some usability review


I've just made an informal usability review, in which a first-time BEAST
User, who knows enough about music to know what he wanted to accomplish
try the GUI. The task he wanted to perform was to enter a drum beat and
create an ogg file from it. 

We used Debians beast-0.6.2 package for the test, and I gave some help
over the phone.

Here are some suggestions from that test:

   => piano roll related:

1. after putting notes into a part, closing the part and reopening
   usually shows an empty part, because the notes are not in those octaves
   that are visible - it would be better if opening a part would center the
   visible area around those octaves that contain notes

2. it may be useful to allow click & drag note setting, that is
   (a) you click on the start of a note
   (b) you move the mouse while still holding the left mouse button, to
   adjust the length

3. when editing drums, the default behaviour of the piano roll, to round the
   note value to the next/previous quantization value is not intuitive -
   since drums are virtually zero length, truncating down to the note
   start would be more intuitive

   implementing a drum editor with zero-length notes, which are set on
   grid crossings would solve the problem:
   Snare  -----|--------|--------X--------|----
               |        |        |        | 
   HiHat  -----|--------X--------|--------X----
               |        |        |        | 
   Bass  ------X--------|--------|--------|---
               |        |        |        |
   Tom1  ------|--------|--------|--------|---
   for drum multisamples such a drum editor could provide intuitive labels

4. piano roll shows note C as black, which makes it hard to distinguish
   where two consecutive notes start and end

5. the user wanted to edit a 2/4 beat, for which the grid lines in the
   piano roll editor are misleading - configuration would be useful

   => other items:

6. the site does send Text/Plain as mimetype for .bse
   files - this makes downloading the files with browsers such as
   firefox harder than it should be, because firefox's default is to
   show the text file, rather than to save it, which in our test made
   the browser crash (during trying to download 808-kit.bse, a 4.7 Mb
   multiwave drum sample)

7. 196.73282883 bpm in the song doesn't look too nice; maybe it would be
   better if adjusting the slider would only set the bpm value to
   integer values

8. during the "usability test", the following situation occured:
   (a) user wants to adjust bpm
   (b) user opens parameter tab
   (c) user wants to close parameters, and intuitively uses the [X]
   (d) user looses all work

   BEAST should do one of the following:
    * show parameter tabs in separate windows
    * show a dialog "file has been modified, save?"
    * autosave, so that the file could be recovered

9. the user didn't know what the extension for saving files should be

10. a file filter, to see only those files that are relevant for the
    current save operation would be beneficial, i.e.

    [ *.bse   BSE files ]
    [ *       all files ]

    or, likewise *.wav for export audio, or *.mp3, *.ogg, ... for load

11. the export audio function isn't easy to understand
    * it is not clear how to start audio export
    * it is not clear how to make no audio export happen
    * the file save dialog can't be used for unactivating audio export,
      the only way to accomplish this is to delete the text entry AND
      press return, which doesn't lead to confidence that nothing will
      be overwritten, once this was done

   suggestion: replace the whole functioniality by "File -> Export Song as
   Audio" and "File -> Export Loop as Audio"

   also it was considered problematic that, once the audio export dialog
   was opened, BEAST suggested the current .bse-File as default for
   exporing the audio file, because this can lead to data loss ; better
   suggest nothing

12. selecting an instrument in the track, and then reopening the
    selection dialog should probably by default select the instrument
    that already was choosen last time

I know that some of these issues are already on the TODO, I am just
mentioning all of them here to cover the complete set of issues that
occured during the test.

   Cu... Stefan
  -* Stefan Westerfeld, stefan space twc de (PGP!), Hamburg/Germany
     KDE Developer, project infos at *-         

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