Friday, August 14, 2015

Family Critique - Overhead Storage Bin

In a past post I was critical of how it was made and described what could be done to fix it. With that in mind, let's examine another family and see how very minor changes will improve the user experience.

First a little background noise, I've been participating in a program that Autodesk started called Revit Mentors. It is focused on people that are using the trial version of Revit, trying it on for size before buying. They been running the same thing for AutoCAD for much longer and recently decided to do the same for Revit. The mentoring takes place in the form of a chat window and this family was the subject of one such session.

The family in my sights today belongs to the Furniture System category and is called Overhead Storage Module.rfa (see image).

You can see two instances are highlighted in red in the above image. What's wrong with the family?
  1. When we try to place the family Revit does not recognize its sides so it is difficult to place it accurately on the first try.
  2. It also isn't visible during placement unless we have already assigned the Underlay parameter to the same level the view is associated with.
  3. It remains invisible after placement and that means we have to resort to tricks to make it visible in the view too.
The reference planes are the cause of our first issue. They are assigned to an IsReference value of Weak. This means Revit doesn't pay attention to them during placement. They need to be Strong or one of the preset named IsReference settings. This is what they look like now.

In the image below we can see (no highlighting visible) that Revit doesn't acknowledge the edge of the family so it can't snap into the correct position easily. When I'm confronted with this issue I usually place such families wrong and then use Align to fix them. Then I copy them around instead of placing them. If I was really smart I'd edit the family and fix the problem.

This is what the family looks like after I've fixed the IsReference parameters. I've also named the Reference Planes using the same words.

Now placing the family is easy because Revit sees the Strong Reference Planes. The nice IsReference names like Front, Back, Left and Right are Strong too.

The second issue is that the geometry of the family is entirely above the cut-plane of the family and most project views. To fix this we can use the Old Invisible Line Trick. I've placed a Symbolic Line using the invisible lines linestyle. It spans from the Reference Level up to the top of the cabinet. I've locked the end points to the top and bottom references so it tracks with the cabinet if its parameters are changed later. It looks like this now. I've also named and assigned the IsReference parameters using Top and Bottom.

The third issue is resolved by editing the Masking Region that has been used in the family. I changed the front linestyle to Hidden Lines so that it will use that linestyle in the project too.

Now the cabinets are visible immediately and without worrying about using the view's Underlay parameter at all.

If I want to make it obvious that there is a difference between hidden items below and above then I'd use (and create if necessary) a different linestyle for each such situation. The Project templates that Autodesk provides have a linestyle called Overhead. I'd just need to add this to my family and assign it to the masking region boundary segment instead.

The presence of these subtle issues demonstrate to me that nobody really tries to use these families in a meaningful way when they are created. In this case the family is quite old. It has probably just been upgraded every year for at least a decade. There are a lot of existing families. It would be nice if someone was routinely taking a closer look at all this content. With our wishlist getting longer and louder every year I'm not going to hold my breath.

It is subtle stuff like this that helps make each user's experience just a little bit better!


Chad said...

It would require rebuilding the family but making it Face Based would make it a lot more functional (IMO) since a piece like that will always be hosted to a cubicle panel or wall.

EdwardThirlwall said...

The idea of the overhead storage is there but it needs some minor adjustments in order to place the family where it rightfully belongs. It might require a bit more time but the development is right on track.