With the effort to update the look, feel and language of all the icons it soon became evident that dozens of Revit pointers and in-canvas bitmap controls would need to be updated to be consistent. Before this effort was undertaken design guidelines were established to provide a framework for evaluating the current state and alternative designs.
- Avoid visual clutter. Too much detail can distract the users or make the image illegible.
- Re-use images for similar methods (do not use the same image for different functions)
- Use platform standards whenever possible. E.g. Ban symbol or hourglass. Match Autodesk AEC standards where applicable.
- Keep sizes consistent
- Minimize obscuring of the canvas.
- The action portion (hotspot) of the pointer must be clear and predictable
- The pointer must be legible at all times (have sufficient contrast)
- Colored backgrounds
- Over model elements
- The main body and badges must properly convey their purpose or action
Evaluating against these guidelines led to focused reviews and some re-design.
First, all the pointers were given a subtle halo. This addressed an issue in R2009 for the few who ran with an inverted background and found the pointer almost invisible. In addition the new gradient background in 2010 created a further need for this. A white halo with alpha transparency was added and each pointer was viewed over a range of backgrounds to ensure it was legible. This should also improve pointer visibility over dense model geometry.
Many of the pointers with badges were re-organized to ensure the badge was placed in a consistent location. R2009 used several different configurations and this was also true for hot spot locations.
Lastly the crayon is no more. Internally this created some mixed feelings. The crayon has been with us from the beginning and perhaps falls into the category of behaviors that make up Revit's unique break from legacy CAD. An analysis of competitive drawing and modeling applications showed almost all used a cross hair. Was there a reason? Some applications did use a crayon but they were paint applications. Here the input is defined to be imprecise and gestural. In the end we had clear guidelines and precedent to fall back on. We made the change to a cross hair in time to have it place for many rounds of testing. It never received a comment nor created any observable issue. Again this is sometimes the best result in evaluation tests. Had there been comments it would suggest the pointer was getting undo attention. A good pointer in a BIM application should provide a subtle yet clear means for precision input using a minimal representation.
In 2010 the Arrow pointer still remains for selection and the draw editors still display badges for the non-linear sketch methods. There was consideration to remove these badges and standardize on a selection cross hair like the one used for Modify>Cut. Could we have simplified further? Are there other pointers that need attention?