User Interface, Interface Design, Usability, Human Factors


So I saw that @Tom_Ato is a professional User Interface / Interface Design expert. This has always been of interest to me, since the days of reading inside Macintosh and of diddling around with early tweaks. When I became Product Manager for a Scientific, Technical, Medical, and Education XML authoring tool with editorial workflows, UI became critical.

It’s hard enough trying to get authors to write the way you want — having write to a collaborative template, and not to have one edit step on another in a multi-author handbook is a challenge. And if the authors aren’t happy, they let you know.

Early on, I found that “international web design” styling popular in Southeast Asia was bad bad bad. Low contrast, small type, no serifs … all combined to make it difficult for older people to effectively work. I still see remnants of this in equipment today.

I buy the biggest phones I can easily handle - I want some screen real estate. One of the reason that I don’t care for DAPs is that in my brief encounters with them, I don’t find them intuitive. Software players that are frequently called excellent — I’m talking to YOU, Neutron Player — have a UI that was apparently designed by drunken goblins.

So, after messing Tom Ato, he agreed to be active in this thread, it seemed like a good place to start talking about what we like, dislike, what works, and what does not on the more technical side of Human Factor Engineering and UI/UX design in mostly headphone-related audio.


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I am in. I am a software engineer doing this for decades.

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Wow. I love seeing this thread! :heart_eyes:

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Welcome. We had a special room in which we locked the software engineers. :phone: We tossed red meat, Mountain Dew, and chips over the transom. The room was equipped with a perpetual coffee tap. Floor was concrete with a central drain. Every 15 minutes or so, we’d heard one of the engineers yell, “Damn you Bill Gates!” :phone: :phone:

Was this proper human factors design? They did have chairs and desks. And VT 302 terminals. Before the terminals got replaced with 80286 based emulators.

:phone: A software engineer is to a programmer as an interconnect is to a patch cord.
:phone: :phone: To keep this properly technical, us project managers used a formula to convert programmer time to C-level manager time. The formula was 4 x (Programmer’s time estimate)^(NU). Where NU = next unit up. So if the programmer says the project will be done in 2 hours, then 4x2=8 DAYS. If the programmer say 1 week, that is 4x1=4 Months. This tended to keep manager expectations in line with actual timelines, and occasionally pleased them.


If you don’t do that, the product never comes out…

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The RME ADI-2 DAC is the perfect case study of what happens when you let engineers design UI. I know some of you like it, but having spent > 25 years as a software engineer (quite a few of them doing UI work) I think it screams “I know exactly how this works on the inside, so I’ll make the UI reflect that”


Please give an explanation. With some details. I don’t have an RME ADI-2 DAC.

Engineers have a reputation for (1) being highly technical, and (2) wanting to understand exactly how the underlying system functions. As such, their user interfaces can be literal “read-outs” or “dumps” of system processes. They may not consider function, speed, error-avoidance, or ease-of-use. Take a look at the interior of a train steam engine – lots of random knobs, levers, and gauges spread all about.

[Source here]

This all works well enough for other engineers and technically-minded people, but not for many end users. “How does a car work?” “I put the key in, and push the start button, then shift into gear.” An engineer’s interface can show the electrical system status, the engine status, the transmission status, the cooling system status, etc.

Yahoo in the 1990s:

[From a guy who tries to escape UX/UI but gets sucked backed in.]


came across this fantastic example of technical writing yesterday:

“The manufacturing date code (yyww, where the first two digits represent the two least significant digits of the year, and the last two digits represent the week of the year).”


Now there’s a succinct statement. Trapping input errors and unexpected user mistakes is critical. A famous case involved a bad zip code sort. Because the secretary that did data input used lower case L for 1.

I always try to test around the extremes. What happens if it permits you to enter a negative number. I’ve been able to blow up my share of demo or 0.3 revision software also.

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Nuclear ship control panels (and many more engineer’s dreams at the link):


Is this the thread where we can bash Apple?

(Before it blows up, I must point out that it was a joke, about this being the thread I mean)


We can always bash apple.

(Coming from an apple user)


Make some Apple sauce, huh? They are the opposite of engineering interfaces, but often not easy to use. They always look stylish but sometimes don’t let one get the job done. There’s an expression to “RV the design” by adding random but ungraceful functional bits. Apple firmly avoids this:


We can bash apple. Just don’t bash bash.

Soooooooo. Maybe let’s start with an actual audio product, shall we? :wink:

Like the RME ADI-2 DAC? :+1::grin:
Or some DAP for that matter?

@Dynamic tell us about why you love Apple music and maybe add some screens?


Well, there’s the trend to eliminate physical buttons on phones. Particularly iPhones. I did feel better having at least one button. And having it read my fingerprint isn’t bad. I’m not at all sure about facial recognition. If I were say, at some sort of rally or event and had my face bashed with flagpoles so I was bloody and bruised, would my phone know me?

I was a happier camper with the traditional 3 button droid interface, but that too seems to be going away toward all screen no hardware interaction.


A fellow musician purchased a Motorola phone a couple of years back and was exited that it had a fingerprint sensor to unlock it (his first).

So, he saved his fingerprint and happily went about unlocking his phone. A couple of days later he realised that it would also unlock with a different non-saved finger. And his thumb.

As a joke, he pulled off his sock only to find that he could also unlock it with any of his toes.

The funny thing is that the phone wouldn’t recognize anybody else’s fingerprints, only his own, but that included all ten fingers and ten toes (even though only one finger had been saved).


It’s not the UI aspect of UX. Yes, apple is smoother and a bit more logical and natural, but that’s not what keeps me in apple. Amazon music is fine.

It’s much more the smoothness between all the different apple devices.

The apple watch gets all the critical stuff right on my wrist. All the icloud stuff syncs up fairly smoothly and enables me to grab any device. Apple music syncs all my playlists and recent listens across devices very well.

Apple’s generated playlists are obscenely good (at least compared to amazon).

I won’t give all that integration and quality of life stuff up for no increase in sound quality. So far, I can’t tell the difference between supposedly inferior apple streaming and amazon hd tracks.

On a dap where I am streaming from it, it matters a lot less because the watch and cross device stuff just isn’t there (for the most part). Primarily, apple music gives me all my playlists and such. That I could migrate, but I don’t see the point as of yet.