Welcome to the eighth instalment of Meet Your Maker with Tim Harbour, Calrec’s UI/UX Designer. So, what is GUI design, and why should we care?
1. What is GUI design, and how do you approach it?
The starting point for everything we design is to focus on our customers’ needs: how they use our products and what they need to do with them. Our products should help them do a better job.
Context is important, so when someone is setting up a show or configuring a system, we focus on what they need at that point. When someone is in the middle of mixing a sports event or a news broadcast, we think about what they need at that moment, so the things they need are close to hand and easy to access at the right time.
We try to balance the needs of our different users, their different business needs and varying requirements at different times.
There are also ergonomic factors like the sizes of buttons, visibility of text, and ensuring there’s consistency with the design of our physical products and with the DNA of our older products.
Our aim is to make everything as simple, clear and easy to use as we can, without losing any of the flexibility and power that Calrec products are known for.
2. We read a lot about the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX). Which one is more relevant to Calrec, or is it not that simple?
It’s not that simple. UI and UX are really closely related.
User interface (UI) design tends to be about the things we display on screen, and the finer detail of what those things look like and how they behave. Keeping everything intuitive and consistent across all Calrec products is important, but the UI design is just one part of the overall user experience (UX).
UX design encompasses much more. It’s about listening to the people who use our products and finding elegant solutions to address their needs and producing products that live up to our values.
It’s said that when design is really good, you hardly notice it at all. A good UX helps people do what they need to do. A great UX vanishes while doing it.
So it’s both – you can’t have a great UX without a great UI. They are both critical to provide our customers with the best possible experience when they use a Calrec product.
3. How does colour affect the user experience? Do you account for colour-blind or otherwise visually impaired people?
We use colour very intentionally at Calrec. We use colour to reflect different areas of functionality and that helps people quickly identify where they are and what different parts of the UI do.
This can create a challenge for some people because it can be difficult to tell the difference between things. Between five and 10% of people that use Calrec products will have some sort of colour vision deficiency, so one of the ways we continue to improve is by not relying solely on colour to communicate meaning.
A common example is to use red or green to represent on and off. It might seem logical to show off in red, and on in green. One small change, such as displaying a check mark in the “on” state, will help communicate “on” without relying only on colour. This example would be particularly helpful for people with a red/green colour impairment, but it actually helps everyone.
A lot of our work to improve accessibility is like that. Making sure that text is readable and understandable helps everybody that uses our products, not just people with accessibility needs. We are continually improving the accessibility of our UI design, so you’ll be seeing more of these improvements come through.
4. How has the way Calrec users interact with mixing consoles changed? Where do you see this going in the future?
The adoption of AoIP has prompted many changes, but it has made the patching and configuration side of things a lot more flexible, more powerful, and much more complex. In the past, we would have a finite and carefully managed number of connections. The advent of IP has created effectively infinite and infinitely flexible connectivity, so our customers now have a whole new set of needs that come along with that.
Finding things easily becomes much more important. Making sense of large and complicated networks and managing that complexity becomes much more important, and all the while we need to maintain the key things that make Calrec products easy to use in operation.
We’re working hard to bring that trademark Calrec sense and ease-of-use to increasingly complex and powerful environments.