Friday, May 08, 2009

Clicking and Clicks

There has been some rather strong criticism in various places about the new user interface for Revit 2010. With regard to the number of "clicks" it takes to do something I'm afraid it is difficult to find fault with the logic that the new UI is less efficient compared with the same task in the previous release. Of course that is focusing on a single task as opposed to overall but still users get frustrated at very subtle things when they keep "poking them in the eye".

One example is the Objects Styles Dialog. This is where we control the overall appearance of the elements in our projects. We don't have to visit this dialog endlessly but we do visit it at various times during a day/week/month.

Old UI - Settings menu > Objects Styles (click count 2)
New UI - Manage tab > Settings button > Object Styles (click count 3)

Another example is the Export Settings for a dwg file. Again not a frequent stop for every user but some users like a BIM manager will visit this very frequently.

Old UI - File menu > Import/Export Settings > Export Layers DWG/DXF (Click count 3)
New UI - Application menu > Export > CAD Formats > DWG > DWG Properties tab > Build Button (Click count 6)

Note that this build button has no tool tip or explanation for what it does, no label. The click count is technically (6) six, though you don't have to click if you just hover over the Application menu items and move your mouse over the other options as they eventually display. So you don't HAVE to click but you ARE waiting.

I'm sure that "metrics" said that the typical user opened this dialog once in a "blue moon". So that user isn't affected or annoyed. The data leader for a project, the one who has to export to cad every couple days or the BIM manager who is setting up office standards for ten (10) offices and has to revisit them much more often won't find this new process very efficient. Considering that you have to start the Export process to get to the file to edit it in the first place!

In my view everything we manage, like these two, should be under the Manage Ribbon tab. Object Styles is, but it is under a pull down menu style selection which reintroduces a concept that the ribbon was supposed to eliminate?

Compare with Office 2007 and Word. The Ribbon in Word continues to grow toward the right when panels exceed the available space and an arrow appears at the right end of the Ribbon to allow you to scroll for more. This means there is no reason for a pull down type UI on the ribbon (yes it takes a click to scroll though)...every tool that we need to "manage" Revit settings/rules could have its own button and place on a panel.

It is too easy to dissect the user interface, at this level, and find examples. It should have been hard to find such things. Inefficiencies ideally should have been the exception, not the rule.

Last, I'm not an icon guy. I don't remember what little picture is which tool. If you turn off the labels for the tool bars in 2009 I'm lost, for a bit. I still can't tell you which picture is for which tool unless I'm looking at it right now. The fact that the Ribbon tools have words too is, for me, a life saver.


Anonymous said...

so basic tasks take half again as long to accomplish, *not* including animation lag to get to the tool you want.

and this is a good thing?

autodesk AEC products are generally speaking NOT a "design" tool, they're a documentation tool. how to take a design (and work out it's kinks) and make it real. if i want a simple massing study, or to play with shapes i'll hit sketchup, but if i want to accurately model and be able to control with fine detail specific items and how they'll occur in documentation, i NEED the control that an accurate and direct set of tools provides, not a pretty GUI.

seriously, these are TOOLS not toys, and while a designer needs access to a hammer, they call in a furniture maker (or learn how themselves) to build the final version.

we don't all need to be commandline gurus, and some gui stuff is great for getting certain types of tasks going, but moving the basic UI into a *less* efficient mode is foolish.

Anonymous said...

Some nice OpEd there. ;) I couldn't agree more. I won't sully your blog with how strongly I really feel, but as many others have expressed, it's not the ribbon per say that is inherently the problem, it's the whole "contextual" panel workflow. If they had simply transposed the Design Bar to the Ribbon (and added panels to take care of what was buried in the menus), and expanded the QAT to have all the commands previously in the toolbars, they could have largely avoided this whole mess.

About the icons/text - there should always be three options: icons, icons & text, and text only. Just yesterday we were having this discussion in our office and I brought up the exact same point about being lost in 2009 with the text turned off. One user wanted to just have text! I think I like icons & text best, but I'm pretty sure I'd take text only over icons only.

I'd really like to have icons & text on the QAT.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. However I feel it overlooks another important aspect of the UI, which is keyboard shortcuts. Both the examples you mention are present in the keyboard configuration file and now in 2010, can be even set to single function keys from the top row. UI customization is highly personal and something that develops over time, according to individual need. The GUI and keyboard shortcuts work together to give a flexible, overall system; if the GUI is lacking; keyboard customisation can fill in the gaps. For what its worth, I wasn't really sold on the ribbon concept before now, having come up against it in new Autocad & MS software releases, but seeing it in Revit 2010, I'm starting to warm to the idea and have started to back 'ribbonise' Autocad to work towards some consistency.
I do agree with the comment regarding having all commands available to the QAT, which would further enhance this overall UI 'system'

Anonymous said...

i prefer to have icons text (plus keypress .. and perhaps decrip, though that can be in status bar) in the tooltip/hover. this is a long-proven ui arrangement.
seems odd that the big sell of revit back (all versions?), was the context sensitive ui. unlike many apps, revit had context-sensitive, without ms ribbon.