighter. My benchmark is eye strain, and headaches. The Ardour
light theme gave me both after extended use. (And i hasten to say,
this is not restricted to Ardour. )

I'm cautious by experience with recommending a particular app as an
example, but there are some that definitely don't fit the bill for
extended use, imho.

Sawstudio, Ableton live, early Sequoia and Samplitude all fail in my
view as they're built on extremes, with garish colours, or conversely
all nearly the same colour in sections inhibiting any intent of
relaxed use. I've never liked Logic's "mission brown" background, but
it doesn't induce eyestrain or headaches for me with extended use, to
be fair. Cubase and nuendo are fairly neutral, but have had versions
that swayed from one extreme to another.
Like using every instrument in an orchestra at once, it only takes a
short time for the ear to dull, and for unique sound colours to
disappear in to the wall of "grey". I think the same thing applies to
visual design, and elegant restraint serves for a better foundation.

I would say that from a power user perspective, neutral to mildly dark
backgrounds are most conducive to extended use, and both elegant and
restrained use of colour seems to be the most pleasant user
experience. Anything stronger in  intensity, or saturation, wears the
eyes out pretty quickly.

I'd also say that if a dev finds himself having to intensify the
colour of a knob or button to make it "stand out", then something's
wrong with the base colour in the first place.

My views are my own, of course, and others will disagree on what
constitutes a good appearance use case for them.

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