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Redesign of User Interface requested for Floors and levels



I'm a brand new user of Vectorworks (trial copy, so no investment except of time and gray hair), and I just can't resist throwing my own few stones at this bush.  I've been working through trials of all the major programs (Revit, Archicad, AllPlan, Chief Architect etc).  Each of them to seem to have their own (for me) major, deal-breaking issues.


It would actually be refreshing if the programmers at these companies would put their selfish ego's aside, and have a good, humble look at all the other programs, and SHAMELESSLY COPY what was BETTER in the competition - instead of refusing to admit somebody else had a better idea or implementation, and continue with an imperfect solution that their users must continue to suffer with (all because of the programmer's ego!).


The company that does this will soon best the competition, and become the User's favorite.  Seems a no-brainer to me.  Just the ego problem to get over, huh?


Vectorworks touts itself as particularly "User-Friendly".   All these architectural programs tout themselves to be user-friendly, but the actual user experience often falls very short of the claims.


I have been really struggling in Vectorworks to get my head around understanding how to set floors up, and my head is just spinning. 


It's all as clear as mud. 


The User Interface all seems so unnecessarily complicated and convoluted on what should be quite a straightforward issue. 


The very fact that the tutorials "explaining" this only ADD to the confusion points to a MAJOR UI problem.  There is even a video on Youtube where Jonathan Pickup is being interviewed to explain this stuff, and at the end of the interview, although the interviewer says he now understands the subject, it's pretty clear he is none the wiser afterwards, and is just being polite.  One of the commenters on this video remarks on this fact also.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  And in my opinion, that is EXACTLY what is missing from the Vectorworks  UI dialog.  Instead, the User is asked to make selections from a table format, and is expected to somehow visualize in his head what his tabular choices would mean and look like.


You will note that whenever anyone is pressed to explain what is happening here with floors in Vectorworks, they CANNOT do it just in words!  Almost invariably, they resort to producing some sort of sketch to help explain themselves, and to try to get the message across to the other party.


THAT - right there, Gentlemen - has to be the AHA! moment for the Vectorworks UI Designer.  (Or it certainly SHOULD be!)


Attached at the bottom of this post is an example of a model worksheet that was provided by Wes Gardner in another thread.  I use this example to illustrate what I would like to see INSIDE the proposed new dialog box for setting up floors.  And yes, if that is a HUGE dialog box that takes up half the screenspace or more, then so be it.  Not a problem for me.


Ideally, this diagram should ALWAYS show THREE floors simultaneously:

   the floor ABOVE (on top);

   the CURRENT ACTIVE floor (in the middle)

   the floor BELOW (show at bottom of sketch)


As the User moves between floor levels, this view of the "current 3 floors" should move dynamically up and down also.


And the User should then be able to just input his values / or tick his choices, DIRECTLY into that diagram - which dynamically changes accordingly. 


This dialog box is pretty much the most important - and useful - dialog at the beginning of a project.   In ONE diagram, a LOT of the project defaults are both visible and accessible.  There is no hunting around into several disparate windows to try and solve a problem.  The User can immediately see the full picture, and directly intervene, and confirm that his intervention is doing what he wanted.


In this ONE diagram, the User could also have the opportunity to set some other important defaults right there as well.  For example, the User could also visually set the window sill appearances, as well as the initial top and bottom window default heights.  Same for the door heights.


And of course, the User must be able to VISUALLY set which feature is LINKED to which other feature eg THIS wall height is linked to THAT surface of THAT slab or Floor.  It must be visually clear where the linkages/relationships are (by similar color-coding or special symbols or "connecting lines" or whatever).  And it must be easy to click and change them at will.


So the INITIAL opening view in this dialog box looks just like one of Wes' Sectional Views in his example worksheet


And just as Wes has provided several sample worksheets, so too should there be an initial dropdown list from which the User can select his initial basic "Section View" setup.  He should then be able to subsequently save his final adjustments as a custom setting or favorite, and be able to call this up later for other projects.  And be able to export it to his colleagues for their own use.  And likewise, import similar from other users.


Section View - MSW - Residential (16 Dec 2016).pdf

Edited by Jonnoxx
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As for why VW hasn't this or that Feature that others do,

I would say Ego or Pride are one of the least entries on the Bill of Reasons.

There are also things like funny Software patents or just that certain functions

aren't compatible with the underlaying software architecture.

And many others of course.

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1 hour ago, zoomer said:

As for why VW hasn't this or that Feature that others do,

I would say Ego or Pride are one of the least entries on the Bill of Reasons.

There are also things like funny Software patents or just that certain functions

aren't compatible with the underlaying software architecture.

And many others of course.



Yes, Zoomer, while it is true that one must be aware of possible IP restrictions, my experience of offering improvement suggestions to companies has been that there is OFTEN a great deal of resistance to actually want to change.  And, unfortunately, it often does come down to the individual personal attitudes of the executives.


Companies that GENUINELY seek out customer participation MAKE sure their SENIOR staff go out of their way to be enthusiastic participants on the forums where their customers congregate, and ACTIVELY engage with them.  They don't leave it to the customers to have to form their own groups to self-help themselves.  This is indeed a real-world test for validating a company's commitment to listening to its customers.  And the results are not all good in this arena.


Autodesk, for example is getting good at this.  The execs at 3DS MAX came in for torrid criticism (and some of it very much deserved!), but they stepped up to the plate, and did not flinch from publicly engaging with some (very!) angry users.  And do you know what?  If they now release as good a new MAX release early next year as they promise to do, they will have scored a major PR victory, and made lots of their user-base v happy.


The Nemetschek group?  Vectorworks people seem quite friendly.  But the guys running the US Archicad forum??  Oh Boy! 


Now ... onto the important stuff ...


What do you think of my suggestion.  Good?  Bad?  Ugly?? 


I'm quite cool if you have an opinion (how else do I learn?).



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VW International has a very open Forum and a vivid community now.

That may have been different in the past but that must have been before my VW time.

I think VW listens well. I don't see any problems or much room for improvements there.

What they do with it the end, if there is much bureaucracy or what's the reason why they did

not fulfill all my 4-digit number of wishes already after 3 years in 1:1, I don't know.


The User interface, graphically, functionally and consistence wise is clearly NOT one of the strongest

points of VW.


And yes, I would like a better illustration and a lot other improvements in the Story Settings and Dialogs.

An option to edit values directly in a graphic representation is welcome from my side.

Edited by zoomer
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Sorry to hear that despite you having given over +1 000 suggestions to Vectorworks, they haven't even had the interest to discuss this with you?  Am I reading your comment correctly?  If so, I am aghast.  This is how NOT to treat the loyal customer base!  There is little reward in supporting a company claiming to respond to their customers' wishes, if the end result is that they seemingly ignore the customers' opinions, or at least engage with them on the subject.  This has to be a warning sign of sorts.

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I was just kidding.


I made quite a lot of requests over the last 3 years. Not all of them may make sense for all

VW users but a lot of them were fulfilled with VW 2017.


It is not that VW will always enter every discussion here. It's the user base discussing here.

VW is giving support, helping when having problems, sorting wishes and such things.

There is not so much VW direct feedback. But everything indicates that they listen or at least

they have the chance to do so.

If you are interested in directly talking to VW people directly, you can send an official

Bug/Wish/Change Request or visite them at their summit, local events, and such things.


It is also wise to check if you are congruent to the target group of a software before signing

a contract or recheck if you and your demands still are, every 2 years or so.

Some Software Packages may be better suited than others at a certain time but every

Package has its drawbacks.


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Why make another interface to show something visually when the majority of the programme is an interface for visual information?


Also given this information we need tell others in a visual way why not just let us draw it how we need it and get the computer to work out what it needs from that? 


Instead of now when we draw it how we want it translate to computer code check computer has shown it right in dialogue interface then go about showing it relevant locations. All the while waiting for changes to mean we have to translate that change (and the next change) and make sure it's co-ordinated across multiple locations and formats.


After all the promise of Vectorworks over its competitors was that it would understand us and the language of drawing better to help us get the results we want faster.

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I agree with Jonnoxx on the whole story setup, it's so not intuitive currently that we don't bother with it on most projects.  With regards to Architecture, we would also like to see a lot more automation happening, eg automatically showing floor levels with datum markers on elevations & sections. Automatically showing grid lines on elevations & sections.  Automatically generating window & door schedules in a graphical way rather than a worksheet.  All of the information is there, so it would be nice to get the program to do some of this 'donkey' work, so we don't have to manually do it.

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