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IDProjectCategoryView StatusLast Update
0009004ardourbugspublic2022-10-18 01:29
Reporterpaul Assigned To 
Status newResolutionopen 
Product Version7.0 
Summary0009004: GUI design issues from HN comment by SeanLuke (
DescriptionI think UI design is all about being consistent across modes, being tolerant, making common things easy to do and easy to discover while still making the less common things possible. I think it's a pretty well understood field at this point. I do not think it's about prettiness or visual consistency, but visual consistency is certainly a signal that tells us that the other elements in the UI design may be lacking a designer's touch. So let's look at that.

Let's take this image for example:

I count no less than eight different fonts and font sizes on this screen. Use of whitespace throughout is terrible: for example, look at the placement of the red light snugged up right next to the "Lock" button rather than the Iso button. Speaking which, I presume Iso means "Isolate" while "Grp" means, well, let's assume it doesn't refer to the Grp A4 Synthesizer. Why do you shorten in some ways by removing vowels, and in others by brute truncation?

You also have literally dozens of different button heights. Consider just your faders. Put aside the giant red button. The R/L pans are 32 pixels tall. The In button is 38 pixels tall. The Lock button is 36 pixels tall. The Solo button is 42 pixels tall. The buttons at the bottom are 32 pixels tall. For no reason at all it seems.

You also seem to have tons of different widget widths. Let's consider the VU meters. The Meterbridge meters are 28 pixels wide: the Mixer meters are 24 pixels wide, and its stereo channels are 14 pixels wide (and with completely different dB markings as well) The per-instrument meters at the far left are 16 pixels wide The stereo meters above them are for some reason 10 pixels wide, and together they're 22 pixels wide and so don't line up with the mono meters below them. And finally the global stereo meters up top are 28 pixels wide. What?...

Text styling, justification and clipping is just kooky. Look above the second fader. Vocal, 2, and 0 (which looks like the null set, not a zero, due to weird width) are all centered. Then Fader and AuDynamicsPro are left-justified (And AuDynamicsPro is cut off because it's not getting resized). THEN all the parameters underneath (compression threshold -- again cut off in an ugly way, headroom, expansion ratio, etc.) are all centered again. And they are for no good reason lower-case only. So you have both capitalized case, lower-case-only, and upper-case-only strewn throughout your layout.

To the left of the fader you have "Strips" and "Show". The Show checkboxes are almost invisible thanks to the dark-charcoal-on-black color scheme. Also thanks to your nearly invisible charcoal-on-charcoal scrollbar, you can't read the strips. What's "Claps F"? Why is the "+" so gigantic,and why is it gradiated when no other icons are? I presume the divider can be expanded, but again it's nearly impossible to tell due the charcoal-on-charcoal.

Why are your In, Out, Solo, Audition, and Feedback buttons different colors from the other ones? Why are some of your icons antialised, but others (like the thing to the left of the scissors, or the thing to the left of "No Grid") not? Why are the console buttons (play/record/etc.) smashed together horizontally into thin strips, rather than giving them the standard width afforded to buttons of this importance? At least you could make them square to match their icons. Why is your Tempo and Meter in an incomprehensibly small font? Why do you have two different green colors for fonts?

I am not a big fan of Ableton (say). But its interface is more consistent, much less busy, and much more approachable than Ardour. This is the hallmark of open source software: it tends to lack a hegemon who will sit down and (1) remove features to simplify the interface and (2) force a consistency in design and modality on the software. I will say that what I don't like about Ableton is that it tends to have a lot of mystery-meat interface widgets which don't explain their purpose. But at least they're consistent. :-)

Now Ardour is FAR better than the interface nightmare that is Reaper, a veritable explosion of every single interface style, coupled with a seeming lack of understanding regarding how menus work best. Reaper's interface is objectively bad, full stop. Now there might be people who love it, but I'd wager that's primarily because those people have ego investiture in the product, and ego investiture comes with blinkers. We get heavily involved or invested in a product and it becomes our identity. This should never be an excuse for making a poor product. And compared to practically everyone else out there, Reaper's interface is really, really bad.
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Issue History

Date Modified Username Field Change
2022-10-18 01:29 paul New Issue