September 15, 2006

Is it just me...

by Chris Randall

...or do all the new Native Instruments plugs look like they were made in Reaktor? Obviously, it's wise for a company to have a common look/feel amongst its products, something we've been struggling at with the AD line since the beginning.

There are two schools of thought to plug-in UI design. I, of course, am of the firm opinion that if there's a real-world analog for a particular plug-in, the plug-in should look exactly like the real-world device. This solves two problems. First, a customer can tell what a product does just by looking at a screenshot. Even with a small screenshot of Reverence, it's pretty obvious as to what it's all about, and we don't have to spend much time explaining it. Second, the customer already knows how to use the product as soon as he installs it, and the only reason he'd have to consult the manual would be for a technical explanation of a feature, or to learn how to use any "secret" things we've added.

When something looks like FM7, you know what it is, what it does, what it sounds like, and how to use it from the git-go. When something looks like FM8, given the screenshot above, at the _very_ least you have to read a couple paragraphs of liturature to even figure out what it is in the first place, never mind whether it's something you need or not. The only thing you can really tell for certain is that it's a synth, and it probably uses FM.

These are just my opinions. Your mileage, as always, may vary. I already know that there is a fairly even split between people that prefer modern UIs versus those that prefer the hardware look. I wouldn't turn down some thoughts on the matter, if you feel like typing them out.



Page 5 of 5

Sep.18.2006 @ 9:47 AM
actuel - I do take your point that the look doesn't matter as much as the layout, I misinterpreted the previous poster's comments. Max/MSP wouldn't work with a UI like most soft synths, because of its open nature. I was referring more towards software that is prebuilt by a company for a specific purpose, i.e. subtractive or FM synthesis.

While the look does not indeed affect the sounds that you create, it has an impact on your experience using the software. Pro-53 is probably my most-used subtractive synth because I love the layout and look so much. I've opened Logic's ES1 a few times and it was just hideous, so I never use it, even though the layout's not too bad the screaming green just irritates me. I'm sure it sounds great but I'm not interested.


Sep.21.2006 @ 9:51 AM
here's my 2 Yen's worth:

I have no hardware synths any more, no room for em, but I did actively choose to get a Mackie C4 because there just are not enough screens in my budget to make all the little bits of soft synths and FX easily visible to me. The more cluttered any interface is, the less likely I'm going to spend enough time hunched near the screens to setup the hardware for it. So my point is less UI cruft and visible controls are good.

The FM8 looks visible, but that mini KB and wheels is just cruft IMNSHO.


Oct.19.2006 @ 3:56 PM
Adam Schabtach
Okay, in the rather unlikely event that someone's still paying attention to this thread: I got my upgrade to FM8 yesterday. I haven't had a chance to do much besides rattle through some presets and glance through the various UI pages, but I can say that the new UI is better than the old one. The color choices, while not reminiscent of old Yamaha hardware, are generally easier to look at. The way parameters are displayed is more clear. The multi-envelope display is very nice. All in all it's a definite improvement over FM7. It also sounds better, at least as far as the presets reveal. So far I'm quite pleased with it, and I'm not easily pleased by soft synths.

Something that's funny about this, though, is that all of the screenshots used for marketing purposes--on the NI website, on the product box itself--are of the "Easy" pages. These pages are not the strongest bits of UI design in the program; it's not until you get into the detailed programming pages that you start to appreciate the differences. The Easy pages are kind of sparse; it's not apparent why there's so much empty space. The answer to that is that the non-Easy pages are much more complicated so they need the room. I don't know why NI didn't want to show the world what they've done with the detailed programming pages. I can only guess that the marketing department decided that their target buyers are kind of stupid and would be intimidated by images of actual envelope curves or something.

Someone commented about the keyboard being a waste of space: you can hide it if you don't like it. I think you can do that in FM7 also.



Page 5 of 5



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.