Fast spreading rich Internet applications require new skills for development of what was known as boring-looking enterprise applications. In the past, development of the user interface was done by software developers to the best of their design abilities. A couple of buttons here, a grid there, gray background. There users were happy cause they did not see any better. The application delivers the data – what else to wish for? Enterprise business users are not spoiled and works with whatever is available – they need to take care of their business. It is what it is. Is it really? Not anymore. I’ve seen excellent (from the UI perspective) functional specs for financial applications made by professional designers. Business users slowly but surely become first-class citizens! The trend is clear: developer’s art does not cut it anymore. You need to hire a professional Web designer for your next Web application.
The vendors of the tools for RIA development recognize this trend and are trying to bring designers and developers closer to each other. But the main RIA tools vendors, Adobe and Microsoft, face different issues.
Adobe is a well known name among creative people (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash) and now they are trying to convince developers that they have something for them in the store (Flex, AIR).
Adobe is trying to win developers hearts, but does not want to scare designers either. In addition to various designer-only tools, they are developing a tool called Thermo that will allow designers create Web application without knowing how to program.
Microsoft comes quite from the opposite side – they have legions of faithful .Net developers, and now are creating tools as a part of the Silverlight offering trying to convince designers to create UI for RIA in Expression Design and Expression Blend IDEs that produce code for .Net developers.
Recently, I’ve attended an interesting event for educators. Adobe has invited professors from different schools discussing what has to change in the curriculum of Visual Design and Software Engineering disciplines so designers can understand programming better and software developers would be a better at designing user experience. In my opinion, it’s a complex and not necessarily achievable goal.
Do we need to breed new creatures called d-e-s-i-g-n-o-p-e-r and d-e-v-i-g-n-e-r?
I do not think so. Developers are from Mars, designers are from Venus. I know this first hand. My son has graduated from School of Visual Arts majoring in classic animation. I am a software developer. We are people from different planets even though he is my son. Several times I’ve approached him offering to teach him Flex programming so he could have double his income. He rejects saying that it’s boring to sit in front of the computer all day writing code. He does not find boring spending hours drawing or animating, go figure.
No one will be able to make me a good artist either.
If I’d be staffing a RIA project I’d rather hire two different talents – a creative person and a Web developer…budget permitting. But if the money is tight, I‘ll have to bring on board either designoper or devigner.
Yakov Fain, developer