Future User Interface Design

  • The merger between Enscape and Chaos will undoubtedly (and hopefully) result in some unification, integration, and streamlining of the V-Ray and/or Enscape interfaces. I would like to be proactive in asking that the new company not fall into the same "me too" mentality with regard to oversimplification of the user interface that is so common these days. The current interfaces of both pieces of software are not perfect, but they are pretty good.

    For some reason, more and more UI designers seem to harbor a delusion that hiding tools make software easier to use. Perhaps they are afraid that too many visible icons will frighten away noobs, or maybe they are just looking to create a portfolio piece for themselves, without any regard to functionality. A "kiosk-type" interface is great for, say, kiosks, but it simply does not belong on a piece of software that is going to be used daily or weekly.

    When you have to search for where a tool is hidden, it makes the software harder and more inefficient to use, not easier. Even when you know where that tool is, if you have to drill down into a nested menu to use it, it makes the software harder and more inefficient to use, not easier. I don't care how "clean" the interface is, requiring four of five clicks to activate a command is less efficient that one click. Why is this so hard for interface designers to understand?

    The absolute best current example of bad interface design is Twinmotion. Not only are pretty much all of their tools hidden, they don't even use the space for a bigger viewing window! At the bottom is a huge, mostly blank band with a couple of icons on it. It simply could not be worse, and I hope that Enscape never even gets close to going in this direction.

    I am very much in favor of a clean, well-organized interface, but not one that is oversimplified to the point where it becomes inefficient. I hope that Chaos/Enscape will choose to continue to buck this trend.

  • The absolute best current example of bad interface design is Twinmotion.

    I tried playing with TM this week, simply assigning a bump/normal map to an existing material is a monstrous pain. After I'd edited about 6 materials out of over 100 I abandoned the whole concept of giving TM a whirl.

  • It seems like the merger is only in name right now. Corona Render immediately benefited from their merger with Chaos, but then again V-Ray and Corona were somewhat similar, so I'd say it was easier for Chaos software engineers to help Corona with things and implementations to make the two engines more compatible (or rather Corona more compatible with V-Ray, as V-Ray was way more advanced at the time of the merger).

    Enscape UI designers can only learn from Chaos's UI experience, which is tremendous and spanning through so many software packages that you can easily lose count.

    Twinmotion follows the trend of "early access" games, where amateur software developers come together to develop a rendering engine (only they don't write much, as it's all on the back of giants, in that case Unreal Engine). What's bad is that it tries to simplify the UI for everyone, but that kills any features that make render engines powerful. Simplicity is good but not at the expense of cutting short features and important tools. Many other software packages, be it Blender or other seemingly popular render engines like D5 Render, always seem intuitive and cool, but once tried by a veteran user, there are fundamental tools that are omitted (usually due to ignorance of the developers or convoluted roadmaps) that makes the software nearly useless if not counterintuitive (for the veteran user that is).

    My wish for Enscape is give us more frequent updates than we currently get, have a robust roadmap that lets us know what we will receive every 1-2-3 months, and a future goal that says Chaos will help with the software development in order to make Enscape more comparable with the tools that Corona and V-Ray have.