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> Music production software is home to some of the most complex and inventive UIs out there

Complex and inventive, yes. I would also add that most of the time (for me at least) it goes too far. For example, there are a fair number of synth UIs modeled after (or inspired by) real analog synths, and for people who are familiar with the real-world counterparts, I suppose that makes the software more approachable. For someone unfamiliar with that hardware, however, the UIs just feel like over-the-top skeuomorphic eye candy with little functional advantage in pixel form.

Then there's an infinite array of virtual instruments, synths, effects, etc. that don't have any real-world counterpart, and they're styled to look like super-advanced alien sci-fi machines... I mean, the UIs certainly look cool (at least in the context of visual art), but they're a frustratingly convoluted mess to actually work with using a mouse and keyboard[1].

I've never quite understood why pro audio software is so strongly coupled with that design aesthetic. If it's truly driven by functional necessity, I guess I wasn't born with the necessary set of alien tentacles to take advantage of it.

[1] As I understand, certain controls in these UIs are often linked to knobs, sliders, and buttons on real audio gear, but that still doesn't answer the question. The on-screen representation undoubtedly looks nothing like the real gear, and the heavily-stylized form doesn't exactly seem to serve a purpose beyond what could be achieved with a more conservative aesthetic.

There's a few different levels to those forms of UI design.

On one end is the skeumorphic approach with interfaces that directly resemble audio hardware. At the other end is total flexibility only achieved using path markers / bands. Product designers often choose one of these extremes to maximize approachability or flexibility.

Problem with the skeumorphic design is that it's only approachable by people who are already familiar with the hardware, as dperfect already said. I share their frustration with such interfaces.

Also, non-skeumorphic doesn't have to maximize flexibility. It could just as well be designed for ease-of-use.

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