Introduction/Disclaimer: I have created this new Topic because I am interested in discussing and sharing ideas for the Blender interface for 2.8 and beyond. I would like to briefly disclaim that I recognize and respect the fact that this is a controversial topic and I do not intend to force or demand that my ideas are implemented. Rather, I am looking to provide input for developers and collectively work with others on this forum to address a key section of Blender’s usability. I am not a developer myself but am instead an artist with experience in both Blender and other tools including substance software, Houdini, and some Autodesk software.
My Goal for this Topic: My goal with this topic is to present my opinions on the current User Interface and general features within Blender. I would then like to provide suggestions and ideas on how to improve the UI and general usability throughout all areas of Blender. Furthermore, I would like to get feedback on my suggestions and promote other peoples’ suggestions to collectively address as many portions of the user interface as possible. Lastly, if possible, I would like to finalize and compile a list of key suggestions, ideas, or mockups for improving the User Interface.
My Goal for Blender: I cannot speak for everyone when I describe my vision for the future of Blender but I can explain my own hopes for milestones that Blender may achieve with 2.8 and beyond. My main interest is to improve Blender to excel it into a production ready piece of software. While it is a VERY VERY powerful 3D application and can absolutely hold up to larger software packages (Maya, 3DS Max, to name a few) I believe it still lacks in some key areas that withhold it from directly competing with these big brand tools. My goal is to identify the major areas where blender excels and surpasses other software and the areas that are falling short. While the Blender GUI is well designed and sufficient, large million dollar software packages are generally designed, from the ground up, to provide for user friendly experiences for all end users, regardless of their experience.
Where Blender Excels in usability (In my arrogant opinion): From my perspective (as an artist) I find Blender to be a powerful tool when it comes to production speed and efficiency. Once a user learns and implements hotkeys into their workflow, without a doubt, Blender becomes lightning fast and probably faster than many big budget software. (Maya, Max, etc.) I would also argue that some of Blender’s hotkeys are VERY user friendly especially for beginners. For example, using G, R and S as the Grab, Rotate, and Scale hotkeys is very powerful in my opinion.
Where Blender can Improve: (In my arrogant opinion) While Blender is a powerful tool and does have a strong and powerful interface, there are definitely areas for improvement across all areas of usability. To address the elephant in the room, the overall GUI is not designed for ease of use. There are some key problems that I want to briefly mention:
1. Scrolling through a ton of different settings.
2. Workflow structure (i.e. key settings for specific tasks are not grouped in an efficient or screen space saving manner.)
3. Lack of tabs (Obviously being somewhat addressed in 2.8)
4. Icon based tabs (I get that this is a controversial one but I think new users don’t exactly like the properties panel and the many different icons which they are then forced to remember.)
5. Forced to resize windows.
6. Inefficient use of keyboard shortcuts or mouse functionality. (I’ll address this later)
Mouse Functionality: In my opinion while Blender utilizes the mouse in a very productive way in terms of navigation, I believe there is a problem with the left and right mouse buttons. When a new user enters a program for the first time, their instinct is to LEFT click on different things to understand what that does. When a new user sees the 3D cursor jumping around the screen instead of being able to select an object, they get frustrated. I know this from personal experience and having watched many people I know use blender for the first time. I want to mention that I recently changed my settings to using left click as the select and have found my workflow improve. I also had very little difficult transitioning to left click as select even with having used the right mouse button for years. If we free up the right mouse by making the left mouse the default select and by making the cursor placement Ctrl+left mouse then we have an entire button free for right click menus which I believe would increase workflow productivity an extensive amount.
Hotkeys: I won’t address too many hotkeys but I believe that there are a select few shortcuts that could be altered to provide a more streamline and efficient workflow. For example, instead of using TAB to enter edit mode, I would suggest the number 2 be used for edit mode. 1 could be to access object move, 3 for sculpt mode, 4 for vertex paint, etc. I don’t believe this would conflict with the layer system as it is being redone in 2.8. I believe that this shortcut model would greatly increase Blender’s uniformity when it comes to a new user understanding and getting to know the program.
Conclusion: While I hope to have addressed a controversial but wide range of topics, I cannot cover all areas of Blender usability in one post. For this reason, I would like to ask for suggestions, comments, ideas, mockups, proposals, or why and how much you hate my ideas so that we can collectively compile different ideas for improving this amazing software. I am considering creating a concept for the GUI that I picture and I would love to hear other peoples’ ideas. Again, I realize this is a controversial topic and I don’t intend to force my ideas.
Thank you for your time and have a nice day!