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A new design signifies the first step towards improving the user experience (UX) for an ever-evolving and increasingly complex content creation tool: The Unity Editor.

Millions of creators use Unity every month to make amazing content and interactive experiences. Over the years it has steadily grown in size to become the world’s leading real-time creation platform with a diverse and expanding audience of passionate users. As a productivity tool that’s used frequently and for long periods of time, ease of use and efficiency are everything. 

With that in mind, we took a step back to find opportunities for making improvements that are less about new features, and more about the look and feel, core interactions, and workflows

Design improvements in numerous areas of the Unity Editor UX are reflected in the latest 2019.3 beta release, with more to come soon. This long-term effort, which will be released in multiple phases, is driven by the goal of ensuring the Editor is:

  • Modern. We want to provide Unity users with a modern and professional Editor experience that feels inspiring, well-crafted, and trustworthy. 
  • Familiar. The Unity user interface should be consistent and aligned with industry standards.
  • Accessible. The Unity user interface should be accessible to a wider range of users and their abilities.
  • Efficient. We want to enable users to create content and complete tasks efficiently by offering a clear and optimized user interface (UI) for common tasks, as well as streamlined workflows. 

This blog post summarizes the UX improvements we’ve made to the Unity Editor over the course of multiple releases leading up to and including 2019.3.

A modern look and feel

We believe that good design is a harmony of form, function, and aesthetics. A product’s visual design should be purposeful and in service of usability and workflows. The visuals of the Unity Editor’s interface have varied significantly over the years. As our ecosystem grows, we wanted to update the appearance of the Unity Editor for a consistent look and feel and a more cohesive experience.

Themes. The Light and Dark themes have been updated with new colors and treatments throughout the UI to increase clarity. We’ve introduced a more lightweight and minimal look and feel to allow users to focus on their content and workflow. For example, we’ve removed gradients from the UI to reduce distractions while addressing user feedback to maintain a sense of depth in the UI, which ensures that controls are visually distinct and convey their behavior and functionality. 

Icons. Icons are an essential part of the Unity Editor UI, visually expressing objects, actions, and concepts. They add many benefits, such as preserving screen real estate, communicating meaning at a glance, accelerating the understanding of the UI, and enhancing aesthetic appeal.

As part of evolving the Unity Editor UX, we felt it was time to refresh our icons, aligning their style with the icons now found in the Hub, Services Dashboard, and other Unity web properties. These new icons help express Unity’s visual identity. Each icon has been created in multiple sizes so that it renders optimally across display types (e.g., HDPI) and resolutions – icons will appear crisp on every screen. 

New Editor and Hub app icons. Icons that appear in the Windows taskbar and the MacOS dock serve as the front door to the apps that are launched when clicked. The new app icons are fresh renditions of the signature Unity cube: white on black background for the Editor, and black on white for the Hub. This modern visual style is consistent with the Unity experience across our ecosystem and reflects Unity’s continued design evolution and attention to alignment.

New UI font. Text plays an important role in any user interface, and in one as information-dense as the Unity Editor, UI text is crucial. Proper legibility is essential. Getting text to display with consistent quality and reliability across multiple platforms is a challenge, as each operating system will render the same font differently. The Unity Editor has used the same typefaces for a long time, but they have had quality and rendering issues, so we’ve introduced a new font that improves legibility and complements the new UI. After careful consideration, we chose Inter, a modern typeface designed for computer screens. It’s highly legible and helps minimize eye fatigue. Additionally, it renders well across all operating systems and screen types, including both low and high DPI. 

From an accessibility standpoint, we’ve made further improvements to UI text. Previously, the text size in dropdown menus and text fields was extremely small, so we increased the minimum text size to make the UI more inclusive and usable for a wider audience. 

Revamped core interactions and controls

The Unity Editor has many core interactions (also known as “micro-interactions”) and controls that are used frequently across many workflows. Improving them can, therefore, have a broad impact on efficiency and ease of use. That’s why we’re committed to addressing existing core interaction problems as well as improving the quality of controls both near-term and long-term.

Here are just a few of the improvements we’ve implemented in this area:

  1. Window focus. The Unity Editor is a dense environment where many different windows are open and in use at the same time, making it difficult to keep track of which window is currently in focus. That’s why we introduced a visual indicator, a blue line, to clearly indicate the active window receiving input from the user. By reinforcing a sense of context, we hope this helps users focus and stay in their flow.
  2. Tab improvements. In the past, the width of tabs in the UI was fixed, but this created a visual imbalance where the tabs contained text of varying length, causing irregular spacing. Now the width of tabs is based on the length of the text, so the spacing around the text is consistent. The flexible width also helps with localization as translated text strings can vary greatly in length across languages.
  3. Adding new content. Adding content is a key interaction in all creation software: The “+” button has become a signature element in modern UI that users look for when starting their creation workflow. We’ve adopted this element in the Editor to preserve space and provide a familiar experience for creators.  

Hover. We’ve added a hover state to controls in the Editor for a more responsive and interactive feel. Hover helps clarify which element the user is interacting with and acts as a prompt for tooltips.

Workflow improvements

Every task a user performs in Unity is part of a workflow: We define a workflow as a set of steps a user performs to achieve a goal. There are hundreds of workflows in Unity, with different levels of complexity and granularity, meaning there are many opportunities to improve and streamline the experience. 

With the 2018 and 2019 releases we’ve begun implementing some key workflow improvements, including the following:

Project Settings. Project Settings have long been reported by users as an area that needed improvement. Previously, each Settings page was accessed via the main menu and shown in the Inspector. This meant that users would need to go through many clicks to find the right settings to edit and would often lose the page if they selected something in another window (since each settings page was bound to the Inspector). We’ve now streamlined the Project Settings workflow by unifying all its pages into a single dockable window, allowing users to easily navigate them using a sidebar with tabs for each page. We’ve also added the ability to quickly find specific settings via a Search box. Being able to switch between Project Settings pages in a single click has resulted in a significant gain in efficiency, so we’ve applied the same window layout and behaviors to the Preferences window for a more efficient and consistent experience.

Quick Search. When building a large game with hundreds or even thousands of assets and game objects it can be tedious and difficult to locate specific content. The Quick Search feature allows users to easily find anything in the Editor, including assets, game objects, settings, and even menu items. It can be quickly invoked via the shortcut Alt + ‘ and is fully operable using the keyboard: Users can take action against the search results, navigate to an associated settings page, drag an asset into the scene, or activate a menu item. This method for finding content can significantly speed up the user’s workflow and save a lot of clicks and mouse travel.

Shortcut Manager. Keyboard interaction is an important aspect of ensuring both user efficiency and accessibility. Being able to execute commands via a keyboard shortcut (a key or combination of keys) drastically speeds up workflows and reduces the need for mouse travel. The new Shortcut Manager lets users view and manage these keyboard shortcuts in the Unity Editor. We’ve also identified many other opportunities with regards to both keyboard and mouse interaction to make the Editor accessible to all users – stay tuned for future releases.   

We’re on a mission to improve how users work so they can achieve their objectives with the minimum amount of effort. If we shave off even a small percentage of time from a task users perform many times a day, it begins to add up in terms of efficiency gains. Going forward, we’ll continue to make updates that improve workflows with the purpose of increasing user performance and satisfaction.

Engaging users

One of our core values is to put users first: Collecting user feedback early and often has been, and will continue to be, a key element of our journey. 

The new Editor design has been available in preview builds for almost a year. During that time, we’ve received an incredible amount of useful feedback via the forums, surveys, and social media, which is a testament to our extraordinarily passionate user base. We’ve actively applied the feedback in our design process and iterated based on what we’ve learned from users. 

Since we’re making big changes that must be grounded in real needs, we’ve actively involved users from the start. At the end of the day, changes are only worth making if they solve problems and add value for our users. If you’d like to share your comments on the new design you can do so in our forum.

What’s next?

This is just the beginning. Users can look forward to more UX improvements in future releases at all levels, including look and feel, core interactions, and workflows.

Below is a concept visualization of several future UX improvements under investigation: We’re reimagining tools and actions to bring them closer to the user’s area of focus and help them stay in their creative flow. Additionally, this concept explores Workspaces that enable users to easily create and switch between Editor layouts that are optimized for specific tasks, e.g., World Building, Animation, Lighting, etc. 

Data-oriented game creation and development is an important area of investigation that we’re dedicating a significant amount of user research and design effort into. We’re also working hard to evolve workflows to be intuitive, user-centric, and efficient as part of our long-term vision to empower creators to achieve their goals with ease.

We’ll continue to engage users for feedback to inform and validate future designs and we’d like to sincerely thank the community for sharing their valuable input thus far. 

Human Interface Guidelines for developers

If you’re an Asset Store developer with an existing Editor extension or package we have created a Transition Guide as part of our new Human Interface Guidelines site (currently in beta) to help you adopt the new themes, look and feel, and interactions. 

The Ninja Megacity project

The Ninja Megacity demo shown in the screenshots above was created by the Graphics and Animation teams to demonstrate new features being released in the Animation Rigging package in Unity 2019.2. We used these tools to teach a Studio Workshop at this year’s SIGGRAPH and the example project is available on github. We then upgraded the project to Unity 2019.3 in order to test the new UX improvements featured in this blog post.

Acknowledgements

The work described in this blog post represents the combined efforts of many teams at Unity: R&D UX, PM, Brand & Design, Labs, Content, Product, QA, and Editor teams have all come together to envision and implement the Editor UX improvements. 

77 Comments

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  1. Hi there, thumbs up for the improvement hope you continue on improving Unity UI/UX with a lot of success. Just a small reminder for some points that may need attention:
    1- I hear about 4K display please don’t remove support for lower resolution cause in mobile 4K is useless unless casted to an HDR UHD display. just to avoid same effect as some video in youtube using 4K with no extra benefit to content.
    2- downloading new version should at least have a “resume function” plz don’t throw at me connection speed arguments cause i tested it in many places in the world same issue happens internet speed has nothing to do with the “resume” feature use.

    3- hope there will be a preview package versions for mobile simulator in earlier versions like 2019.2.x

    “THE DARK THEME” here I am talking to whom ever interested since human are using Unity, Human tend to see themselves better than others, ie: I am using a 4K…, I drive a RangeRover…, It’s a Rolex my friend. in same manner I have the Dark theme means I am part of the Elite the Pros so no use asking for it for free. You’ll never have it cause many companies tried to make less discrimination it the product and pricing and result was a drop in sales.
    In other words, the free thing you’re asking for will be yours when you’ll see yourselves no different from the others because you have or use features they don’t ;) as per other products mentioned UR4, VS20xx and so on they have their own “DARK THEME” policy ie: in VS express you can’t use extensions need to upgrade.

    To sum things up, the improvement in Unity is real and benefits every user in day to day task. Big thank you for that. and if I have to choose, the current monetization model for unity suits millions of people as it still a win win model for all ;)
    PS: nothing personal against anyone, just remark related to human behavior/sychy same goes for me too :p.

  2. I have two inquiries chinese cold noodles with cucumber regards to this recipe.

  3. As a UX.UI designer professional , this looks alot cleaner, the old one, may be easy to use, but its hard on the eyes, and about 20 years out of date and as you added things, it look terrible and the user experience was getting was not friendly anymore …. So I have hope for Unity yet, it seems you guys are getting smart…..and not using old tech anymore…. Most of my clients, investors left Unity as it seem you only cared about the asset store…so this tells me and some of the other stuff, that maybe you finally listen to people who actually make and sell games…..I was on my last game, and was leaving Unity for good, at the direction you guys where going. but with terrain changes, this and some other things, you may keep me .. Thanks I still use other engines, but I was going to ditch Unity for good after 10-11 years.. Thanks for the update

  4. Please do’t remove the gradients from the ui. I just love it, its so nice. I am a bit worried about this whole ui/ux redesign. Unity has the best ui/ux among all game engines, the editor its just the best tool ever made. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! I have some confidence that the unity team will get this right (they usally do) but i hope there will be a “classic unity” mode.

  5. What’s up with the new font in beta 3? why is it so big even when both the display and the preference option is set to 100%?

    It’s like it’s stretched on the Y axis, is this supposed to be the new normal? I hope it’s just a bug…

    1. Nvm, it’s really just an ugly big font, fortunately you can change it back, lets hope they don’t decide to remove this option later…

  6. Was hoping to see re-orderable arrays in the inspector in this update. Is there a technical reason why this hasn’t already been implemented?

  7. I tested the new 2019.3 beta. I really like the the overhaul! The font seems to still be the old one (which still has horrible kerning for HighDPI Displays), but I guess that’s not final yet.

    The updated icons work great as well. The textmesh Pro icons however pop out even more in the list of otherwise very consise icons (in a bad way).

    Very good job, I really like the direction you’re taking with cleaning up the UI/UX of the editor!

    1. Thanks for the feedback. The new UI font, Inter, is included in the latest beta (Beta 3) which is now available for install in the Hub.

  8. Modern, Familiar, Accessible, Efficient (MFAE) – those all about Dark Theme skin. Imagine new user opening the Editor with brand new UI design and finding there is only bright theme. He reads MFAE again, looks at dark VS code, dark Telegram, even dark Chrome and Windows Explorer, remembering the UE4 was dark when he downloaded it for a while, and starts the riddle “where is the dark in Unity?”. He finds the 13 year old (I believe it is already so) vote thread with 90000000 voted, scratch his back and guess what? The only question he will have: how does dark theme skin reference to “pro”? Btw we all know “pro” subscription is in Unity’s field of profit but with that “dark skin policy” we barely believe in MFAE. There is not even an official statement for “why you will never get dark theme for free”.
    At the good point I really appreciate the new design. The editor becomes really more comfortable to use.

  9. I understand this is supposed to be comments about the UX mainly but pls pls and pls look into improving Unity Hub. I mean, at the moment, it’s just a step backwards. No feedback when downloading and unexpectedly stops repeatedly. What’s worse, when it stops, one has to initiate the download all over again. Please look into this issue

  10. Having a single color theme (dark theme) would receive twice the attention. Would also make asset devs not have to account for 2 color styles.

    1. Completely agree with this. I think there should be one cohesive dark theme and make that the only one I need to support in development.

      1. Everyone besides some marketing guy at Unity agrees with this.

  11. Would be much appreciated if you could be able to increase the size of the GUI toolbar for the editor. Not just the Tabs. Im working on a 4K screen in 4K res, and the toolbar is just too small. For you who dont know what im talking about, its the toolbar where you find “File, Edit, Assets etc etc”. Please make it possible to increase that text aswell. Thank you Unity Crew.

  12. Make dark theme free please :D

    1. Please dont spam the blog post with requests that are NOT related to the blog post. Use the forum for feedback.

      1. For years Unity users ask for a free Dark Theme, big apps like Visual Studio, Android Studio, etc have free dark themes, really no matter if users use forums or blog for ask this, Unity ever denies this simply petition.

  13. I love this UX!

  14. Regarding the app icons, I think that black vs white (for Editor / Hub) is too subtle / arbitrary for me to be able to learn which is which.

    It would be better (but, I understand, less aesthetically pleasing) if there were some intrinsic difference that related to their function.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. We’ll look into this as part of our 2020 plans.

      1. While you are redesigning the icons, it would be incredibly helpful to add information to it about which version of Unity is open. Many users need to use multiple versions of Unity for different projects and knowing at a glance which version is open is very helpful. It would be even better to differentiate beta and alpha versions from full versions somehow. Essentially having this built into Unity: http://blog.demigiant.com/unity-icons/

    2. Hi Richard, just trying to follow this suggestion – are you saying you cannot tell the difference between the Unity Hub, and the Unity Editor?…

  15. You need to start thinking about making “folders” in the hierarchy, with a specific icon /color and which does not have a transform.

    1. I agree. If a flat hierarchy performs better this could help achieve it while maintaining a logical structure for devs to work with. I’ve often wanted a gameobject without a transform, and that direction kind of seems like what ECS is trying to achieve (access to simpler entities that are building blocks of more complex objects like gameobjects / things with transforms)

    2. Big PLUS!

  16. I think you should take a look at what Ludiq has done with Peek and adopt some of that. Or just acquire their solution and build on that.

  17. If you look closely, you can see a pixel wide button to switch between dark and light theme for free.

    1. Thank God, my eyes are burning with the ligth theme.

      1. Pretty sure thats a joke…

  18. I find it interesting how much the godot engine looks like the concept visualization
    https://godotengine.org/storage/app/media/gsoc/2019-2/motion-matching-001.gif

    1. Wait, sorry bit off topic. Godot getting motion matching now!!???? Danngggg!!!

    2. Hmm, I actually think it really looks very different… and in my recent tests, the Godot editor unfortunately still lacks a lot in terms of UX.

  19. Nice Job , this looks awesome. How feasible are making menus in Unity, like the ones in Maya. It is a massive productivity increase or me eg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsiBvyyAATs

  20. I love the workspaces concept it can’t come soon enough!

    The library tab also looks interesting, wonder what that is for (user collections I guess)

  21. Bells and whistles.

  22. Quicksearch shortcut is bad for me, bad for my hands and hopefully unlike before it can be rebound… Other than this, I like the new UI, nice job. The addition of blue has helped things a lot IMHO.

    1. Completely agree. Riders spotlight search shortcut is double tapping shift which I love!

      1. Rider is a text editor so you need to stop having “ideas”.

    2. Luckily you can easily change the shortcut in the preferences.

  23. Can we please get a fix for dragging objects into the scene hierarchy?
    It places objects seemingly randomly somewhat camera orientated into the scene instead of anchored to the parent objects.
    If you drag a prefab or mesh into the hierarchy onto another object, it should always be centered to that, not randomly be offset – things like that make Unity feel inconsistent.

  24. I would like to have the UI element colors and sizes be exposed in the new UI framework for custom UI to reference. When I was building a somewhat complex UI in IMGUI a year or two ago it was a hassle to give it the same look as built-in Unity UI. I used a color picker to sample the colors of various elements and labeling them for use in my component. If I could instead reference the current theme’s window background color, table border color etc. I would save time on this specific task.

  25. Pretty cool, the new editor design are kinda refreshing IMO
    Just one thing that i would like to mention, please don’t use animation for the editor UX. And if at some point the your team decide to add animation to the editor UI, give us an option to adjust it in the preferences, maybe some kind of UI animation timescale adjustment value. I more prefer having a responsive editor UI.
    Not saying that the current UI are not responsive, i just want the UX/UI team to at least consider this option for the future.

  26. Plenty of discussion on Visual Efficiency, but what about the Editor’s CPU/GPU Efficiency.
    My main UX issue with Unity is having the editor slow Way down while working with Dual inspectors or decent size lists.

    Hopefully none of these visual changes has made the Engine itself heavier.

    1. From what I’ve read these changes are being rebuilt with UI elements. Which means the overall editor UI should be much less processor intensive.

      Would love to have a unity rep chime in here though as I could be wrong.

      1. You are partially right! We’re only using the style format of UIElements (USS) for the re-theming effort so no performance improvements there. That being said, we’re also writing new editor tools using UIElements, which comes with a significant increase in performance.

        We’re aware of general editor performance degradation that cumulated over time and we’ll invest a lot of efforts next year at improving performance across the board, to provide a responsive and productive experience using Unity.

  27. Absolutely stunning concept visualization. Keep up the good work!

  28. this is BEAUTIFUL
    the perfect UI/UX
    the designers deserve a huge raise, everyone should take inspiration from this UI
    it reminds me a bit of blender new UI, wich is a good thing
    i wish windows 10 looked similar.. they should take inspiration from you
    GG

  29. Will we be able to customize the editor to a greater extent in the future? The ability to rearrange buttons, remove things I don’t need and add things that I use regularly is something that I consider essential for productivity, and I’m constantly dismayed by the fact this is not a standard Unity feature, nor was it even mentioned. Custom set workflows look nice but just how customizable will they be? Are these hard coded workflows or will I be able to drag toolbars around like in photoshop? Create a custom shelf like in maya? Change the icons to my own for my own custom functions(also like maya)? Export & share these custom saved ui’s with other users? I know some of these things can be done via editor scripting – but its so far away from a pleasant experience to attempt that for simple quality of life changes, that one tends to make for their own uses. I shouldnt have to dive into an IDE to make simple ui changes as is currently needed. I feel like I’ve followed these UI previews and mentions in the roadmap closely enough to say that while I’m happy its being modernized, for all intents and purposes the user experience is very much the same as it was before(for better and worse).
    Also – why is the shortcuts window not dockable?

  30. Beautiful work. This modernizes and makes the editor more efficient. The biggest UX improvement suggestion I can make, one that has been made for years, is the need for scene hierarchy folders. This would make scene management so much easier. Thanks again for your hard work!

  31. Dark theme for Unity free?

    1. This isnt a place to ask for this, go on the forums for that. This is a blog post, please talk about the content rather than spamming/trolling.

      1. yes or not?

  32. I’m always bitter to see announces like that. There are so many things to fix before choosing another set of icons..
    It looks good though.

    1. Different teams working on UX/UI and Bugs. I think it’s time for UI improvements, to deliver a good allround-experience in Unity.

    2. You make it sound like the people who make this are the same people fixing the bugs. Thats not the way it works. Both are being done in tandem. You dont really think there is 1 single team and they choose whether to fix bugs, make assets, or create features? There are multiple teams as within any professional software organisation.

  33. It would be awesome to see what project you have open inside the taskbar / dock Application Icon. When you have multiple projects open it becomes a pain to remember which of the 3 or so Unity application icons in the dock corresponds to which project.

  34. It all looks great, but the lock icon is worse than before… it’s so difficult to tell if it’s locked or not. Can you spend a bit of time on the lock? Make it bigger, and perhaps toggle colour when it’s locked?

    1. I agree with you. This feature is so useful and so weirdly accessible. The color toggle is a good idae.

    2. It would be useful if there was a RED LINE at the top of the inspector (kind of like it is in tabs) or a BG tint to show the inspector is locked (instead of hunting for that tiny lock icon).

    3. This is extremely great feedback. Probably the most used inspector tool I use and it’s peculiarly small, hard to find, and hard to instantly understand what is locked / unlocked.

      1. Thanks for the feedback. We have recently updated the Locked / Unlocked icons in the Inspector, see: https://twitter.com/Kr1sSchultz/status/1178796692776222720

  35. Hi! Is it possible to rename “Game View” to “Play View”? Unity is now being used more and more for non-gaming purposes (VR/AR/Design/Film/EduTech etc). Kinda feels weird when developing serious / medical software and each time you hit “Play” button you enter “Game View”..

    1. Its a game engine. Doesnt matter what your using it for, the correct terminology is that it is a game engine. Game engines have been used by other industries for decades, it doesnt stop them being a game engine. There is literally 0 point in calling it something it is not. Your using a game engine for creating medical software, and pretending its not that doesnt change the fact that you are playing your application within the game view, in a game engine.
      Same like photoshop is an art tool. Even if your using it as a visualisation tool to make some charts or graphs, its still an art package and calling it a “business visualisation tool” wouldnt change that.

      1. Sorry, but I don’t think your comment is accurate. Unity changed their marketing and branding long time ago to be a “Real-time” engine. That’s now reflected on the front page of the Unity website. In addition, they use the same branding and copyrighting when they describe the company and their engine in every new job offer and press release they post starting from last year.

        Products and their purpose evolve overtime. The fact that Unity started as a game engine doesn’t mean it should be branded as a game engine, and doesn’t mean that every product built with Unity is a game deisguised in a serious app form.

        Real-time engine is currently the correct terminology for Unity, according to Unity.

  36. Please add a quick way to reset Position, Rotation, Scale of a transform to defaults! A mini button next to each of these properties would be the best option!

    1. Youve been able to do this for a while, use the cog on the transform component.

      1. That would reset all the values. I think he meant to reset single values with one click.
        In 3ds max I remember number fields had up and down arrows to change value via mouse. Right clicking them reset them to their default value. In Unity you can drag the label to change the value via mouse. So right clicking the label could function as reset.

  37. This blog entry claims that the new Editor UI uses the Inter font:

    “After careful consideration, we chose Inter, a modern typeface designed for computer screens.”

    but the Style Guide (https://hig.unity.com/transition-guides/2019-3-transition-guide) claims Roboto:

    “Since the Roboto font is slightly wider your button text may no longer fit.”

    Which is it?

    1. Hi SonicBloomEric, good catch. Inter is the correct font, and we’ve updated the Transition Guide to match.

      1. Hi Dan. Following on this question, I don’t see an option to user Inter. I can select from Verdana, Roboto, and Segoe UI. Am I overlooking something?

        1. The new UI font, Inter, is available in the 2019.3 beta 3 which can now be installed via the Hub.