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Video: why Blender’s interface is ‘broken’

Friday, September 27th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

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Blender Guru’s Andrew Price has recorded a video saying what, for many Blender users, will be the unsayable – and what, for many non-Blender-users, will be obvious – that the software isn’t always user-friendly.

“In the past, I dismissed the critics of Blender’s user interface as just ignorant,” says Price. “But recently, I’ve found myself becoming more and more confused and lost in Blender, unsure of what half the buttons do.”

Constructive criticism, thoroughly researched
Prompted by the realisation – and by feedback from former subscribers to his mailing list who have switched to other 3D software – Price produced 30-minute video explaining how Blender’s UI and workflow could be improved.

Throughout, he emphasises that he intends his comments as constructive criticism, and that it is as much the responsibility of the user to report workflow issues as it is of the developers to resolve them.

Rather than a torrent of abuse, the feedback on Blender community sites has been largely positive: a testament to how thoroughly researched the video is, and how persuasively Price makes his points.

Have your say
You can read a full transcript of the video on the Blender Guru site via the link below, along with a user survey addressing questions raised in the video.

Even if you don’t use Blender, it’s well worth skimming through: there are a lot of interesting points about usability and user interface design that apply equally to any 3D application.

Read a transcript of the video and fill in the user survey on Blender Guru

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  • Reynante M. Martinez

    Thanks for sharing, CG Channel and Jim Thacker.

    This will, hopefully, be another milestone in the Blenderverse, so to speak, and we’re (the whole community and enthusiasts) are keeping our fingers crossed.

    -Reyn

  • Weezer

    If Blender’s UI wasn’t such a clusterfuck, I’d be using it right now. Fix it and gain a new user!

  • jin choung

    i’ve made multiple attempts to get a handle on blender – usually trying every few years accompanied by video and book purchases to facilitate the attempt. but each time, one issue more than any other repulses me – both practically speaking and emotionally – the LEFT CLICK, RIGHT CLICK INCONSISTENCY ISSUE.

    imo, blender falls flat on its face at the most FUNDAMENTAL level by getting this wrong. i’ve even written to ton regarding this issue but a lot of the blender community simply feels this is not an issue and that being the case, i just can’t be bothered with blender.

    i’m usually very good about interfaces that are merely DIFFERENT. that if they are different yet consistent in their difference… i can adapt and not find fault with something that is merely different. but blender is different AND inconsistent.

    the problem in detail:

    - by default, rt-click is select. in almost everyone’s collective understanding, selecting is an AFFIRMATION.
    - however, there are many operations that are NEGATED by a rt-click!!! you have the SAME BUTTON for AFFIRMATION… **AND** NEGATION?!?!?! just aesthetically, that is just sooooo offensive.
    - as andrew mentions, some windows rt-click is selection… WHY?!?! and while you can use the settings to change the leftclick, rightclick functions, the truly maddening thing is that when you switch that, the windows that had lt-click as select ALSO FLIP and now become rt-click selection!
    - there is absolutely no way using the settings and preferences to make uniform the interface so that lt-click is always select and rt-click is always something else like negate.

    and because they get that so wrong at the very foundation of the app… i just can’t do it… i just can’t be bothered to engage in something that gets something so fundamental wrong and can’t be bothered to fix it.

    how i would have it:

    - left click is selection EVERYWHERE. no exceptions. absolutely none.
    - mm click places 3d cursor.
    - right click ALWAYS brings up the context menu when relevant and can also be used to cancel operations.

    ——————————–

    lesser irritants that i believe they’ve addressed is the splash screen popping off if the mouse is slightly moved… that does not give me the feeling of control… it felt “fiddly” and that i had to be careful about my movements… AS SOON AS I STARTED THE APP!

    - not asking if you’re sure when you hit quit… no excuse. if you can’t undo it easily, you ask for confirmation dammit.

    - asking if you’re sure for all kinds of operations that ARE easily undoable… gah.

    i’ve learned my lesson. i will not even attempt to get back into blender until those fundamental issues are dealt with.

    and i think it’s a huge shame for everyone – developer and potential user base – because blender has lots to offer. but it gets a few, tiny, easily fixed, but absolutely fundamental things wrong that ends up hurting everyone.

  • Dreamlogic

    Good video, this is why I use Maya. I hope this works towards shaping up Blender for real-world production.

  • Guest

    This is where Blender development fails. Years ago I brought up at least 75% of the same issues, that Andrew covered, to the developers. Being that I am only a measly industry experienced TD nobody batted an eye. Mr Price comes out stating nearly the same thing and everyone loses their minds. Yeah what could I possibly know after working on titles like Avengers and Star Wars.

    Lessons learned. Don’t be experienced and try to talk to the Blender devs as they will blow you off. Maybe if I had a website called http://www.cgamateurguru.com people would have listened. Nah I am too busy actually working on teams in feature productions. Shame on me.

  • Angus Davidson

    i think the point he is trying to make Jason, is that they are trying to make a fresh start. Hell even having a Maya or Soft image way of selecting things (as a pop up on first use) would a great. Dont worry people like Autodesk have been ignoring industry vets for ages as well.

  • i3d

    The problem with Blender founders is that they “assume” blender is the only App out there, they forget that artists who are using blender usually come from other application, and even so they are still using other applications, so you can’t enforce them to switch habit just because you believe your better. You are not.

  • Henrik Ryosa

    I concur with all the others posting here. I am a tech oriented person and adjust well to different control schemes. Blender is the only software I can recall which has stymied all my attempts to productively use it. Every time a significant new update has been released I have given it another chance, but I’ve just about had it.

  • Niko Kauppi

    Just my opinions as a user who has already used blender for a while now. I agree that left mouse is universal selection. But in a friendly notion, here’s what I think.

    Left mouse selection option is already implemented. You can change it in the user preferences. Should it be default… Maybe… Here’s a thing why right selection I think is super clever and advanced users will want to keep it that way. Please do watch it if you want to understand why blender has kept it’s decision of RMB selection this long. https://vimeo.com/75992488 Every point he talks about in there makes sense, it’s one reason blender is so fast to model with.

    Middle mouse shouldn’t do 3D cursor as it’s used for navigation and it’s pretty much the most often used thing in 3D app. That I think should stay the same, behind one button and on the mouse. Middle mouse makes the most sense.

    “lesser irritants that i believe they’ve addressed is the splash screen popping off if the mouse is slightly moved…” Doesn’t happen with the version I’m using, pretty much the newest one atm.

    Exit prompt… Is in blender as well… Just have to enable it in user preferences. This should be on by default I’d say.

    Anyway, just my thoughts on this to you. I don’t think it’s so much bad original design as it’s actually made to be fast, I think it’s pretty clever. But I agree that it could be more consistent. I wouldn’t mind if right click selection was global selection in blender altogether. But I guess in menus it wouldn’t make so much sense as we’re already used to that. Thus, mixed controls.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind if they changed buttons for defaults. For as long as I can change it back.

  • Sean Siefken

    @ Weezer, Henrik Ryosa, Guest, i3d, Dreamlogic, jin choung and whoever else;
    If you don’t like blender, don’t use it!! If you dislike it so much that you use maya, then don’t bother reading blender related topics! All of you have a reason for using what you use, and for believing in your chosen god(s). Blender obviously has features you want for the right price, or you wouldn’t keep looking at it.
    Andrew has a grand vision of making blender PERFECT, so that any individual can pick it up and get great results. Poser and DAZ studio had the same idea, compare their galleries to blender artist’s gallery. People who can get used to blender make art with it, people who can’t get used to it go off and make art with something else. They are all tools, so why the fuss over which one person A thinks person B should be using?
    I agree that blender has many, many problems. Andrew is facing the right general direction, but I think he is going too far by trying to make a trade, requiring study of ‘jargon’ and techniques, accessible to every single person who has a fleeting inclination to do CGI. For those who skipped bits, he suggests that blender should not use the words translate for moving objects, and normal for the direction a polygon faces. Let’s also stop calling the dash at the top of the window minimize, because ‘make this window go down but not go completely away’ is easier to understand.

  • Sean Siefken

    As I pointed out on His site, He wants blender to be easy for everyone. If you had no idea about CG and opened the software only to be asked ‘There are two hotly debated methods of working, LMB select and RMB select. Which one would you like to choose?’
    This is an uninformed choice. He suggests that it should be intuitive (LMB), while RMB is quite useful in aspects that he himself NEVER USES.

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