New UI confusing?

dwaynie's picture
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Can we return to the old UI? Or at least something similar. I work for WeAreBuild.com. I was at a dinner party at UI design guru Jacob Nielsen's (Useit.com) place the other day I asked him to take a brief look at Soulseek's new UI vs its old. He said the new one seemed to be a redesign just for the sake of redesigning. That similar features were scattered around different areas of the screen for no apparent reason - main navbar buttons, middle tabs and lower tabs. It's often like that in design, he went on to say, that the first thing that pops into your head is often the realest and most intuitive. Often, not always. But in Soulseek's case, yes. Good UI design should allow you to use the UI straight away, not trying to figure out how to use it (1). Personally I've spent up to 30 minutes trying to figure out how to do stuff that were so dead easy with the old UI. Sorry for the constructive criticism. I do hope it can help improve Soulseek though. (1) http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758
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Hi there,

Well, there's a few things I've learned over the years. First and foremost is that you can't make everyone happy. There have been plenty of instances in the past, especially in the early days of Soulseek, where I resisted changing something up to a point that a vocal majority seemed especially vocal, only to find out at least as many people resented the change once I gave in. So the first thing I've learned is that I have to trust myself. If I like something a certain way, I'll tend to stick with it. But I always welcome user input, and many a time I've been convinced by a user to change or extend something in a way that hadn't occurred to me beforehand.

Specifically to SoulseekQt however, there are several points relevant to this discussion. The first is that I approach SoulseekQt as an experiment. Not because I don't intend it to eventually become a serious alternative to the original client, but because I want to have the freedom to try out different things and make missteps. Some of the fruits borne by this approach are of fairly evident utility. Things like search filters, Unicode support, protocol obfuscation, search correlations and more. Others are of more debatable value. The action bar in particular, which I think you are referencing when you talk about the UI being scattered, seems to be causing a fair amount of confusion among new users. Tabs being nested by category seems to me to be a prime example of a change that may please some people and displease others. Personally I like having my different tabs more neatly arranged that way, but I can see how someone might resent the extra clicking, and I can imagine situations where this going back and forth between two or more tabs of different types might become a hassle. The event bar is one attempt to address that by providing one place to reach the different tabs based on whether they present any new activity. A better way to utilize the event bar might be to provide a 'pin tab' functionality that keeps selected tabs one click away regardless of activity, letting one eat the proverbial cake and have it too. This is a good example of my preference to extend what I have instead of replacing it if I can, to retain the benefits of the new design while making it more versatile. Another example has to do with the way search results are grouped by user and folder in SoulseekQt. In most cases, this gives you exactly what you're looking for; files available from users with high upload speeds and free upload slots. And yet some users are missing the ability to sort the results by any of the columns. I've asked users to provide me with specific scenarios where something that could be done through column sorting could not be done with the new format. I've tried addressing these scenarios by providing additional filters. For bitrate, for file size, and other parameters. Still, some users are not happy. And because most of these users will not tell me what it is that they're trying to do and can't, I have to assume it's at least possible they simply like doing things the old way.

I do accept your point however that the SoulseekQt user interface has a steeper learning curve, and that it's not as easy to pick up and use as the original client. And to this I say, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and not everything has to work like an iPhone. There are other design goals apart from making something as easy to use as possible for someone who's never used it before. Things like long-term versatility, and a good selection of features. And let's just keep in mind that SoulseekQt is a work in progress. I hope to keep adding to it and improving it for a long time to come, and nothing right now is set in stone.

At least it looks better, the original client looks quite outdated imo.
That aside, some things require a little bit of searching, but half an hour to find a single thing? There simply aren't that many tabs to spend half an hour searching on. Personally I like most of the UI, and absolutely love how much better the searches are compared to the original client :)
Even so, when I first downloaded I did somehow have the feeling the UI was up for improvements once the client was in a state the dev was happy with, but maybe that's just me :)

Hi Nir, I'm not a developer, but I'm interested in helping you design this new client.

I made a mockup showing my ideas of how Soulseek could look like.
I tried to imagine a clean and efficient UI, that makes functionality easily discoverable and accessible, without cluttering the view.
This mockup shows the main window, with the "Transfers" tab open.
Everything I depicted should be possible with QT Widgets.

Here is the mockup : http://dropbox.nilux.org/slskqt.png

I hope this can give you inspiration, and if you're interested, I can go on and create mockups for the other screens.

This is a very nice design, but now is not the time for a complete UI overhaul. There's been an increasing number of crash reports as of late, so my main focus right now is addressing those and making the client as stable as possible. Also, while I do admit that your design looks better, the main difference there seems to be that the tabs are vertical instead of horizontal. I don't see that as a major difference. As for putting downloads and uploads in the same window, that is something I might end up doing. Definitely need to concentrate on stability right now :)

Thanks, Nir

It's not only about the tabs being vertical, actually I also considered other ways than tabs to represent categories, like the toolbox widget (like the column on the left side of this screenshot : http://liquidat.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/kontact-macosx.png ). The main idea was to avoid having too much rows of horizontal tabs, so the UI is cleaner and more readable.

This mockup also gets rid of the menu bar (which for now only holds the "connect" function), and the action bar. This can be achieved by regrouping functionality in the right way in each of the applications screens (as I did with the Expand and Clear Buttons).

But as you say, the UI is not the priority for now. Also, these are just suggestions. But if you ever come to think about refactoring the UI in the future, I'd be glad to offer my help, since I'm a UI geek ;)

For what my opinion is worth I like the new UI a fair bit more than the old UI. The older UI was clunky - by this i mean you had to right-click for a menu then navigate to the option and left-click to select the option. Being a lazy git, I prefer pressing a single button over this old "3-action" approach. The only people I know who love the old UI is those that have grown to love it because they use slsk and nothing else. Trying to get some friends to use slsk after they have been using clients like e-mule or utorrent to "share" is nigh on impossible, and this is mostly due to the interface in the older client. I must admit I almost lost interest in slsk myself when first trying to use the older client.

That said, I must admit I do not really like the combination of right-click context menus and action bar buttons and would prefer to see one or the other (that's probably just the anal retentive in me, though). This is particularly prominent when using searches in QT. You have to enter searches and press a button to search, but have to right-click and choose from the context menu to download. I think this is very similar to the original client, so perhaps that's why i don't approve. It would be much nicer if the action buttons to download file/folder appeared when i highlighted the download i wanted. This combination of two UI methods seems to me what makes slsk more difficult to use than some other applications that don't force the use of right-click context menus for primary features.

It did cross my mind that you could keep everyone happy here if every context option was an action button and vice versa (although in some cases the action bar would be very cluttered). Then you could have a setting to hide the action bar and all the old client users would be able to waste an extra two actions every time and live in blissful ignorance of the brave new world they are so keen to avoid.

All that said the new UI is most definitely a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

Thanks for all you efforts.

I second the thanks, and since the new UI I do no longer think it was 1995 and I was caught in some kind of inescapable time vortex or something. :P

Hello. I think the new client is looking good. The UI, of course, seems to be clunky and experimental at this time. But, if I understood mr. Nir correctly, that's the way it should be for now. So much attention to detail and convenience has been put into the new UI that, for now, I don't think I have the right to complain.

However, let me just say that amidst all the experimental re-organization, I immediately noticed something that didn't feel right at all: the fact that the user list wasn't shown at all times (and the room list too, but that was less important), like in the current client. This seems like a definite disadvantage. I don't know if everybody feels that way. But the user list is something that I always keep an eye on when I'm using Soulseek.

I know that many file-sharing programs don't actually have such an emphasis on the "user list" or "friends list" (or no such lists at all, as it is the case with torrents). But Soulseek is a bit different, as we all know. I wouldn't go as far as comparing it with a social media client or a messenger program, but it does share some traits with those systems.

To sum it up, by biggest criticism of the new UI would be that it is too much hierarchized. And that is a good thing, in many cases. It is more convenient for some operations. But perhaps there is stuff that should always be visible. Maybe the user list is one of those. But that's up to Nir and the rest of the community. Cheers and thanks for the new client.

The look I can live with, it's the fact that for all of the things I use Soulseek to do, it appears to be taking more actions to get done, and I spend more time hunting for things during that process. Experimental is a good thing, but making common tasks harder without any particular new benefits seems counter-productive IMO.

ClockworkBastard's picture

I never loved old UI.. New UI looks cool but controls a bit.. o_O
I'm using windows

Which parts of the UI are you not liking in particular?

I am one of the users who was (and sometimes still is) confused by the new interface. It isn't immediately obvious where an option will live, because I forget that the action bar isn't very visible. If I haven't used QT for a while, I mistake the action bar for what is normally at the top of a program window: File, Edit, Options, ... so I only think to look there when I want to change the configuration, and then realise that Options actually lives in among the tabs, which also feels confusing.

Perhaps the action bar would be more visible with large icons and text underneath, although that might be going a bit too far towards Microsoft's new ribbon style, which people either love or hate.

The other thing that confuses me is what goes in the action bar and what is available from right click. If I am searching files, I will always right click and expect to find download containing folder. I never find it there :)

That said, I totally understand your desire for QT to be a research platform. Find out what works and have a play around. Fair play to you :)

As for the visibility of the action bar, I can't really say much about that. It's definitely a case of getting used to doing something a little differently. You do make a good point regarding the division of functions between context menus and the action bar. When I started with the action bar, I was naively hoping to use it for pretty much everything. That quickly turned out to be impractical. What I ended up deciding is to keep all actions that are global to the view in the action bar, and all item-specific actions to context menus attached to said items. There are a few places in the system where I haven't made the conversion yet. The search results view actually does provide 'download file' and 'download folder' options through a context menu. Perhaps you're referring to the share browse view? That's one place where I haven't properly moved the action to a context menu yet. The room list is another one. That's something I definitely need to get done.

Hello all,

Soulseek user here since 2004. After audio galaxy and napster died i wandered aimlessly looking for a place to go. IRC was good, but had my brain in overload. This my fist time registering and or engaging in the any of the forums, so again..hello!

This thread may be "old" but wanted to chime in a bit.
I've used Soulseek QT off and on, but always found myself going back to older NS versions, because of the simplicity and ease of the interface. For my needs there's a large community still hanging out and sharing there, so felt no need to use QT

Since Jan 2014, Ive weened myself off NS to adapt to this QT interface. A motto I live by is "change is (or can be) good". Another motto I live by is "if it works, maintain it,leave it alone, and it will continue to work for you".

That said, I prefer a more simpler interface. QT has a bit too much going on.
Hopefully, at some point there will be options for different "skins" to make sharing a bit more simple and user friendly!

sincerely,
Watermelonhead

Which aspects of the Qt interface do you find the most bothersome?