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I am not a UI/UX designer but a 3d Artist/Technical Artist. I would like to ask about some input on one of my creations: a tool for working with UV's in Autodesk Maya.

My general problem is that I have a somewhat clutted "cockpit"-like UI due to a lot of functionality in said creation. I have a lot of icons that are heavily used, but at the same time I want to hide them or restructure my design. How should I approach this kind of problem?

My second problem - which is directly linked to this main problem - is that many users fail to notice useful functions. I don't know how many times I've pointed my finger and said: "Here, this button does exactly what you are looking for!" followed by an "ahaaa" -reply.

What I've done myself so far is to implement right-click functionality on many buttons, so instead of having one button for flipping UV-shells along X, and one along Y, I have one single button (with right/left click performing either flip X or flip Y). I've also done some extensive organisation, placing icons under multiple frameLayout -categories to the left hand side. Although this has helped some, my problems remain.

How would you approach a situation like this where you need a lot of buttons, but at the same time have to combat the clutter?

Image of my UI: enter image description here

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Distinguish variations of the interface for different kind of users and different purposes of using the sofware. A single user wouldn't likely need all the tools on the UI. at least not at the same time.

-new users, average users and power users will use the interface differently. Power users will be more familiar with keyboard shortcuts for example. new users will need hints and tutorials to get familiar with the interface.

  • Create preloaded workspaces for different kind of users. e.g. photoshop has different workspaces such as essential, photographer, motion, 3D, etc

  • break down the tools according to the workflow of a user.

  • group tools, like you have done but go one step further and make the tools of the group appear only on hover or click. this way you have only one icon for each group and the whole set of tool appear when you need it

  • All good suggestions. Although I am somewhat limited to what I can do (due to the nature of how Maya works, and what UI controls the software offers me as a Tech Artist) I can easily implement different workspaces or UI setups. I have actually been thinking about this for quite some time, downprioritizing it in favor of new features - but I think I need to have at least a basic and a professional mode. – Nightshade Nov 23 '15 at 18:09
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First, ask yourself: "Everything is needed, but.... is it all needed at the same time?". I'm sure you'll easily realize the answer, which is NO.

You're getting a "cockpit" layout because you're aiming for it. Note that this kind of layouts isn't necessarily wrong, there are applications where you REALLY need a lot of elements at the same time on the screen, but yours isn't one of them, thus the trade off to add all these elements is a high cost in visualization and usability.

As for how to deploy all these features will depend on many factors, but you could include right click contextual menus, hot keys, smart contextual menus, accordions, predictive search, user generated views and so on and so on and so on. But the first thing for you is to define which information to show so you can define UX approaches.

One hint: define taxonomies, then categorize, then prioritize.

For example, take a look to your "Align/snap" menu. You don't need all positions for each action. Instead, you need the action and its values (righ, left, top left, whatever). There's a question I have answered regarding this subject of IA for menus, but I can't find it now. However, just know as a rule of thumb, most successful menus use this structure: Object / Concept [ --> additional Objects / Concepts]---> Action ---> Value. For example: Alignment --> Snap --> Top Left

Try to think as an user, ask Maya users for feedback, research, test, research and test again. This is not an easy task, multi million dollar companies spend a lot of money, time and resources to do what you want, so don't get frustrated, it really takes time.

  • Good suggestions. Your comment about the Align/Snap icons got me thinking, and I've decided to go with a kind of UI control available in another 3D software (3ds Max). There, some icons have sub-menues which appear if the user interacts with them differently, allowing the user to change the default functionality and appearence of said icon (for example: switching coordinate system from World to Local). I could just group all the align icons under the same icon and go with the same approach. Grouping icons like that will free up a lot of space I think. – Nightshade Nov 23 '15 at 18:15

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