Thursday, April 10, 2014

Family Thumbnail View

One little thing you can do to improve the user experience when choosing and loading a family is to prepare the thumbnail view nicely. Revit will use the view that is open (has focus) when you save and close the file to generate the preview we see in the Open Family dialog or in Window's Explorer. Here's an example of a preview for a family in the stock pipe fittings folder.

I really can't tell what it is at all. The connector graphics are making it impossible for me to tell what sort of fitting I'll get when it is loaded. Here's how it looks after I tweak it a bit. Now it is a lot easier to tell what it is.

Most of the stock Revit content already has a 3D view called View 1. If I make a family from scratch I create one too. I make sure I open this view and close others before Saving and Closing the file when I'm done working on it. I caution users to be wary of content that does not have a clean preview, at least if they are using anything I've made. Messy means not done or not ready. Ideally content that isn't ready shouldn't be in a live folder at all but sometimes we get distracted and our own rules or habits aren't followed.

To clean up a family's preview:
  • Use Temporary Hide/Isolate to control what is visible in the view.
  • Use Thin Lines. (I hide host walls and faces for example)
  • Use Detail Level setting to show off the family.
  • Use Zoom Region to maximize the important geometry we see in the preview.
It's all meant to make it easier to understand what the family is and decide if it is the one they really want.

If you examine the stock door folder you'll see that most of the families have been oriented so that View 1 is a Front or Back elevation so you can see the panel design head on. I usually prefer a 3D axon orientation because it can give me a better sense of the frame and other proportions. Try to pick an orientation that best describes the family from the user's perspective, whatever will help them decide that this family is the correct family to load.

A cool feature of KiwiCodes Family Browser is that you can use your own custom Thumbnail images. This means you can set your custom library up in a project setting and take advantage of Graphic Styles like shadows and ambient shadows. This image is a sample of Aaron Maller's handiwork for Beck Group. His thumbnails include context and it really helps to understand what the family is, what features it has. He's put more effort into this than anyone I know of so far and I really like it.

It's the little things in life, every little bit helps the end user experience.


DaveP said...

I'm just in the process of updating out Kiwi Codes library today.
I like to create another 3D view that I name "Thumbnail." That way I know I've been into the family and I know that View should NEVER be used for anything else. I'll even do this with Generic Annotations. Duplicate the Plan View & name it Thumbnail. Make sure Annotations, and Reference Planes are off, too.

Brian Beck said...

Great tips Steve. I get so wrapped up in the daily workflow process of ongoing projects or R&D that I forget the finer points of the user experience. Dave has a nice tip above too.