The TSM Team has been hard at work for a very long time to bring you the TSM4 beta. We wanted to give you some technical insights on what goes on behind the scenes. Today we’ll be taking a closer look at the Design of TSM4. H3ggers will be joining me to answer some questions!
I asked him three questions, and he’s been so kind as to offer detailed answers to them.
On a high level, what goes into setting up a UI from the ground up like this? How much of the old UI gets taken into account, and how do you decide what is best from a user experience standpoint?
Great question. So for any UI/UX work, it’s always good to start with research. Whether you’re working on a brand new product or something that has been around a long time (like TSM), you always want to start by investigating. You focus on what has been done, is being done, what’s working and what isn’t.
With TSM, I had a great leg up in that so much thought has already been put into it, especially in terms of what its features are and what users have wanted added over the years. So yes, the old UI was extremely important from the perspective of starting fresh. The old UI really tells a story about how TSM has developed over time, and why, what its strengths are but also what its weaknesses have been. So it was super helpful when setting out what we would and wouldn’t do from a “refresh” point of view.
As far as going from there and making decisions, I wanted TSM4 to not stray too far from its core competencies, but overall feel more approachable and intuitive. TSM is tricky in that it has always been perceived as a “challenging” addon, with a very steep learning curve. And a lot of that I think has to do with the fact that it has very advanced features comparative to other addons on the market (what other addons can you name that essentially have the equivalent of a file management system within them?). So just the scope of what you can do with TSM is a bit staggering for a new user and I think in some sense, always will be.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t gains to be made that would help us hit our goals of being more approachable and intuitive. I think in TSM4 we were able to really think about how certain features would be organized and maybe move away from some things in TSM that didn’t really make sense (I’m looking at you ‘Features’ tab).
From a purely stylistic standpoint, what was your thought process on what TSM4 has come to look like? Why did you choose the colors, shapes and style that you did?
Stylistically, TSM operates in an interesting space. Historically, the look of TSM has developed through what I would call a “path of least resistance” mindset. We’ve added and improved upon features but haven’t really thought through the design outside of, “what sort of component do we need in order to achieve X/Y/Z, and where can we place it?” And while this has been done thoughtfully, with great concern for usability, I felt it had led to a somewhat scattered design aesthetic. So my first thoughts about style had to do with just keeping things clean and providing a less cluttered experience.
After that, it was really a matter of what sort of tone and personality TSM needs. I find that addons are a really unique design challenge, because you have to decide if they should align closely with the game’s default UI, or carve out a style all their own. With that said, I opted to keep a clean, modern aesthetic that wouldn’t diverge too much from what existed and wouldn’t be too jarring for our users. Down the road I think it would be cool to think about ways in which we could open TSM, stylistically. One of the early things that always impressed me about TSM was that it had a pretty robust appearance editor. Unfortunately, we rolled that functionality back for the time being due to the nature of the overhaul; I’m personally hoping we can bring it back (in a more structured way) at some point, and possibly even augment that feature with things like “UI skins”. TBD obviously 🙂
Are there any constriction points where looks and function conflict with each other? In such a situation do you make concessions, or look for a different solution?
Hah, oh yes! Design is always about balancing your stylistic goals against usability and feature requirements. The team and I had many conversations about certain design choices that might conflict with learned behavior and expectations from our users. I know that I’ve certainly conceded some ideas in favor of keeping a certain workflow or feature in tact.
This is one area where I really like to look at what our users are saying. There are so many unique aspects to TSM, and our users have all developed different ways of approaching certain tasks. Being able to engage with our community and test certain ideas out with them is really great and I hope that we’ll only continue to grow that process as it makes designing a lot easier.
That wraps up this first Technical insight into TSM4! We have more planned for you so if you enjoyed this content be sure to keep an eye on our blog!