Don’t Roadblock the Flow
It seems to me that there are two basic styles of software applications: those that stay out of your way and let you work, and those that make you bend to a rigid workflow. Guess which type I like better?
The flexible ones are intuitive, and allow you to access virtually any command any time you want. Conversely, the rigid ones flash dialog boxes at you that say “You can’t do this until you do that!” Or they simply gray out commands if you haven’t followed the correct sequence of steps to get there. “Do it my way, or don’t do it at all!” is the unspoken message.
For those of us who work in DAWs, it’s important to have as much flexibility as possible. If I want to change the order of my tracks in the mixer, I don’t want to have to switch over to the tracks window to do it. Or if I want to zoom in after working in a non-zoomable side window, why must I click on the tracks window before the program lets me zoom?
And while I’m on the subject, why do some programs let you assign any key command to virtually any action, while others restrict you to their key command choices, and have some important actions that can’t be accessed by key command at all?
The weird thing is that it’s not always so black and white. Logic Pro X is the program I was referring to in my examples about moving tracks in the mixer and zooming, yet it’s also one of the most flexible for key commands and in many other ways. Go figure.
A software developer’s goal should be to design applications that stay out of your way, let you work, and let you customize; not ones that throw roadblocks at you unless you subscribe to a predetermined workflow.
Software’s inflexibility — in a different sense — is a major topic in this week’s interview with mastering engineer Nathan Hamiel. He gives a well-reasoned argument as to why you can’t get anywhere near the same results using LANDR.com, the algorithm-based, online mastering website, as you can with a real mastering engineer. Yes, he has a vested interest in discouraging people from using LANDR, but his argument is pretty compelling. The interview also covers some interesting mastering techniques, and, of course, gear. So do check it out, and have a great holiday weekend!