Monday, March 30, 2009

Revit 2010 UI - a step forward or a step back?

There has been much discussion about the new Autodesk Revit 2010 UI. Some people like it, others hate it. It's a bit like marmite (vegemite to those outside the UK). However, the reality is that the UI in 2010 is changing and it will have an impact on our use of Revit from now and into the future. UI design is not easy, not that I have any particular experience myself, but my brother is a programmer and we have discussed this subject on a number of occasions. Therefore, I want to present the facts, the for's and against and then gauge your opinion. To some extent the UI has to change to make Revit look like the modern application it should be and the old UI from graphical appeal was looking dated. I know the background behind the change and a common look and feel across all the Autodesk applications was one of the primary goals. But the old UI did work and it worked very, very well. Having trained numerous architects in Revit over the last 6 years users always commented that they felt that the user interface had been built and designed by somebody who understood the architectural business. It was clean and easy to understand and everything was immediately accessible, unlike AutoCAD which could have multiple configurations. You only need to look at Sketchup to understand what I'm getting at, easy accessible icons that allow you to build great models, not that I am comparing Revit to Sketchup.

First take a look at this youTube video posted by Phil Read (yes, the Phil Read, ex Autodesk consulting and Revit guru). You should also read his post which supports this video. It is extremely funny but it does have a serious side and Phil puts this across very eloquently.

Now read this post on the Autodesk site and view the supporting video which explains the methodology behind the UI. It explains a little bit of the decisions making process and how the new UI works.

Ok, so there you have it, two different viewpoints. I have an in the "middle" stance on this. I actually want to like the new UI, it makes Revit look better and if it looks better then the assumption is that it works better. Probably the wrong way to look it, but it's like driving a new car, if it looks cool, you feel cool. Although this is not always the case, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Design and detailing buildings is not a straight forward process, but it follows a certain number of rules and workflow can be divided into a specific set of task, looking at the new UI I don't think it always follows these rules particularly well. It seems to jump all over the place and can confuse the user. Certain elements are not consistent and this is annoying. In this current world economic slowdown, firms are looking at the bottom line, they can't afford to be unproductive. Previous releases of Revit allowed users to continue to work with the Revit that they know and loved, yet get to grips with the new tools when they have time, therefore no lose in productivity. This release will immediately affect firms if they deploy it, because the user experience is unfamiliar. As users get to grips, I guess this will improve, but there is no good explaining this to your CEO as he sees productivity dropping away. The world has changed, firms are watching productivity carefully, so impacts on workflow will not be popular at all. Saying that, this is not a good enough reason not to deploy the product. Take time to evaluate it, plan carefully, even consider running internal seminars to sow the seed of this release. You may actually find that your users are less worried about the UI than you may think. This certainly seems to be the case for the office I am working in.

It would good to get a readers viewpoint. Use the voting poll at the top of this page to let me know what you think. I will then publish the results in a future post.


deesee said...

I think what has happened here is that some VP at Autodesk decided that everything had to look the same for whatever reason (who knows). And so, his or her capable engineers made it happen.

But why not give people a "classic" option?

Why not fix the text tool, enhance the site tools, or the stair tool, or the rendering dialogs, or the weak dimension tool, and on and on?

Why not give us more functionality? Ok, so they added sketchup-like massing. Big deal!

We for one are sticking with 2009 and waiting to see what happens with the 2011 release.

coreed said...

i would like to have the option to turn on/off the Design Bar./ i think Revit without the Design Bar should be a crime punishable by a 50% reduction in subscription cost.

Peter Mc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I am okay with the new UI...I haven't actually messed with it, but if it's anything like ACAD or office, I think it's good.

For those of us using hotkeys for a lot of things, it won't make near as much of a difference.

Pejotu said...

I think Phil has a lot of valid comments - my experience of Autocad 's ribbon is about the same.

In general I welcome the possibility to customize the interface - however, it has occurred to me, that maybe the workflow in CAD-programs is different from the Office applications? [ie. "Move", which is hardly specific to any task...]

Also, the visual style for Autodesk's ribbon is quite confusing, as Phil points out.
And it's not only the metaphors of the images, but simple graphic effects, like giving 2D-commands, for example "circle", an icon that has a fill with a slight gradient in it - "cool-looking" maybe, but it confuses the command with something that might create an object that can cast shadows, a 3D-surface.

Peter Mc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NY said...

Phil's reasoning does appear to hold ground. I wouldn't want my tools moving around while working. The original Revit UI appears to be well thought out, it probably can be made to look better without changing much of the organization.

Unknown said...

check these videos

Unknown said...

Once again Autodesk has found a way to destroy a perfectly working program in the name of money. Does anyone in the Autodesk high ups even use Revit? After seeing revit 2010 I would say not.