How we made the uMake interface even better!
When we initially began developing uMake, one of our goals was to make the interface as clean, as approachable, and as intuitive and fun to use as possible. We knew we had limited real estate, and we didn’t want to have tons of icons covering it up, taking up space, the way many computer applications do. We also wanted to get away from the typical feel of many CAD programs— the app needed to look approachable, the way a white board or sticky note does. These were our initial thoughts on the interface and so we set out to work. In order to achieve these goals, with the first version of uMake, we decided to create a top menu that was always visible where most of the tools in uMake would live. This menu would change dynamically based on what was selected, and in order to save space, we used fun icons that would denote each tool. In addition to this, as we started developing more and more features, we added a side menu that would appear when you touched the screen with two fingers The interface worked great when we launched however as we received more and more user feedback and feature requests, we knew an update to the interface would make the uMake experience even better. So a few months ago we compiled a list of user feedback, as well as ideas the uMake team had that would make using uMake even more fun, intuitive, and rapid, and we set out to see how we could make every aspect of the interface better.
The Orbit Button
We first started with the Orbit Button. We received several requests to be able to have more freedom in placing the orbit button— one of those being that it would be extremely nice to be able to place the Orbit button in the upper corners of the screen, so that users who were sitting (especially those using a 12.9” iPad Pro) could have a more ergonomic solution while using the app. As our users almost always have a finger near the orbit button, it made sense for us to move the ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ buttons from the top of the screen to the orbit button. This, we figured, would help speed up the design process as users wouldn’t have to cross the screen to use this simple action.
Next we wanted to make using many of the tools easier. To do this, we decided to move most of the tools that were previously found in the top menu to a new side menu that would appear when needed, and be out of the way when not needed. This new side menu is located on the same side as the orbit button. By moving tools to the side, we were able to shorten the distance traveled to activate each function - the hand hovering over the orbit button would barely have to move to activate these tools. In addition to this, with the tools on the side, we were able to label each function, making using uMake for beginners or occasional users even more intuitive.
For tools that are not dynamic, such as reference images, layers, snapping and symmetry tools, help and export functions, we created a whole new side panel that can be shown or hidden at the users will. The new side panel is located on the opposite side of the orbit button, but makes working with features such as layers and snapping a breeze. Snapping for example can be left open and toggled on or off at any moment while sketching and editing. Users can work with layers much more efficiently, and now see larger previews of reference images. In addition tutorials, help, and feedback are all consolidated making it easier than ever to learn uMake.
One of the other highly requested features that we were able to bring to the latest version of uMake is quick tools. Quick tools which are located on the bottom of the interface let users quickly connect and trim curves (these tools can be found next to the orbit button). Opposite the orbit button is a quick tool panel that can be used to quickly turn on or off snap settings, ortho mode, and symmetry. This is especially useful for when the side panel is closed. As we neared completion of our redesign, we reached out to some of our most active users and asked them if they would like to try the beta of version 1.1. Their feedback and support helped us tremendously in refining some of the new features and how things worked, in addition to catching bugs and helping us squash them. We owe a huge thanks to our testers because the latest version wouldn't be what it is without their help! As we wrapped up the beta testing, we couldn't wait to get version 1.1. into your hands, and see what you create with it. We hope you find the new interface more intuitive and fun to use, and that it helps you speed up your creative process. As always we are open to feedback and would love to hear how we could make uMake even better for you! If you do create anything awesome in the latest version, please share it with us, we'd love to see it and share with others!
July 21, 2016