Funding Improvements in Blender

Hey there! Before you continue reading or vote on the poll, if you haven’t seen Andrew’s UI video watch it first:

Here’s a snapshot created by Andrew Price of what the new UI would look like:

Ok, now that you’ve (hopefully) seen the video, who would be interested in funding those changes?
If you aren’t interested, please just say so and don’t be rude.
Keep an open mind, and like Andrew said, try to put the personal emotions of “No! I don’t want Blender to change!” aside and think of Blender’s future.

There is also a survey made by Andrew, here:

To see the full post go to

Since there is no place to leave comments about the funding, I thought I’d make this thread.

So I just wanted to reach out to this community to spread the suggestions, and find out who would be interested in supporting its development. So please say if you would support it financially and how much you would be willing to give!
Note that this is in no way connected to the actual development of the UI. It’s simply a thread for Blender Artist users to state where they stand as far as the funds go, and why.

Please be respectful towards each others comments.

I feel that if you include a smaller option of five dollars would be very beneficial.

$650 pledged so far (assuming highest numbers in the poll). So we got 1,999,350 to go. :stuck_out_tongue: I tease.

But it’s a monumental task no matter what. I hope it happens. The ideas are good. It needs more discussion. I hope Andrew Price gets more feedback at the conference.

How about you start supporting Blender RIGHT NOW?

TL;DR - Andrew Price’s proposal is too expensive a proposition for vanilla Blender, and the proposal’s nowhere near complete enough to take seriously. Maybe it’s time for a funded enhanced-UI version of our favourite software… ?

As a working software developer who read “Don’t Make Me Think” years before Andrew Price did as part of my job, let’s have a sober assessment of this UI proposal.

There’s a lot of good ideas in here. This is a much kinder program to use than the Blender we currently have. The tabs could work, I’d rather have the notifications panel than the damn outliner, and I could probably live without RMB select as long as I can keep MMB for camera view because it rocks. (In fact, I could probably do without single-click 3D cursor placement entirely.) There’s a fair bit of stuff in here that would be relatively trivial to implement.

But overall what’s being proposed is frankly a way more expensive program to develop and maintain. We are never going to see this in a hundred years from the Blender Foundation with its current level of development resources. Something this richly helpful is going to be difficult to keep giving people free of charge.

Listening to Andrew’s general attitude during his last BlenderGuru podcast, he’s pretty much ignorant about the process of software development, even after Campbell sets him straight - in Andrew’s world, giving money to developers means they automatically know everything they need to know and can go from zero to competent. Newsflash: software developers are not magical knowledge unicorns and money doesn’t solve everything. It’s OK to not know this stuff, but to not listen when a software dev tells it to you is the kind of behaviour I’d expect from upper management in a large corporation. Even just estimating the amount of time it would take to do this properly would be weeks if not months of work for a highly experienced developer.

There’s also the notion of growing Blender as a business. Engineering Blender to be this user-friendly will not come cheaply or quickly, even before a single line of code is written, and once that standard of user-friendliness has been set it takes maintaining otherwise the product loses user esteem. It’s an utterly astronomical decision, a very real course change, and not one that should be insisted on through popular revolution.

Developing UI/UX polished to this level is plain impractical given the Blender Foundation’s limited resources - adding workflows, features where the software can figure out from context what you’re likely to want… gah. Blender at the moment is a lot like the C programming language it’s implemented in - it puts absolute trust in the user to know exactly what they want to do, because that’s the cheapest kind of system to implement. Added UX intelligence like predicting what function you want before you’ve even done it adds development and maintenance overheads, so the overall development and maintenance requirements go up and features take longer to roll out.

Blender is an introverted creature that warms up to you over time to reveal its richness. If you want something that holds your hand, even just a little bit, a lot more design and forethought has to go into it because there’s supporting systems that have to be coded to do conditional menu registration and who knows what else. Paradigm shifts cost time and money, and we’re definitely talking about a paradigm shift - he even says as much: the UI he’s proposing is task-oriented. To design that, you need to know the task. Newsflash 2: The task is not the tool. The task is no longer “Cycles Material Editor”, it’s “1000 Things you can do with Cycles Material Editor”. Someone has to figure out what each of those tasks are and build a friendly workflow - after a workflow editor is designed and built. Development and maintenance requirements thus shoot up like Diet Coke and Mentos and features take longer to roll out.

Assisted workflow is actually worse in some cases. That context-sensitive right-click menu he mentions? What if you want to bridge two loops but one loop hasn’t got the same number of verts as the other? If you try a bridge under the current system, it knocks you back. What’s a general solution to the situation where the user wants to do something but hasn’t created the right conditions to do so? Current Blender solution: trust the user and tell them “You can’t do X because you didn’t do Y”. Future Blender solution? … again, development and maintenance requirements go up and features take longer to roll out.

And graphically? Words and textual descriptions are cheap. The right icon is not cheap in any sense of the word - you need a designer, you have to wait for the designer to make the icon because good icons take thinking about, and you have to pay the designer when he’s done. Development and maintenance requirements go up and features take longer to roll out.

In the grand scheme of things, representative of the amount of work needed to actually bring Blender over to a UI like this, the proposal is woefully incomplete. A lot of sweat has gone into this, no doubt, but what he’s bringing to the table is a set of broad principles with a few cherry-picked examples of how things could be nicer. Is there a design document that covers a blow-by-blow refresh of the entire UI, complete with workflows for every single function Blender currently provides? Not that I can see. Low-hanging fruit has its name for a reason and this proposal’s full of it. Right now what I’m seeing from Andrew is “I want someone else to deal with the rest of the iceberg while I take all the credit for identifying it has a tip.”

He’s not dealing with the iceberg himself. This is open source we’re talking about here. It is dealing-with friendly, but if you want something and you can’t make it or get it made, take a seat and help yourself to a cup of shoosh. Ideas are cheap and anyone can read a book on UI or UX or IA.

The day we have a multi-hundred-page high-level design document that someone can hand off to an experienced UI-centric developer which covers every possible workflow of every possible tool of Blender, with scalable guiding principles to move forward with and system designs underneath the hood of how this can all be implemented, then I’ll consider this a thing. Until then, a lot of sweet smelling smoke is being blown up a lot of rear-facing orifices by people who demonstrably don’t know enough about the particulars of the smoke they’re blowing.

I’m not even going to mention except in passing the cultural impact of flooding the Blender Community with noobs because suddenly the software is way easier to use. There’s a rule that says if a group of people grows by more than 15% in a given period of time, there’s a cultural shift because there’s not enough oldschoolers to bring the newbies into line.

But as the taco commercial goes, porque no las dos? - why not both? Here’s an idea:

Blender Foundation continues to develop Blender as quick as they can adding new features, working on the underlying engines and doing enough UI to make the tools useful if not super user friendly. This is your cutting-edge version with fancy new features, RMB select, whatever. Basically the bare-bones “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it” version. This version is and will always be free and donation-supported.

Alongside standard issue Blender, someone like BlenderGuru or (frankly much more likely) CG Cookie maintain their own distribution of Blender with UI and workflow enhancements over the top using their own team of coders. The machinery underneath the enhancements is the same as standard-issue Blender, but it’s tailored to people who want that task-oriented interface and don’t want or need the extra control. BG/CGC can charge for EasyBlender/GuruBlender/CookieBlender binaries to sustain code upkeep, and donate part of that charge to BF. In a nutshell: if users want the added benefit of super-enhanced user-friendliness they can pay a premium for it, because not everyone wants it and frankly what’s being proposed is a premium-level feature set in terms of development and maintenance.

Brass tacks time: good experienced developers command anywhere from $50,000/yr to $1000/day. UI/UX consultants are probably going to be double that amount. Campbell estimates it’d take a developer at least 3 years to get familiar enough with Blender’s codebase to be able to work across it.

Anyone got half a million bucks spare? Any takers? No?

Andrew’s UI proposal is brilliant

How expensive can be ?

Better UI = more users
more users = more funding

See above:

Admittedly those are just rough back-of-envelope calculations but a figure somewhere around half a million US dollars over three years is a fair ballpark - as a start-up cost, mind you. I wouldn’t even expect any substantial UI overhaul done in that period of time. If you cut costs, keep the developer on and you only get the UX guy back every so often for consulting… well… the UX guy will probably want a retainer or something. :slight_smile:

By contrast, currently the BF brings in US$67,750 a year in subscriptions. Woohoo!

Look at the thousands of guys commenting Andrew’s proposal video on youtube. Look at the number of people being subscribed to the Blender Development Fund.

More users doesn’t automatically mean more funding.
BETTER users means more funding. People who contribute, do bugreports, take the time to do feature testing in Blender, etc.

Interested in Blender’s UI improvement? You like some of the ideas from Andrew’s proposal, but it redesigns the whole thing, and you think it’s unrealistic? You would prefer smaller changes that just improve on the current interface, cleaning up some of the functionality, while make it look more modern?

Then this proposal is for you:

More users doesn’t automatically mean more funding.
BETTER users means more funding. People who contribute, do bugreports, take the time to do feature testing in Blender, etc.

Isn’t it true that more users (almost automatically) means MORE BETTER users in the future? Not from one day to the next, but in the future.

20 € / hour, 8 hours a day, 20 days a month, a dozen developers for two years = 730 days (if that is even enough) and 1 million euros. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating much here, just a chronological redo system - and closely related: a macro recorder - is enough for 1 year and dev (see here).

Better UI = more users --> mostly newbie users!

more users = more funding --> I doubt it, especially if most new users are newbies and give up soon even if there’s a simpler interface. I mean, there are trial versions of max etc., and how many newbies actually use the full 30 days period? I bet most of them give up on day 3, 'cause an interface can’t get you the most important thing: talent.

No, not automatically.
We get better users improving the current userbase. Make it more clear how development happens. Make it more obvious and easy for people to contribute to the codebase by doing proper bug reports and testing. Find studios and artists who already use blender for production, help them to improve their workflows and get feedback and bug reports in return. Educate users what’s possible and what not. Show them why some things in Blender work in a certain way and why that makes sense, even if it’s not obvious at first.
Just narrowing the gap between the users and the developers. Which is already quite good compared to any other commercial app.

Rather have a smaller but solid and enthusiast group of people than catering to the masses.

There’s a lot of room for improvements.

That could be the best thing I’ve read during this whole Llama fair, and it doesn’t directly relate to the UI at all.

20 € / hr is rather low for a project of this scale requiring good skills. And on top of that you’ll have taxes and social security to think of.

50 € / hr or preferrably 70 € / hr and up are much more reliable cost indicators.


To run with this: commercial companies spend an absolute truckload on Quality Assurance to make sure their products work as expected. There’s a reason big complicated software has a big enormous price tag - it’s not just making sure the executive suite’s hot tub is kept full of champagne and giving the software a heightened sense of value. Production overheads increase exponentially with the complexity of the product. You’ve got feature scoping, R&D, architectural design, interface design, implementation, testing… it’s damn expensive. Go look at Autodesk’s books one day.

In fact, I’ll go do it right now. I work at a corporation, I know what EBIDTA and ARPU stand for…

(Cripes, fully half of this 2013 annual report is justifying the amount of money their execs earn…)

OK. Autodesk’s net revenue for 2013 appears to have been US$2.3 billion. Net income was US$247.7 million. Everything else goes into operating expenses and “cost of revenue”, whatever that is. Doesn’t say how much they spend on QA. Probably not a trivial amount. But the point is they’re only getting 10% of their revenue as profit. That’s not a big margin. And that’s a backslide on last year.

Point is, software development on Autodesk-level scale is expensive.

Blender on the other hand has a bug tracker and gets its revenue from both subscriptions and one-off projects through the Institute. It relies on its community for QA. That takes commitment. For this reason, Blender’s never going to be Maya or 3DS Max, because it asks different things of its userbase than just money. Blender needs the participation of its userbase for the sort of stuff that proprietary software would ordinarily cover as part of its asking price - even development. That’s how open source rolls.

I agree with Sebastian that increased engagement from the userbase is a better strategy for Blender in the long term, rather than more bums on seats who just want everything given to them.

Aye at “Better bugreporting” and Plyzowski’s google-doc and double aye at what Quollism said.

There’s a small issue with that feature requests or improved behaviour tend to fall wayside because the bug-tracker doesn’t allow feature requests(and rightly so). But other than that it bothers me how little the bugtracker is referenced on the forum, to me it shows people don’t report bugs enough or are willing to investigate bugs for the bugtracker AT the bugtracker.

Amongst other things I actually wish the wiki had a UI redesign. It’s very confusing to use and weird things like dissapearing menu items and constantly collapsing trees happen. Perhaps it would be better if it was ported over to a more generic wiki type like Mediawiki(though not neccesarily mediawiki in of itself, other suggestions are good too, and I’ve heard that Mediawiki is a little weak on the maintainer end) On top of that it’s perhaps a good idea for people to sorta ‘join in’ on the module teams by picking a subject of Blender they are good at and improving the wiki pages for it. I heard you can get a wiki-account if you can be bothered to go to the wiki irc. More written-tutorials(as opossed to video-tuts are good too.

What Quollism said is very important in general, and I share the sentiment of the people who feel Andrew’s proposal is underwhelming. Design documents and technical writing in general is hard, which is why people are paid for it properly. Unless you’re willing to go out and organise the writing of a proper well-argumented document, you’re not actually contributing anything.

This also counts for feature requests. You may want ptex or cage-baking or whatever, but it would be really cool if you could suggest that, and also come up with an UI to describe the functionality to the end-user.

Tl;dr: Be a good member of the Blender community and write more technical stuff so others may learn.

If something was proposed, and it meant asking Blender users to donate money to help fund it, I would 100% be up for donating some money as a 1 time thing. I can’t afford to donate monthly to Blender, otherwise I would, but a one time event would get a good response from the Blender community I think.

Absolutely, even 100€/hr for an experienced coder is not uncommon. That’s > 3 million for my above rough estimate, compare that to the current blender dev fund incomes…

Quollism - Some good points - some suggestion are currently not feasible. I shuddered when I saw the suggestion linking the help to a wiki page as the current wiki needs a lot of love just to bring it up to v2.6 let alone keeping the in-program help and external wiki in sync.

However, it’s a bit harsh to expect a comprehensive requirements doc in three weeks. Perhaps UI proposal is the wrong term, at this stage it’s really just a concept doc.

As as you say there are good points in the concept and although the surveys may be a tad dodgy, they still provide some meaningful direction. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

What I think we need is a UI roadmap, which outlines the steps towards a better interface. Let’s start with the simple stuff (things like input consistency, clearer operator naming, improved tool tips (as you say words are cheap), a first-time user tutorial from the splash screen) which will hopefully reduce user dropout. A stronger user base will then generate more revenue for Blender Foundation (more products sold/donations) which in turn can fund the next round of improvements, which will retain existing users and bring new users in and so on.

I would love to see Blender hit the tipping point which leads to a virtuous circle of improvement and investment because…

Learning 3D is really really hard, as to me it has no equivalent real word paradigm - you learn to write before using a word processor; draw before using photoshop/GIMP, use a VCR, MP3 player or cassette player (showing my age now) before using audio editing software. No one I know thinks: I’ll rotate the fridge door 90 degrees around the Z-axis then constrain the milk carton object to my hand bone. At least not before learning a 3D package.

As to the do more users = more revenue? BF revenue (products sold + donations) v number of downloads each year might gives us some indication if there is any correlation… I would think there is both have been increasing year on year haven’t they?

So let’s focus on what we can change to make the UI better within the resources we have today so we can get more people starting and staying with Blender to get that positive feedback loop going.

Just so people know… Andrew’s proposal is nothing original unfortunately. Its a merge of 3dsmax “graphite tools” and photoshop panels.

If people would make their research you can see that graphite tools are only restricted to modeling and all the other clustered sub menus and modifier settings are the same old max interface… So it is not that flexible as a design.What happens when you need to add 5 new buttons on the top row ? are you going to start going down into the workspace…

And simplifying things is not a solution for usability. You can simplify problems by splitting it in to parts and solving them.Not by taking out variables and unknowns…

want a simplified program check out “PF Hoe” which is a simplified / dumbed down version of PF Track.What happened to it? it has been discontinued.

By the way the thread is misleading i voted without realizing it was for the UI proposal… When you say “improvements in Blender” be specific please and called it “UI improvements for Andrew Price’s Proposal” :no: