Autodesk spends a LOT of money studying how users operate their products.  You may have wondered why are they changing things.  the company determines where key changes can benefit the community, and research how and where the changes should be applied.  Quite often, many such changes seem foreign to experienced users.  “Why did they change that, it was fine”. 

The reason is simple: Just because we have done it that way for years, does not mean it is the most efficient way to get it done, experts or not.

The subject of this seemably small area is Usability, and the subject is HUGE, not only at Autodesk but across the entire world.  Scientists have been looking at every conceivable avenue on how a user thinks and interacts with controls.  The methodology produces intuitive and efficient methods to interact with software and hardware.  A good example of a common and well know usability study is the typewriter ‘ASDF…’ keyboard (it wasn’t always like that).

One of the senior scientists at Autodesk Usability is the legendary Elena Fadeeva, which I have spoke of on a few occasions.  She contributed to this paper that was written on User and Usability Studies.  You may find it interesting:

The folks at Usability run a tight ship, right down to signed non-disclosure statements. The result is that I can’t say anything about the cool things I have seen.  All I can say is this is a pretty awesome realm of study, and I am looking forward to the next time I work with them…no matter which end of the study I’m on.