Yes, it’s a great DAW functionality-wise, I’ve been using it since 2004 or so, but UI/UX-wise it doesn’t always live up to the “Pro” in its name.
Now I know design is often subjective (like colours and skeuomorphic vs. flat design) but there are some guidelines in (screen) design nonetheless and as someone who has worked in that area (print design, granted), it still makes me cringe when I look at Cubase since 7.
The biggest problem with Cubase is missing consistency in my opinion. There are UI elements from the past 15 years mixed together, but even the newer ones fail in this regard.
I counted four different scrollbar designs. 1. mixer, bottom 2. mixer, rack (also in the plugin manager), 3. Arrange window (also really badly aligned!) and 4. Windows from the good old SX days.
Now which one would be easiest to grab with a mouse or a touchpad? Take a guess…
Now here’s what Jakob Nielsen has to say about designing scrollbars (read it, Steinberg!)
TL;DR: best practice, use those the operating system provides. If you use your own, make it look like a toolbar that users know.
2. The Edit-"e"
Cubase users know the slightly slanted lower case “e” since long time as a symbol for “edit”. So why the hell is it an uppercase “E” above the faders in the mixer??? It isn’t even in the insert rack in the same window. It isn’t in the arrangement. Nowhere.
I really don’t get it, this is such a screaming inconsistency, it looks like an amateur’s work.
3. The faders
Also since C7, it has gotten hard to tell the channels apart because of missing optical separation. Each fader is actually nearer to it’s neighbour’s meter than its own.
4. get rid of the ellipsis (…) in the insert/send name slots
Please tell me, which one of Valhalla’s plugins are listed here:
Now let’s look at how C6 handled this:
The ellipsis doesn’t add information, it removes it. Get rid of it.
5. the new green pre/post-fader line
OK, this might be a taste issue, but whoever thought it would be cool to use a light green dotted line that appears nowhere else in the entire Cubase UI system has a bad taste. The visual feedback for pre/post fader is guaranteed by the different slot colors (blue/green), no need to give us eye cancer. Or make it at least the same color as the “focus color” which is user customizable.
6. Do not change design elements just for the sake of it between versions
From C9 to C9.5 several things have changed that IMHO actually didn’t need fixing badly.
The plugin select window looks different now, the visibility is now indicated by a checkmark instead of a circle (frankly, looks like a bad Powerpoint now), the zones indicators are still circles, the insert bypass buttons now look different than the send bypasses. All not dramatic changes, but not entirely neccessary. It seems like they were done just to show that you made an update. I might be wrong and there is a reasoning behind it that I don’t see.
7. Use a consistent UI toolkit
Now this might not be so easy to fix as I guess that the UI widget class design at Cubase is pretty much a convoluted mess of over 15 years.
These are some of Cubases windows. Not one looks the same, even the newer ones on the left have all different icons, different backgrounds and buttons with varying shades of grey. It looks as if they are from at least two different programs:
I mean, if you write a new plugin manager, why make it look completely different from the rest of the program, color-wise?
I only updated from C6 to C9 a year ago and I still haven’t really gotten used to the new UI, especially the mixer.
OK, rant over