First of all, kudos to your User Experience team. They have done a great job of designing a simple, intuitive tool to support what is a pretty complex, multi-user, collaborative task.
That said I find the way in which soundtrap supports muting/unmuting of multiple tracks confusing and inefficient.
First, let's talk about the confusing bit. I find the approach taken by SoundTrap difficult to understand and I find myself having to explain it over and over to my 20+ choir members.
There is a well-established UI pattern for muting/unmutting a bunch of tracks and it goes like this:
- Provide two buttons: mute-all and unmute-all
- Provide a speaker button for each track. When the speaker button is greyed out it means muted. If it's purple it means audible.
- If users want to mute most of the tracks, then they do:
--- mute-all, which turns all speaker icons to grey (muted)
--- click on a few speaker icons to make those tracks audible
- If users want to make most tracks audible:
--- unmute-all, which turns all speaker icons to purple (audible)
--- click on a few speaker icons to mute those tracks
This standard pattern is efficient and well understood by users.
For some reason SoundTrap chose to use a completely different UI pattern, and I find it extremely confusing and inefficient.
Here is how it goes as far as I can tell:
- No mute-all / unmute-all buttons
- Each track has both an earphone and X'ed-speaker (mute) buttons which can be gray or purple
The behaviour of the X'ed-speaker icon is as follows:
- Clicking on a grey X'ed-speaker icon will mute that track (as in the standard UI pattern)
- Clicking on a purple X'ed-speaker icon will unmute that track
-- UNLESS one or more tracks have their headphone icons in purple, in which case the track will remain muted and it looks liike clicking on the purple speaker icon did not do anything
-- BUT WAIT, clicking on the purple speaker DID INVISIBLY achieve something and it's actually the OPPOSITE of what I wanted to achieve (i.e. wanting to hear that tracks). Indeed, if I click on all the purple headphones all tracks will now be un-muted, EXCEPT the one track I wanted to hear in the first place!
The behaviour of the headphone icon is equally confusing:
- Click on a grey headphone icon to mute all tracks but that one.
-- ACTUALLY, not really. If another tracks has its speaker icon in purple, clicking on a grey headphone icon will add the clicked track to the list of audible tracks.
--- Hum... isn't that what the purple X'ed-speaker icon is for? Answer: No. See above for what happens if you click in the X'ed-speaker in that situation.
--- Also... how can I tell if this will mute all others or just add this one to the audible list? Answer: If you see another track with a purple headphone on the screen, it means add this track to the audible list. If you don't see another purple speaker on the screen, you have to scan the list of tracks (I have 20 tracks, one for each of my choir member) and check if one of them has a purple headphone. If no other tracks have a purple headphone, it means mute all others.
- Click on a purple headphone icon to remove it from the list of audible tracks
-- ACTUALLY, not really. If this the las purple headphone in the piece, it will unmute all tracks
--- Well, not really... some tracks may be left muted (see the above description of the X'ed-speaker icon)
Another thing I find confusing about the headphone/X'ed-Speaker that the colour purple means different things for those two buttons
- For headphone, "purple" means audible
- For X'ed-speaker, "purple" means muted
All in all, this is very confusing. I think it would be much clearer if SoundTrap sticked to the established UI pattern of:mute-all / unmute-all + speaker icons
The standard approach also turns out to be more efficient when you have lots of tracks. For example in my choir (20+ tracks), people often need to switch between listening to:
- Only tracks in the same section as they are (ex: Bass)
- The whole choir
Suppose all tracks are initially audible and I want to mute all but the 5 Bass tracks. The number of clicks is about the same for both approaches (6 for the "standard" approach, 5 for the current soundtrap approach).
But now I want to listen to the whole choir. With the standard approach, I just click on unmute all (1 click). But with the current soundtrap approach, I need to un-mute the 5 bass tracks (5 clicks). Also, I have to make sure I didn't miss one, whereas with the standard UI, I just have to make sure I click on the one unmute all button.
An much worse scenario is the following. Suppose I want to hear all but the 5 bass tracks. With the current SoundTrap design, this requires 15 clicks (I have to click on headphone icon of the 15 non-bass tracks) vs 5 with the standard design. Un-muting those 5 bass tracks requires 5 click with the Soundtrap design (one for each bass track) versus 1 for the standard design.
Well, that's it. Sorry for the lenghty request and I hope it helps improve an already excellent product.
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