Discoverable User Interface

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One of Dominic's founding principles with Audacity is that the user interface should be 'discoverable'. The intention is that someone should be able to learn to use Audacity and be able to find all its features without having a manual. It's a superb principle, and one that is challenging to maintain.


Design Details

  • Two panels for keyboard and mouse preferences. That way the shortcuts are documented in the application by the same interface that allows you to change them.
    • There are some weaknesses to be resolved. The Mouse Preferences have remained unconfigurable for a long time, and some menu items have no shortcut bindings.
  • Tooltips on transport buttons to alert users to the shift-play option. Button also changes shape on holding shift down.


Not sufficiently Discoverable (yet)

  • Track menu. People aren't finding it.
  • Smart help planned for preferences. Currently it can be hard to guess what the parameters do without more information.
  • Sliders - "I don't think right-click is very discoverable"
  • Project Rate selector needs a tooltip "Overtype to enter custom rate" or similar
  • Keyboard preferences a bit long, need to be sortable perhaps and sortability itself needs to be easily discoverable.
    • GA would argue that the "Command" category hinders discovery because it splits related commands (e.g. for transport) across categories. The Manual attempts to group them as they would be if they were in a menu.
  • Effects greyed out. New users think they don't have the full version.
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