Blender should adopt industry user interface standards

The interface, modeling, 3d editing tools, import/export, feature requests, etc

Moderators: jesterKing, stiv

Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Mar 17, 2003 7:20 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Post by dgebel »

I think most will agree that Blender needs to be more accessible to new users: the question is how to do so without compromising workflow and without forcing everyone to relearn and rewrite all the documentation too :)

[on mouse gestures]
When I first started using Blender, I thought the mouse gestures were very cool and used them all the time.

Then, I learned the shortcut keys (I really appreciate that most keys make an attempt to start with the command sound!).
Since one hand was already on the keyboard most of the time anyway... I realized I haven't used them in a long time.

Browsers like Opera (and yes, FFox with extension) are a perfect use for guestures though. But they're pretty simple applications and simple behaviours (link, scroll, close, new window, save). I wouldn't care any more if Blender has them, especially with the new widgets (not that I can actually figure out how to use them well). Rotating and sizing objects is not done nearly as much as creating, moving points etc, and you want to be precise with moving things. Gestures in a word processor would see as little use after the initial fanfare.

[new users & interface]
Like Window users coming to Linux, you have to learn a new way of thinking. I quit using it several times too, but something kept pulling me back. (Free?) The Blender interface and operation has always been so "responsive" that I soon loved what it does so smoothly, like the viewing, spinning etc ability which makes it so fast to view, as mentioned recently. Some of the better high-end ones are probably similar but most of the cheap/free ones aren't.

The attempts to unify and simply the interface are definitely in the right direction, but even after 5 years (5?!) since I first looked at Blender, there's still lots I can't do. And then there's all those new features... I just don't have the time - I'm glad some of you do! With all the new features though, as mentioned by others above, its still cluttered (though better - the modifier stack is a great idea), but now there's even more power hidden behind so many panels.

There's still a number of things that just aren't easily found or even on the menus. I think - maybe I just haven't found them. The context sensitive menus SOUND good... but I always seem to have trouble with them. "Eh?! It was there a minute ago! I know I saw that option somewhere..."

The thing that keeps making me look at other apps somewhat enviously, like say Bryce or Vue or C4D is usually things like always-in-your-face icons and decent preset materials.
A lot of the icons and screens look "nicer", nicely and attracively coloured and clean white instead of the "dingy grey" screen. Its somehow easier to see what's going on, without too much clutter. As usual, there's a power/ease trade-off. Bryce takes a lot of clicks and/or shortcuts to get right down to the materials, Blender - its right there.

BUT... on a lot of other (easy) apps, a new user can (left) see an icon - "pretty - Sphere!" click it, click M and immediately see a ton of standard but pretty rendering materials. Ok and a decent preview appears immediately. Click and you've got a pretty render. Try that on Blender and you get a dully-lit cube floating in a bright blue background. Its better than it used to be - at least there's a cube and a light so F12 gives an actual 3d picture :-) But the various screen setups don't make a lot of sense to me, and newcomers wouldn't even realize that you can change, add windows, etc at first. Having the Render Panel and the Material Panel both displayed... but then we get back to crowding everything onto the main screen again.

(Hmm... Would a context senstive panel make sense? Maybe a material widget.... but no, we have non-overlapping panels instead of pop-up windows -- non-modal)

Of course, there a few preset libraries, objects etc out there for Blender. But new users can't be expected to go find and figure out how to load them - certainly not with Blender. A bunch should be included and sorted - that's one thing that Blender is completely lacking, a decent Material grouping system. I haven't tried the Library script yet, but the general concept is what I'm getting at. Or maybe nodes can used for that somehow - but there needs to be an organized library of presets for new users. How many new users need to ask "how do I make a transparent material?" !!

Maybe Blender needs some "software engineering" type activities. Like defining Conceptual Users (eg New Computer User, New 3D User, Competitive Software Expert), Use Cases (New 3D User starts B. for the first time, Competitive User wants to add a material, etc), User Observation (give instructions to X then videotape and analyse how a new user tries to X) Workflow Analysis (the number and types of activities required to do X).

An easy interface tries to make it easy to find what you might want (argued by some, at expense of power). The goal is a new user doesn't need to read the documentation - cause users won't!

But to do that, you have to meet expectations of the user. Most people who would want to get into 3D have used a computer enough that they definitely will have expectations on how things will work. More and more Linux desktop are coming with Windows-like defaults. They have to or they won't get new users. We need to better identify expectations of 3D users if we expect new users to be drawn in long enough to learn how to do more complicated things. What we have currently a few experts (in Blender and other) who have done sometimes extensive work but AFAIK, no actual study of different types of users.

Sounds like some good research for an enterprising student to me! :D

Posts: 0
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 12:10 am

Post by Vorlin »

The original article was obviously written by someone who isn't familiar with the history of Blender, including why thigns are the way that they are.

Ten years ago or so, Ton designed a modeling program and when he designed the UI he ignored the conventional way of doing things which was horribly inefficient, and designed a UI that could be "flown" with the left hand on the keyboard and right hand on the mouse.

It's a bit funky at first, but once you got used to it you swore that you'd NEVER return to the conventional way of doing things... all the other UI's were just too slow to use because they were poorly laid out.

Blender's UI is designed to be handled about as slowly as a piano keyboard is played during "Flight of the Bumblebee". It's not intended for someone to slowly decide to do step one, then step 2, etc.... it's designed to crank out models at lightning speed. If your right hand comes off the mouse and hits a key on the keyboard, then you really aren't using the UI the way that Ton intended it to be used.

I don't know about most other modleing programs, but if the rest are laid out anything like Gmax then I'll never go near them.

Blender's UI is non-standard because, in a nutshell, standard UI's are designed by programmers, not the people who have to use the UI 8 hours every day. If they were designed by the users, the way that Blender was designed by Ton when he used it at Neo Geo to author games, then their interfaces would be a lot more like Blender's.


Posts: 0
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2003 7:34 am

Post by Ammusionist »

Vorlin wrote:The original article was obviously written by someone who isn't familiar with the history of Blender, including why thigns are the way that they are.
However - I think it's worthwhile noting that things AREN'T the way they were.

Blender's user base is (as it should be) shifting from experienced to first time users especially now that we as a community have got a great big "Hey look what we can do" in the form of Elephants Dream.
... and designed a UI that could be "flown" with the left hand on the keyboard and right hand on the mouse.
How many new users are we going to loose because they want to start by crawling and get to flying later!

What I believe is fundamental is a way to introduce Blender in a way that's not threatening. Not everyone standing at the edge of the ocean looking at the pounding waves are going to believe the surfers yelling "Yo - Come on in dude. It's great once you get used to it". They'll just return to the local pool where things are eaiser to get into.

Don't get me wrong. I really appreciate the incredible power of Blender having used in it a sequencing, interactive, still and animated CG sense and I'm still learning!

OK - We may not feel we need to compete, but as the BEST free 3D product out there, we are competing. The question is are we going to choose to ignore or embrace the wider community that's looking to wet it's toes in the most comprehensive 3D CGI tool available?

How about some of us create some default layouts NOW that could be eaiser for beginners to use. Hide some of the more complex tab panels behind simpler ones. Make simple window layouts. Make a nice Materials screen etc.

I think we're closer that we realise to the user friendly approach that so many are advocating.

Posts: 0
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:26 pm

Post by BogdanOancea »

Vorlin wrote:Blender's UI is designed to [...] crank out models at lightning speed.
Man... does repeatedly hitting the B-key whenever you need to add some more vertices/edges/faces to the selection make Blender the fastest modeling tool? C'mon... maybe you were not modeling a lot under the pressure of a deadline enough. :)
Vorlin wrote:I don't know about most other modeling programs, but if the rest are laid out anything like Gmax then I'll never go near them.
Well... I know. I worked in 3ds max for 3 years, and trust me, I got very fast at modeling (forgive my unashamed boasting), and I can't even think how I would have finished modeling, texturing & rendering so many kitchens in a couple of hours each if the cursor wasn't always in drag-to-select-mode.

(This is not to say that I'm bashing Blender as a whole and that I'm nostalgic for 3ds max... it has it's own bad UI decisions, too).

Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:46 pm

Post by softwork »

Blender's user base is (as it should be) shifting from experienced to first time users especially now that we as a community have got a great big "Hey look what we can do" in the form of Elephants Dream.
I cannot agree with this. I think it is the opposite, Blender is getting more interest from experienced users (using other 3D programs).

I read a lot here of making Blender more Newbie friendly (standard interface, lots of pretty icons, etc, etc.). But please, don't make Blender a Newbie tool.

Blender is not a newbie tool, it is (becoming) a semi-professional tool. One of its strengths is (how odd this may seem to some of you) the interface and the speed one can model with it. That said doesn't mean there is no room for improvement, developers are allready (for some time) looking how to make the interface better.

Blender's interface is not difficult to learn if you spend one afternoon reading some documents that explain the inteface, and practice it. This is typically something Newbies often skip, they want to open Blender and within 5 minutes produce their first Toy Story movie. If that cannot be done it must be because of the strange interface....
Blender is not more difficult to learn then other 3D programs (I've tried a lot). Learing 3DMax, LightWave, Maya, TrueSpace, RealDraw etc., all require reading the User Manuals, starting with easy tutorials, gradually becoming more experienced.

Don't make Blender a Newbie Tool, but a 3D tool that makes the serious modelers/animators smile....

Posts: 0
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2005 6:56 am
Location: Slovakia

Post by etko »

Anyway I think there is some misunderstading of workflow with other 3D software, from hardcore blender users. Maybe 10 years before blender was inovative becuase of it's unique style of navigation and control. However today it's de facto normal in 3d packages as, I believe most of them, they have picked up same extensive usage of keyboard shortcuts.

Today blender is becoming looking aged becuse of unability to remap shortcut keys, rearange toolbars etc. Till ver last release it was lacking modifier stack too, which is for example for max used almost exlusively being expanded and collapsed thousand times during sessions with ability to quickly return to previous states of the model. With tools like automatic symetry etc. modelling is quite different.

Posts: 0
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2005 2:26 pm

Post by BogdanOancea »

Oh well... I downloaded RC1, and sadly the Grouping feature still doesn't make things easier when it comes to selecting a group. Clicking on one of the members in the group does not select the whole group. :?

Posts: 0
Joined: Sun Feb 19, 2006 4:14 pm

Post by BeBraw »

Oh well... I downloaded RC1, and sadly the Grouping feature still doesn't make things easier when it comes to selecting a group. Clicking on one of the members in the group does not select the whole group. Confused
After selecting a member of a group, try shift-g, 7 to select all members of the group.

Posts: 0
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2003 2:37 pm

Post by ideasman »

Note- Hard and soft edges is being worked on as a GSOC project.
some of the codes alredy working. I have tested a patch that was made before the modifier re-design and WYSIWYG Snoothing worked most of the time ;)
It uses some tricky normal calculation method I worked out but most of the credit can go to artificer.
should be in Blender 2.43 ... ackUpgrade

Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:17 pm

Post by gruvsyco »

dgebel wrote:I quit using it several times too, but something kept pulling me back. (Free?)
This really jumped out at me because, it's a common argument for just about every OSS app, and a very lame argument.

The fact that Blender is free should not be a point for using it. People should use Blender because it's a good not because it's the only option or a last resort.

Example: I chose Firefox over IE because it gave me functionality that I wanted that IE didn't offer. I have since switched to Flock over Firefox for much the same reason. I didn't choose either one because they were free, although, it's a nice side benefit that they are.

Posts: 0
Joined: Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:17 pm

Post by gruvsyco »

BogdanOancea wrote:Man... does repeatedly hitting the B-key whenever you need to add some more vertices/edges/faces to the selection make Blender the fastest modeling tool? C'mon... maybe you were not modeling a lot under the pressure of a deadline enough. :)
Or worse... BB to enter paint selection, then having to exit paint selection (right click) so I can rotate the view, BB again so I can paint selection some more.

Posts: 0
Joined: Sat Jun 24, 2006 4:03 am

Post by imbubby »

Having examined this whole thread, and being a nube to Blender but not to 3D work, I have the following observations to make:

There are many excellent comments and much good information in this thread. Boiling it all down, it seems that pleasing everyone is impossible, but I think that Blender is on the right track, all things being considered.

Speaking as a nube, I know that Blender could use some changes (mainly additions) to make it easier to learn. This is especially true of documentation, which is one of my areas of expertise, and which I hope to be able to help with when I know enough about Blender to do so.
It is, indeed, important to make Blender friendly to new users, but without giving up any effeciency for experienced users. It is no good to make something easy to learn at the expense of making it ultimately not as good to use. But the fact remains that one of Blender's most important features is the price, affordable by all. Therefore, Blender will always be the choice of many beginners, especially if they realise that it is capaple of serious, professional work after the learning process.

I use expensive, professional software in my work, as do many others here. I have access to 3DS, Maya, Autocad, Turbocad, and a number of other good pieces of software at work. They all have their good and bad points, which in many cases are matters of personal style, or "what the old workhorse is used to".
So, why do I want to use Blender? It's very simple. i don't own all that software myself, my employer does. Therefore, the things I want to do at home for my own purposes and enjoyment, and/or for additional income, must be done with software I can afford, which generally means freeware, shareware, or under a couple of hundred dollers. Also, as some have pointed out, the expensive software isn't necessarily ideal in all ways for all purposes either.

In looking at and using the low-end or free software, I have found The Gimp to be a good, useable and capable substitute for Photoshop for my needs. And for 3D work, Blender seems to be the best available, stomping all over Milkshape and the others, especially for the things I wish to do. And the price is, of course, literally unbeatable. :)

So, we have a situation where Blender definately needs to appeal to all, the new user, the hobbyist, and the professional.

Now for my comments about the interface:

Certain things, especially the MMB selection in my case, were a bit bothersome. Especially as I must continue to also use the professional software which does things differently. It is easier to make mistakes and wast time with such a fundimental difference in application when switching back-and-forth. It would have been perhaps better if Blender had started off using the same comventions in basic areas such as that as the "industry standard" software. However, at that time, the "standards" were not so set yet, and I am not sure it is worth going through all the pain for current users to make the change.

In most other ways, I have found Blender to be quite nice and easy to learn, and I picked much of it up pretty fast. There are indeed, as has been pointed out, ways in which the "Blender way of doing things" is perhaps slicker that the "industry standard".

My feeling so far, is that I agree with those who say that all changes should be done very thoughtfully and carefully, and that change should mainly be made with consideration to functionality and ergonomics, and that the "industry standard", while being a legitimate consideration, should take a back seat to functionality and ergonomics where those are or can be improved over the "industry standards".

Documentation, I think everyone seems to agree, can be improved, dispite some very good work already done. Documentation can almost always be improved, for any application. And it is as vital to the experienced user as to the nube.
I hope to be usefull in this area myself, after I learn enough to be useful. ;)

In short, let's fix what's broke, but not fix what ain't broke. ;)

Posts: 63
Joined: Wed Oct 16, 2002 3:08 pm

Post by kAinStein »

Ok, calm down guys!

It just seems to be that in this discussion some people have not understood (or forgotten) the Blender philosophy and because of that fact they're mixing up things and demanding contradictory changes.

So, what do we have? First the statements of the change fraction:
  • * Blender is not "standards" compliant
    * Blender is not intuitive
    * Blender is not user friendly
    * The GUI is ugly
    * Blender needs icons
    * Same as above but in other words
The first point was led ad absurdum as joeri pointed out and LetterRip demonstrated. There are no standards. Rests the point with the keys: One part of the more or less unwritten Blender philosophy says that the UI has to be flexible, efficient (regarding workflow and the use of ressources) and adaptive. The GUI is flexible and adaptive - you can have a screen layout for any purpose and switch efficiently between the different screens. You don't have to dig too deep in a menu structure like in other packages and after you've got set up your workspace, you can do so many in very few time. What's missing? Configurable keys. That's the logical consequence.

For the renaming issue: Well, you read it - you can understand it. For example: "Edit mode" vs. "Component mode". First, the latter is too long compared to the first. That would cause two things: The string is not completely readable or it would waste space on your screen, that could be filled with something more important. Additionaly it doesn't really make sense. In my understanding a component is an object that is part of something bigger and vertizes, edges and faces are atoms of a component. This would leave, as joeri already mentioned, a "component mode" equivalent to an "object mode".

If you want to have QWERTY - well then! It's your preference (This leads to the next point.)! But don't tell that QWERTY is more intuitive - it's not! What's Q? Quit? Quake? E? Erase? Eject? Erect? Stupid to say that this is intuitive! So don't mix your preferences up with intuition ( The default keys are way more intuitive which is better for a Blender newbie (unless he had worked before with some software that forced him to do unintuitive things). So better not to ask for committing the same faults as others! It's not a Blender bug - it's just that someone didn't know better at some point and one mistake was given from hand to hand over two decades.

To "Blender is not user friendly". What's your understanding of user friendlyness? In my opinion a piece of software is user friendly when it allows you to do your work as fast as possible, as precisely as possible and both in an ergonomic way. Of course it is slightly faster having four fingers over the top left corner of your keyboard or dragging a box around the parts you want to select. But is it healthier? I'm not sure if that is really ergonomic. The Blender way you move slightly your hand and arm when switching from grabbing mode to scaling mode and you can rest your right hand while selecting.

And a word to the crits of the gestures: A novice is certainly confused and they are not very handy with a mouse, so they can be disabled by default - but if you've got a tablet it's a very relaxing way of doing stuff! That's literally coolness par excellance! That way you can keep your cramp for the next eagle claw kung fu lesson!

Back to user friendlyness: Of course this kind of working makes the learning curve very steep - but I wouldn't want it another way anymore! In this case you are mixing up intuitive learning with user friendlyness! By the way: There are some CAD packages that also need a key stroke (at least) to make a block select! It's consistently with the workflow! Why do it another way? Just because a long time ago someone else has decided to do that action differently? Not a good reason regarding the fact that you want to have a consistent UI.

"Blender is ugly": Of course it is ugly - but compared to the first Blender version I had (back in '98 ) it's eye candy! And of course there can much be done! I would like better file dialogues for example - not only a matter of beauty but also of handyness. There's still much missing in the Blender UI components.

To the icons? Why would you need meaningless icons which most probably would imply digging in the dirt to get where you want to go? Do you really want to lose Blender's efficient UI for a confusing screen like in Max or Cinema 4D for example? No! Never! That would be totally contrary to Blender's design goals to be the (powerful) swiss army knife in 3D. You would lose lots of Blender's flexibility and efficiency! Additionally you would (as we already have) bloat Blender a lot.

Now to the other fraction - the fraction that is opposed just for the oppsition's sake. I remember argueing with joeri about the undo some years ago: "There's no need - you can reload your last changes! That's quite an undo! etc. etc."

Well! I missed it. And now I've got it, I use it - and if it would go away I would miss it so much!

So joeri: I know you love to argue, but sometimes you really should take a step back and take a look: What's wrong? What's missing?

The preferences are definitely at the wrong place. Poor excuse that a newbie doesn't understand the preferences anyway. We've got a menubar - why not put it in there? I know why it is there where it is. I remember the times where Blender didn't have a menubar. But back in those times all the Blender documentation was a single webpage with very few information! (And only the blacksmith demo kept me struggling with Blender for nearly one year... Well and the even worse UI of 3D Studio without Max)

Configurable keys are missing because they perfectly fit into Blender's concept to adapt to the user's needs.

And if you read carefully you can recognize what's lacking and how to put it in Blender in a way it fits. On the other hand: Guys! Some requests are really silly and not well thought! If you like Max, Maya, Softimage, etc. better - stick with it! Why do you want to put stuff in Blender that just doesn't fit? Because Blender's free?! Learn to think the Blender way and you'll recognize that it is well thought, consistent (probably the inconsistencies came in the last four years - but that's just my opinion) and you can work much more relaxed and faster in some parts:
  • * Save ressources
    * Be efficient
    * Don't confuse
    * Object <--> action
    * Keep it simple

p.s.: Wow! That took loooooong! ;)

Posts: 0
Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 5:24 pm

Post by Charlesworth999 »

About your idea for the QWER hotkeys...
I don't know if it has been mentioned yet, but not everyone has a qwerty keyboard (although most have).
Just a thought.
I have a AZERTY keyboard for instance (used in France and Belgium).

Posts: 0
Joined: Sun Dec 19, 2004 4:30 pm

Post by elander »

Blender is not "standards" compliant
There are no standards in user interfaces. Just look at the latest microsoft office suit. It changed to be much more similar to Blender gui. No more menus and toolboxes.
Blender is not intuitive
You need to read half a douzen of pages of documentation to use Blender. Blender doesn't have to copy 3d studio max because like some people here pointed out pro modelers aparently modify the entire 3d studio interface and keyboard bindings to make it productive. The only thing Blender needs is a similar feature.
Blender is not user friendly.
Being ignorant of how Blender works does not count when stating that Blender is not user-friendly. Most people think Blender is not user-firendly because they don't know how to use it properly and don't bother to waste 5 minutes reading the guide. You have to suport users but you shouldn't try to support every single user. That is impossible.
The GUI is ugly
I don't think so. It's not the cutest thing around but calling it hugly is non-sense.

There are some points that were made in this thread that appear very solid and should not be ignored. Blender mechanism used to create gui styles does not come close to modelers like 3d studio max and that is a shame and a necessity in an open-source modeler. There are tons of people with knowledge in ui that could contribute to improving Blender but can't unless they know how to setup a c++ project and compile the source. People who are experts in ui usually aren't experts in programming. Besides coding a gui in the source is not really a solution. It must be done with a gui xml format or something similar for it to work.

The way Blender manages app default settings is realy obsolete and the config view gui style shows it's age contrasting with the new gui style. This is a case where Blender clearly isn't user friendly. Some other gui components like the file dialog window and text orientation that don't follow basic ui guidelines. You can't make a view title bar to have a vertical orientation; you can't zoom the icons or adjust spacing on a title bar to save more space (adjusting spacing is essential); you can't have a title bar with more than one row (in this case it shouldn't be called a title bar).

On the menu subject i perfectly agree that there should be a prferences menu and would also add an edit with undo/redo, copy/cut/paste and serch,replace features. Because other apps have it? No becuase it's a good pratice and Blender already has most of these features. They just are more difficult to access since we must execute some script to perform some search/replace operations. We need to use Ctrl-Z for undo and there is not an equvalent menu; something that happens only for undo/redo. Cut/Copy/Paste works and makes people life easier. There is already an alf-assed copy buffer in some places for some operations. It would make things easier to enchange objects between scenes and between scenes and if Blender could open more than one file at the same time it would make things easier to echnage info between files.

Anyway all this could be solved by users themselves if there was an easy for them (by editing xml files for example) to create their own guis for Blender.

Post Reply