Tools Dev - Using it Wrong but Right
So, a while back, a good friend tested Stickimator. He is the perfect first tester. Why? Well, my friend is an amazing artist, but his computer experience goes just far enough to shoot his friends online on Halo 1-zillion. He is, for all practical purposes, clueless when it comes to digital art. In fact, I have been working with him on it - which is scary because I am almost as clueless as he is!
So, we scanned a drawing into Gimp and attempted to color it, and import the textures into Stickimator. I'm showing him the ropes in this tool: attach a skin to this bone here; press your mouse button to rotate that bone there; press ctrl+mouse button to freely move that bone right there.
The thing about the ctrl+free-move, though, is that it affects the attached skin in 2 ways. It rotation AND scales the skin because the bone is doing the same thing (rotation + adjust bone length).
So, armed with a good hour of me talking and doing far too much (he should have been just trying it out I think), he eventually gives it a whirl.
Of course, he used it exactly like I did not expect, using the ctrl+move action for everything. I believe the idea of posing bones by rotation only must have been quite foreign to him... so he just free-moved it all. This is when I realized that IK was going to be very important, not as an extra feature for the future, but as a necessity for now. And here in lies an important key in tool design and usability.
If you're willing, watch a customer/client/user use your software for the first time, even if they do it the "wrong way". This is an incredibly useful way to improve your application. I'll grant you that sometimes we figure out the best way the first time, and they really should take the time to learn it (RTM anyone?), but this is a rarity. Usually, we are too close to the software to really see. Just as the end user is often not close enough to really see. It takes both points of view, as well as a healthy does of humility.
Anyway, check it out! I am glad this came about, because it was fun to implement
[edit - content basically the same but it was revised for clarity - should not be typing these up at 5 am!!]