My findings on the worst UX/workflow offenders during Genuary

So in our introductory talk at the January VVVV meeting I showed some of Houdinis node workflows already, since I think this is where VVVV could do a LOT to improve the user experience.
While yes, you can get used to almost everything, even after all of Genuary I still find things brutally clicky and frustrating compared to almost every other node based software I ever used.

So in this thread, I want to collect the main offenders, as a place for discussion and to have it more centrally placed than in some video somewhere.
If I missed things that are already there, I’m all ears - Genuary was rather overwhelming and left little time for in depth searching for stuff ;-)


Number one for me is clicking on pins.
I am a Wacom pen user and I need 2-5 tries on average to click on a pin and get the link.
Every Single Time.
I don’t even have a mouse connected and my carpal tunnel doesn’t like mice at all.
But even with a mouse, I find clicking those supertiny pins massively painful.
And: I never had this issue ever in Houdini.

I found several settings in preferences, Drag start area and two Link-snap-areas, but making them larger did not change this one bit.
It also doesn’t help much to zoom in on the patch.

So I guess it is a mixture of a supertiny clickable area, no clear visual feedback (the pin lights up but I still can’t grab the link) and VVVV being super sensitive to the most tiny move while clicking - which with a pen is 100% unavoidable.
I’m happy to discuss this further, but this alone makes it a major pain to work, especially if you are bit more tired than usual… ;-)


Ok, the next thing which is already mentioned in another thread is the direct dragging of links out of pins.
This reduces clicks by 50% already.
Instead of
click-release-drag-click-release
you have
click-drag-release
And it’s not either-or, but Houdini does it both - click and drag for direct linking or click-release and move for connecting things further away, where you may need to move the canvas.
So win-win for everybody.


Number three on my list would be re-connecting existing links to different pins.
This is super frustrating especially if you have longer connections, but even nearby it adds to a lot of clicks, having to disconnect from one pin and re-connect to another is 3 clicks, for a long connection it adds up to a ton of moving and clicking.

Houdini does it like this:

Houdini_ReconnectLink

You simply drag the link and move it over a pin to connect it there.
VVVV creates an inbetween point when you do that, but maybe it would be possible to catch it being moved over a pin?
That one would make patching a LOT less painful!


Next up is removing a node while keeping the connection intact.
Houdini does that by default, if you delete a node, the connection stays.
If you want to keep the node, you can “shake it out of the connection” (remember “Shake”? ;-) ):

Houdini_ShakeOutNode

And you can move a node onto a link to insert it.

Again, this adds up to a ton of clicks in V4.
Removing is two clicks to create a new connection, inserting an existing node is four clicks, since you have to create two new connections.
And yes, the doubleclick on an existing link is very helpful, but if you want to connect an existing node you are out of luck AFAIK.


When I copy and paste a node in VVVV, AFAIK it always loses it’s connections.
In Houdini, it doesn’t and I don’t need STRG-C STRG-V + 2 clicks to create a link but can just drag a copy by holding ALT during drag:

HoudiniCopyWithLink

This isn’t on top of the list, but one more of those things that add up.


Another one that isn’t essential, but really helpful when things get “dense”: Wirecut.
Holding “Y”, the cursor becomes a scissors that can very precisely cut links (wires in Houdini):

HoudiniWireCut

You can do that with a rectangle selection in VVVV, but this again is way more direct and - let’s face it - more fun :-)


Okay, that’s it mostly for links, now I come to something that I felt like doing a million times during the month: Changing the accuracy of value input pads:

V4PrecissionSettings

  • This should probably become a global setting. Especially with Skia and it’s 0-1 ranges, one very often needs tiny values, like the blur often needs something like 0.005 or less when one is after subtle things.
  • The keyboard shortcuts only help marginally in these cases.
  • This is a TON of clicking ;-)

This is how it’s handled in Houdini with the “Value Ladder”:

HoudiniValueLadder

  • With a middle mouse click to open the ladder, you can directly access the precision/digit you need.
  • All meaningful digits are shown automagically.
  • No shortcuts needed at all.
  • It may look strange at first, but it becomes second nature very fast and you just don’t have to bother with any digit settings ever.

Thomas Mann from Tooll3 implemented something similar at first (he also knows Houdini) but in the meantime took it a step further into the “realtime” realm, where you can fluidly select your precision without the “ladder” steps and your scale is constantly shown very intuitively:

Tooll3ValueSlider

This is also imgui & C# & OpenSource BTW.
He said that it is very easy to create custom widgets, as gnarly as imgui can be sometimes in other aspects.

But I would be fine with even just a global default precision setting ;-)


Finally three much simpler ones, but that still baffled me constantly:

Why don’t we have a keyboard shortcut for the node browser?
It is so much faster to hit the keys directly, that you need for searching anyway, without first having to grab for the mouse, or even worse, the Wacom pen, since that has to be literally put down and picked up.
I think a lot of new users would instantly feel more welcome and at home if it would be TAB, since Houdini, TouchDesigner, Tooll3 and Cables all use it.
The current use of TAB is rather specialised for advanced use, so I personally would give a kind of silent industry default the preference here, to help keeping at least some muscle memory usable from other tools.


Regions - why aren’t they fixed by default?
We were often starting with example scenes at first and many of those had nicely laid out regions. But when working, we constantly were annoyed by them, since they get accidentally selected all the time and we ended up
a.) not using them ourselves at all and
b.) deleting them right away to get rid of the hassle.
I found not a single good reason for them not being fixed to the background, so I really wonder - is there some magic button somewhere or how do I use them without them being in the way more than helpful?

I think I would make them fixed/non-selectable by default and only have them accessible with a specific shortcut?
Or a bit like with wires, if nodes or wires are selected, regions are not?


And finally: The window size.
Now I’m not sure I have a single serious software that does not save window size and position.
Or at least has some kind of sensible default.
VVVV has neither.
So each and every time I start up VVVV I have to adjust the window size.
Why?
What I would expect is the last state being saved for the main window and the inspector, so that I can continue where I left?


So that’s it for today, I know it’s too long and too much, but this is what I have collected during Genuary and where I see a major potential especially in attracting new users, but also relieve a lot of pain from existing ones.
Even the tiny things add up to something where you get mad fast, especially at 4 o’clock at night… ;-)

And: I only write these things because overall I think VVVV is unbelievably good and powerful.
You really have a gem there at the core, but without some polish it may be thrown to the wayside by many.

Thanks for reading! :-)

Cheers,

Tom

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Yeah I’ve complained about this too. I think the problem is that when using a pen you inevitably move the cursor a bit as you go to click, and this seems to mean that wasn’t a click to gamma, changing the hit area didnt help much, I’ve now moved back to a vertical mouse which is pretty good, but I’d prefer a pen too.

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Ha, yeah, I guessed I’m not alone in this! :-)
I use a Wacom tablet since Windows 3.11 for workgroups. UD1212 or something, with a serial port, huge and thick and called a digitizer back then. :-)

So yeah, in the context of graphics studios where many people work in photo editing, painting or sculpting, I think it would be well received if this could be improved.
I just love using the pen in Houdini, but also used it in XSI and many other tools over the year.

It also has to do with the fact that I somehow hate to click with a mouse wheel…
Which the pen thankfully doesn’t have ;-)

Cheers,

Tom

Try the latest preview!
Not only does my Wacom work perfectly for the first time ever in VVVV, you now also can drag out links directly in one move and connect to a pin without having to release the mouse first!

Cheers,

Tom