[LAU] Some new things to play with

alex stone compose59 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 13 21:37:02 UTC 2010

On Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 12:58 AM, Philipp Überbacher
<hollunder at lavabit.com> wrote:
> Excerpts from Arnold Krille's message of 2010-10-13 19:52:29 +0200:
>> Hi,
>> On Wednesday 13 October 2010 18:56:27 Folderol wrote:
>> > I personally think it's a bad idea where colour is concerned. If you have a
>> > couple of editing windows open in several different apps, it can very
>> > quickly become extremely confusing, if they all look the same.
>> When several windows are open, conformity is the key to usability.
>> Things get much worse when every app uses its own colors and one editor is
>> white on black, the next is green on black, the third is blue and red
>> waveforms on light-violett tracks on dark-gray windows. While browser, email
>> and office are all in the standard selected by the user. Which could be black on
>> white or white on black or yellow on blue(*). Or its red on black because its
>> all running on an foh-machine in the dark (where light colors are generally
>> offensive to the darkness-adaption of the eye), unless you don't want your
>> audio apps used under these 'special' use-cases.
>> (*) Yes, that sounds and looks strange. But only to use not-impaired people.
>> Some will get an un-usable experience with your app if it doesn't follow the
>> system-standard.
>> Rant: Its quite funny that more and more application- and environment-
>> developers both from free open-source and from closed source, paid business
>> invest more and more time and money into getting the visuals and the overall
>> experience right and usable. And at the same time the audio community (okay,
>> audio, not visuals...) is using pixel-based widgets and each-app-its-own-
>> color-scheme. In a field of application (aka use-cases) where its important to
>> quickly see the important parts without adjusting to different colors on every
>> program-change.
>> @Fons, this is not about your apps specifically.
>> Its about the general direction of color-scheme development I see with many
>> apps from many audio developers. We argue about rotation-vs-sliding on our
>> knobs, can neither find a consensus nor a global way of settings so users can
>> choose their behaviour. And we fail miserable by in anything concerned with
>> usability (proven by studies of usability-experts! [*]) and claim its for
>> better usability (but only in the eye of the programmer). This kind of sucks.
>> Being told that my desktop sucks in usability because each app uses the same
>> color-scheme is just a joke. I use that desktop every day and its much more
>> confusing when I have to work with the very few (gladly!) apps that have
>> different colors...
>> Have fun,
>> Arnold
>> [*] No, I don't have references at hand. I just look at the big projects with
>> their usability experts and their guide-lines. Which they create so that
>> developers like you and me don't have to worry about colors, knob-behavior,
>> widget movement and key shortcuts...
> In my opinion the whole color business is completely overrated. I
> personally hardly give a crap about how consistent or inconsistent
> colors are, there are lots of more important things.
> I do agree that consistency can have its benefits. I had to do a lot of
> end user support recently, mostly on windows machines. It helped that
> the menus of at least each windows version where consistent, no matter
> whether the system language was Korean, Slovakian, Spanish or English.
> If something is the second menu item from the bottom it's the same in
> any language, when it's the icon with the cable, it's the same in any
> language. This is useful consistency.
> Also a lot more important than colors are shortcuts. 'Desktop guys',
> those people who dictate what a desktop should look like and how it
> should work, seem to be mostly 'mousers' who care about shiny icons and
> wallpapers to show off their cool desktops to windows users. Shortcuts
> are IMHO where the real usability improvements can be made.
> A simple practical example:
> I want to close a program. Simple enough, right? Wrong. Just from the
> programs I often use I know the following shortcuts:
> 1) CTRL+q
> 2) CTRL+w
> 3) CTRL+x
> 4) some shortcut to open a menu and another arcane one (never manage to
> figure those out) to select the quit option
> 5) indicated shortcuts (underlined letters) that don't work
> 6) no shortcuts at all
> The option to quit a program is probably the one thing almost all
> programs share, yet there's no consistency at all and I have to try on
> average three different shortcuts to get the desired result (or use my
> window managers shortcut..). That's really ridiculous. If you care about
> colors when there's a mess like this around I think somethings wrong.
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I'm not so quick to downplay the importance of a reasonable layout for
an app, because as a full time user, the impression of visual design
usability is not based over an hour or two, or how "shiny" it looks,
but consistently long daily hours using the app. I'd dare suggest
that, A) most devs don't use their app for any sustained period of
time to get a serious "user experience" perception of their own work
either for the long term impact of the GUI or a shortcut set if it
exists, and B) there are so many users enthusiastic to see additions
to that app, that devs sometimes turn off the noise they see as
different to their own vision, and just make what they think users
want, which may turn out to be successful for some use cases, and not
others. I can hardly blame them for this as one of those enthusiastic
users keen to see the apps reach ever higher standards of usability
for a wider base of users. (You can all relax now, i've retired from
smashing my head on that particular wall. There's no point. :) )

But, and this won't be a surprise at all to most who've endured my,
until recently, constant reminder of it's value, having a great
shortcut set, and a shortcut for all actions, including navigation,
means a lot to power users. (terrible phrase, but applicable i guess.)
I might have been the most vocal of enthusiasts for shortcuts, but i
guess most devs will have turned off by now, at least that seems to be
the case in the last 18 months, and i've come to realize that an
extensive, comprehensive, and consistent shortcut set is not on the
radar for most, at least not all the time a mouse is
deemed....sufficient. (Particularly when general conversation seems to
imply that performing 1000 midi or audio edits in a piece is a "lot".

So i think a neat and tidy appearance is part of the equation, but
your point about usability for more than just occasional users is of
prime importance, but just not for everyone who assumes mouse use is
the smartest way of working, and considers using a mouse to navigate
with, perform multiple edit functions, or manipulate a synth, is the
only game in town.

A matter of perception of priorities i guess, and visual common sense
for an app, in sustained use, like the enthusiasm or indifference
towards the importance of shortcuts for repetitive tasks, is not
equally shared by everyone, or more than a few.

We can't fault the devs for deciding their own design direction,
whether we agree or not. It's entirely up to them.



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