The previews of UI 2.0 have arrived, and things are not looking good. The interface is, though visually improved, mired in many of the same mistakes made in the first UI. A slick tile and filter interface are vast improvements over the lists of UI 1.5, but the new UI is often more awkward to use than its predecessor. In this series of articles, I’ll be making constructive suggestions and showing off my terribad paintshopping skills.
The new UI changes the basic flow as described in this concept mock-up. Rather than information simply flowing from the top to the bottom in a hierarchical manner like the current UI, it wastes screen space by having both vertical and horizontal navigation. While it’s not terrible, it is inferior to the current setup for both ease of navigation and use of screen space. I recommend moving back to the old layout and moving all important information to the top of the screen.
The Mechlab wouldn’t really change aside from having more screen real estate and hopefully a change to the ‘mech stats. My version isn’t exactly inspiring, but again, information should flow from the top to the bottom. It just makes more sense.
The loadout screen needs the biggest changes to improve usability. The current UI 2.0 implementation demands too much clicking because it doesn’t utilize its own filter. Each category of equippable item like Missiles, Ammo, and Engines requires an extra click upon selecting a component. Rather than simply than selecting Ammo on a filter and cycling through components, throwing ammo where you need it, you’re forced to click Ammo as a sub-menu of each component.
The hierarchical layout and saved space from putting things in the upper-left corner allow full stats to be displayed on the left (though on second look, they’d be better on the right), while the filter allows for players to easily cycle around their ‘mech in an assembly line process: put the weapons in each component, then the ammo, then the equipment. Though not all players build their ‘mechs in such a way, it helps those that do greatly, while the others are unaffected – those that build their ‘mechs component-by-component are doomed to inefficiency regardless of which interface is chosen (though having a default “All” filter for equipment types would really help).
The final addition is what we all really want: the “All Components” view. My mock-up is bad, but the spirit is there. Being able to see all of the components and critical spaces simultaneously is seriously important for advanced players. It takes three times longer to build a ‘mech in the game than it does in every third party tool available – what does that say?
As a final note, after looking at it, I’m more inclined to think the expanded ‘mech stats should go all the way on the right side, and the components and ‘mech model should scoot to the left. I’m lazy, so you’ll have to use your imagination.
The new UI has plenty of other minor problems, but the flow issues are not difficult to address. I do sincerely hope PGI considers changes to what they have. Otherwise, all this time will have been for nothing in terms of the user experience.