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The Blender Foundation responds to UI criticisms

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

The video posted by Blender Guru’s Andrew Price last week proposing changes to the software’s ‘broken’ UI.
Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal has just posted his response on the Blender development blog.

Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal has put up a detailed post on the Blender development blog, responding to recent criticisms of Blender’s UI and the community’s suggestions for future changes.

In the post, titled (Re)defining Blender, Roosendaal comments on the discussion sparked by the videos posted by Blender Guru’s Andrew Price over the past month calling for changes to the user interface.

Not as easy as it looks
After setting out the Foundation’s general development priorities, Roosendaal goes on to discuss the work involved in redesigning the UI of a 3D software package, commenting that:

“A lot of (really great) UI design proposals that went on the past week give quite a false impression that it’s … feasible to just replace the UI, or that its possible to pay for it.”

“The misconception here is that the ‘UI’ is some kind of separated entity of a program, which can just be peeled off and replaced with another interface. However, a really good UI (and certainly Blender’s) is not just an abstract independent layer, it’s the reflection (and sometimes even the core) of the program’s design.”

Other development priorities
Roosendaal points out that Blender development is an open-source project, and that available resources are split between developing new technologies, “even when it’s with a clunky UI at first”, and on fixing bugs:

“Blender is in many ways crippled, unfinished, or half working only. That aspect you can detect in the UI easily, but if you seek a bit further it’s in nearly every part of Blender.”

“It would be helpful if people who criticise Blender (or want to contribute) [recognise this workload].”

“The Blender team – over 100 people who work regularly on the code – really isn’t dying for ideas or suggestions, nor do they spend time twiddling thumbs waiting for a brilliant request to be passed on.”

But still a need for future UI development
However, Roosendaal acknowledges the need for UI work – “I also recognise that the energetic and passionate UI discussions were coming from a lack of active development in that area” – and comments:

“I hope we can work out a proposal for a UI team at or shortly after the Blender Conference. Such a team is not going to define ‘the future of the UI’, but simply will … feed back on work that’s actually being done.”

So not a radical change in the development schedule – but not quite business as usual, either.

Given the progress that Blender’s development groups have made on other aspects of the software – notably, the new Cycles renderer and motion-tracking tools – it will be interesting to see what comes of the UI team.

Read Ton Roosendaal’s post on the Blender development blog
(Much more detailed than this brief summary, and worth reading in full)

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