Ableton Live’s dominance over a lot of workflows is unparalleled. But the software itself is looking long in the tooth. There are clearly some features long in coming, and despite some updates, the UI is still largely unchanged since the software’s debut over a decade and a half ago. That’s good in some ways, but it means the software can be clunky on modern displays and in certain use cases.

It says something about the love for the software that UI/UX designer Nenad Milosevic would create a deep redesign project, spec, just for the heck of it.

If Nenad’s redesign demonstrates anything, it may be to prove just how hard a redesign is. But the results are nothing if not interesting, even if you wouldn’t necessarily want to replace Ableton Live with this UI. Especially compelling, Nenad did extensive polling to determine what features mattered and how they would look. So the results have some ideas in them, and reflect a bit of what the Ableton user base imagines they’d like a future version of the software to look like.

nndmlsvc_-_small-browser-session-view-fx-racks2x

Personally, I really like the colors, and would love someone to implement a skin of this. (It’s not a skin yet. Anyone?)

And yeah, the similarity to Bitwig Studio is unmistakable.

This is a telling line, too: “I didn’t blindly follow what Live users said in surveys I conducted. Because 1. what users assume they need do not necessarily align with what they really need. 2. I didn’t conduct usability testing to see what actually needs fixing and how users behave.”

But even if it’s not practical to expect anything of this project, I think UI buffs will find it entertaining, and Nenad did a lot of lovely work. It also speaks to the appetite for a new generation of Ableton Live software that this story has been all over the Web.

Check it out, along with other design goodies:

http://nenadmilosevic.co/ableton-live-redesign/
live-view-less-densefull

I will meanwhile wait for the real thing, as I don’t necessarily see anything here I’d want to use, personally. A new skin would be cool, though.

  • Ivan

    I think the most interesting thing about this redesign isn’t the result itself, but the extensive documentation provided with it which made the author do his choices. I learn a lot of things in the process, and I hope the author got the results he wanted from his submission.

    • Yeah, exactly! That’s what made it worth sharing to me.

      This also illustrates the level of appetite for a new generation. I can’t think of another DAW that would generate quite this kind of passion.

  • Olivier Arson

    I think it’s a really nice work indeed, but I hope Ableton won’t follow into this too much because I’m not sure of the users this work seems to focus on (Dark Theme and “Modern look” are ranked 3rd and 4th on this “wishlist”….seriously???).

    Maybe it’s a different story, but I really wish Ableton keep innovating on the creative side (modular architecture would be awesome) and refining the software to really make it a professional tool (video export and scoring tools, MIDI latency, CV inputing etc…) and not get drowned too much into marketing and aesthetics questions.

    • I’m sure they won’t. 🙂

      They do get user feedback and do extensive testing, so they’ll rely on that, not this.

    • foljs

      > and not get drowned too much into (…) aesthetics questions.

      A strange thing for an artist / musician to say…

  • Helvetica666

    Appearance of tools, such as hammer, spoon or ableton live, should not follow design trends – they are already good as simple as they were invented.

    • itchy

      i agree , but making it available to be customized to your own style as far as windows and layout will break the tread and make it more open.

  • starkaudio

    Looking at the rankings in his polls, features highly desired (Is a dark skin a feature?) I would like to remind people (and I’m sure the Ableton team is aware) that what people most vote for is often not in their own best interests. His poll results reads like some of the documents coming out of the White House lately.

    • The Dark Skin thing is funny, too, given Disco is there already.

      He talks about partly ignoring the polls, though, I quote him on that. They’re interesting, anyway. (Uh, anything is better than the documents coming out of the White House, so not sure I follow. 😉 )

      • starkaudio

        I was trying (and failing I suppose) to equate the absurdity of voting for a dark skin as a feature with the absurdity of the recent executive orders. Perhaps that’s too strong…my apologies for letting my venting about #45 overflow into my comment about the redesigned UI. I commend his passion and effort. 🖖

    • ‘what people most vote for is often not in their own best interests.”

      And who, exactly, tells us what our best interests are?

  • heinrichz

    Yes default skins of Ableton look drab, what is see here reminds a bit of the disco skin, which i ended up using.

  • itchy

    as a skin thats cool but i think it looks a bit cluttered on just looking at this pic. i do like that larger waveform display in the preview area tho (first pic)

    • itchy

      as said below looking at the notes behind this def does give a nicer insight. seems to have an adobe premiere aspect to it as far as workspaces. being able (pun) to design a custom workspace is always nice. def nice work overall.

  • FS

    did he just take the Logic X colors and slap them into Ableton? i wish i could do the reverse, get Ableton’s current color adjustability into Logic, the above color scheme is exactly what makes a DAW hard on the eyes. the major request i would have for Ableton is not cosmetic, i’d like them to implement notation.

    • shocking_wall

      no it’s not just the colours, there is custom tabs, and stuff

  • LeBlanc

    I allways liked the clean basic UI of Ableton, when it was released it was unique. I really don’t like all those 3d interfaces.. So I hope they don’t change it, it’s a great DAW!

  • Kenny

    I would love to see Ableton give the users some flexibility in the layouts. Ex.

    – option to show 1-4 (or more) Clips in Clip View
    – have the option of the “mixer” on the right OR left in Arrange View
    – have the option for mixer from Session view available in Arrange view

    etc.

    All of the above are very doable but Ableton has generally dug their heels in with a stubborn attitude that is starting to remind me of the way Propellerheads were with Reason. IMO, that’s not a good sign.

  • passarinho

    Getting lots of attention because he is spamming the hell of all audio forums, for months already.

    Social media marketing is his real call, not UX design.

    The actual design is average (at least 3 other redesigns concepts appeared in 2015, all similar), people like the added features (mixer gadgets, etc.) but those are not up to the UX designer to create or decide.

  • baju-baju

    I’m glad to read this article.
    So far every time I mentioned that I stay away from Ableton in favour of Bitwig because of the GUI and usability I had to run and hide for a few days before the mob extinguished their torches and went back to their huts.
    Bitting beats Ableton on speed of use and general friendliness hands down.
    Yes, you can get used to the bizarre zooming in Ableton and probably even grow to love it, but it’s still very agricultural.
    The UI is dated, the interaction is dated, high time for a facelift.

    • itchy

      ableton def has the best zoom function in my opinion very organic motion for me.

  • Maddcrack

    can someone just make an ableton with knobs already, half circles just dont cut it for me.lol

  • bitwig flat design version would be very very close, nice research tho. while i prefer bitwig on many aspects on feature and ui, the default ui can give a feel of overpopulated, borders, chamfers, insets ect.. flat design minimalistic option would be nice

  • chaircrusher

    I may be a fanboy, but i see nothing compelling about this. Ableton takes UI design seriously, and any change has to pass both technical muster and extensive end user testing.

    I’ve avoided trying any new DAWs because getting to the point of creative fluency with a new DAW takes time away from actually making music.

    The optimum for me is when using software is like the way a blind person navigates their home; you get around by memory without having to look.

    Changing the UI, aside from small improvements, is the equivalent of rearranging the furniture in a blind person’s house. There’s a lot of barked shins and no real improvements in utility.

    • pulsn

      Fully agreed. A DAW is a tool like a Hammer or saw and doesnt need a fancy Look, but good functional Design.

  • moe

    I really couldn´t care less about the design itself. i think Ableton Live’s design is good as it is right now, what´s bothering me is the lack of innovation Ableton has these days. viewing multiple midi tracks at once would be what I need for example. Visiting the bitwig site on a daily basis putting bitwig 2.0 in the cart and then not buying it after all because thinking about the effort of transitioning everything I´ve done and saved to presets in the last 10+ years working with Ableton would be a freaking nightmare. reminds me of the dude that´s doing Waves plugin redesigns – wtf it´s not about eye candy but about getting shit done.

  • AntoxaGray

    The only thing I want is more gradients in buttons. I don’t dig trend for “flat” / “metro” interfaces of modern times.

    When they switched CS6 to CC in Adobe for example. I miss the gradients, they make it easier to see and find stuff and differentiate between buttons and not-buttons.

  • “what users assume they need do not necessarily align with what they really need.”

    This type of thinking is sadly all too active in modern UI design vocabulary.

    And while it may have “kinda” worked (at one time) for Mr Jobs, evidence suggests that all these “educated assumptions” have given us are clumsy, cluttered and confused tools.

    Does a painter say I made my masterwork despite my paintbrush?

  • sublunar

    Still wouldn’t use Ableton Live even if this was the new version.