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Re: Designing LabVIEW NXG: Introduction

Member

During NIWeek 2018, we gave a demo of LabVIEW NXG to a LabVIEW user on the expo floor. After a few minutes, she commented, “This is very familiar. It looks and feels just like the LabVIEW I know today. So, why is LabVIEW NXG a separate editor?” 

 

Over the next few weeks, we will explore the answer to that question with members of the LabVIEW Product Design team in a blog series called Designing LabVIEW NXG.

 

 

31031_twt_cover_lv_ndg_2.0_hero.jpg

 

 

This user’s reaction of familiarity is exactly what we’re aiming for with the design of LabVIEW NXG.  Being “Authentically LabVIEW” has been one of our design tenets from the early days. We value the years of experience and expertise our users have in using G, and we’ve worked hard to ensure this knowledge is easily leveraged in LabVIEW NXG.

 

Based on user feedback and insight, we also know that we have an opportunity to streamline some key workflows. It’s in these key areas where we deliberately chose to evolve and improve the behavior. Some of these conceptual changes are foundational enough that making the change in-place in LabVIEW would have been too disruptive for our user’s applications. Creating a separate editor helped us introduce these benefits while also allowing each user to make these changes at their own pace.

 

For example, the way LabVIEW finds subVI files is simple and easy to understand (that is, a name in memory or a path on disk). However, this approach begins to break down when independent top-level VIs inadvertently use subVIs of the same name, causing a state of cross-linking. In LabVIEW NXG, we addressed this by fundamentally changing the way subVIs are looked up. While we’re confident in the benefits, we also understand that making this change in-place in an existing project would be disruptive for existing applications. 

 

The topics we chose for this blog series are a combination of fundamental concepts and brand-new concepts. Subjects represent some of the core philosophies that have shaped the LabVIEW NXG experience today. We look forward to sharing these insights with you and hearing your thoughts about the direction.

 

Read more about designing LabVIEW NXG >>

 

Jenifer Loy
Section Manager, AppSW Product Design
National Instruments
Comments
Active Participant

Curious to see more insight. My dealings with NXG are a mixture of familiarity and frustration about lot's of little things in the editor's behaviour. I'm also curious how you capture these frustrations that I can't imagine more (long time) users of CG would encounter while exploring NXG.

My dealings for now are mostly limited to the web module, but when comparing I see the same in regular GVIs.

Knowing reasons why things are different or if whether are still a work in progres would help in adopting a new way of working and coping with the differences between CG and NXG.

I'm sorry I can't be thrilled yet.

Regards,
André (CLA, CLED)
Member

André,

 

Thank you for your comments and feedback. As we implement new functionality, we are continuously crafting the interactions such that you can focus on your work instead of the mechanics of the editor. As part of this process, we are mindful of both the new LabVIEW user and the large existing community of LabVIEW users.

 

Re: "My dealings with NXG are a mixture of familiarity and frustration about lot's of little things in the editor's behaviour. I'm also curious how you capture these frustrations that I can't imagine more (long time) users of CG would encounter..."

I believe you are refering to many of the subtle microinteractions within the experience. As feedback for these, we rely on three primary sources of input:

  • Hands-on Software Test Lab Events. For the past few years, we have held this event in conjuction with NIWeek and CLA Summits in Austin and Europe. This is a 4-hour event where attendees use a prerelease version of LabVIEW NXG. Each participant is paired with a member of our R&D team who takes detailed notes about where the editor is succeeding or struggling in support of the user's task.  We then review these learnings and add elements in our roadmap to address the shortcomings.
  • Targeted Usability Studies. Since the beginning of LabVIEW NXG development, we have incorporated targeted usability studies for specific features and workflows. These are formatted with 6-10 participants per study, using the product to accomplish a specific task within ~30-45 minutes. These studies are faciliated by our User Research team and are typically based on early software prototypes.  Learnings from these studies typically result in larger changes to the conceptual model and core framework of the features; however, we also notice details such as terminology, visual feedback, etc. that we adjust as well.
  • In Product Feedback. We also monitor the feedback users send to us from within the product itself (screenshot below).  These insights are unique in that they come from the users who are in the midst of their regular work in their normal work environment.  In Product Feedback.pngLabVIEW NXG In Product Feedback 

 

Re: "Knowing reasons why things are different or if whether are still a work in progres would help in adopting a new way of working and coping with the differences between CG and NXG." 

 

During NIWeek 2016, my team led two technical sessions about some of the core design decisions that shaped the LabVIEW NXG experience:  

 

Design Evolution of the LabVIEW Block Diagram  (download slides)

This presentation focuses on decision regarding diagram geometry (wire hotspot sizes), shape of objects on the diagram, visual design of the diagram, and configuration of VIs.

 

Design Evolution of the LabVIEW Editor (download slides)

 

This presentation highlights a few of the most used elements of the editor itself (such as the palette) and takes the audience through various prototypes and design evolutions that existed early LabVIEW NXG development.  The framework of this talk was more about the design process; however, some of the decision criteria is evident from here too.

 

Are these the type of information you are looking for?  If you'd like to hear more about these or other topics, let us know and we'll work to deliver that content in the most effective way.

 

Regards,

Jen

Jenifer Loy
Section Manager, AppSW Product Design
National Instruments
Active Participant

Hi Jenifer,

 

Thank you for your elaborate answer.

 

I was familiar with the hands-on and in product feedback, but the targeted usability studies were new for me. You are right that most of my frustration are with what you call the micro-transactions. I sometimes get the idea that the environment is trying to hard to help me. I would very much like to have preference options that turn-off these "helpful" algorithms. E.g. I get frustrated with the automatic wiring rules, although auto-wiring is turned off, because it never seems to guess what I want it to, there still are some rules enforced that don't let me wire the way I'm used to (company style). I have given this feedback on multiple occasions, so I am curious whether this is something still on the to do list (give us more control over how the environment tries to help us) or something that I have to get to learn to live with.

 

I have more, but I'll save that for a different time and place.

 

I have followed the evolution of NXG since the CLA Summit CAB in Berlin, but since I need to use webVIs to build SystemLink dashboard it all becomes much more real and I start to run into things (a lot). I like giving feedback, but I also like to be able to follow the process to understand why some things are fixed and others not.

 

To close off with some feedback: I find myself using quick-drop more and more in NXG for regular LV functions (which I didn't do in CG), because I just can't find them in the palette by looking at the icons.

 

 

Regards,
André (CLA, CLED)
Member

André,

 

I hear you.  The iconography for VIs is something we have iterated on quite a bit. That combined with some reorganization of the palettes is certainly something we recognize will take users a little bit of time to get used to.  When designing the icons, we want to keep the historical concepts and metaphors while also responding to feedback that the icons themselves were trying to tell too much of the story. As a result, many of the icons ended up having too many pixels to be able to quickly read, especially the String and Array APIs.  After doing some usability testing with new iconography, we are confident that after users spend enough time in the LabVIEW NXG editor, the new icons are better. However, the definition of 'enough' is differernt for each person, depending on how engrained the old icons are in that person's memory.  Is there a specific palette you are finding most trouble navigating?

 

About the wiring behavior, have you found the options in File > Preferences (screenshot below)? custom wire behavior.png

 

If you select 'Click near a wire to branch' the editor will behave like LabVIEW 20xx where the position of your cursor relative to the wire determines if you get a branch or select behavior.  The other two options use a modifier key (CTRL) to invoke the alternate behavior.  This decision was also informed by usability studies and user observations.  The new behavior requires far less precision to get a predictable editor response; however, we implemented the traditional behavior because we recognize that muscle memory (especially for wiring) is a tough thing to relearn.

 

Please keep us in the loop as you work with Web VIs.  We'd love to hear more about your experience and learn more about how you are using these capabilities.  Feel free to reach me by direct email (below).

 

Jen

jenifer.loy@ni.com

 

 

 

Jenifer Loy
Section Manager, AppSW Product Design
National Instruments
Active Participant

Thanks.

 

After 18 years of building muscle memory even small palette changes in CG put's you off enough to spend some time to change it back to something close enough to the previous version (I switch versions a lot and I'm not familiar enough with the function names for quick-drop, so it mattersSmiley Wink. Seeing the NXG stuff really turned it up side down. From Labels becoming Captions, etc.

 

 

I sent you an email with my wiring feedback.

Regards,
André (CLA, CLED)