Missing link in Flex architecture

In the last half year I worked with a number of enterprise developers getting in the Flex/RIA platform. In most cases it was not easy as they have certain set of rules of how things suppose to work that do not work any more.

It reminded me very similar experience of 15 years ago. Pleple where moving from mainframe/terminals based environment to the windows environment. Every design and workflow that worked great for 20 years needed to be reconsidered and improved. The screens were going fro 1/4MegaPixels to 3/4MegaPixels – huge jump opening new possibilities. Windowing and event-driven programming were going to change user experince forever.

These days my desktop is over 4MegaPixels and it takes me 5 seconds to drag mouse from  one corner to the other. I learned not to layer multiple windows on the top of each other and memorized shortcuts to get needed widgets at once. I am longing for “flat” with some overlays – or is it due to the fact I have been using Flex too much in the last 2 years?

Enterprise developers miss design guidelines to show the way RIA applications should look and behave. There was similar huge gap between lined notepads used to layout flat mainframe/terminal screens and plain interaction and WIMP wireframes. Simple books like Interface Guidelines were on every desk. I was not able to find the same type of book (not because of lack of trying) for Flex/RIA development – and it is needed very much every day.

I am answering countless questions like : “How do you make application flow with asynchronous message boxes?”. Well, I avoid message boxes by providing validation ques and inflow wizards that serve the same purpose – unobtrusively, ahead of time. The screens are neither flat browser page nor convoluted MDI but rather are scaled/structured based on user feedback/history. The concepts of proximity, personal preferences and simplicity take preference. All that is on the top of usuall Wall-street requirement of absolute top-speed – waisting time for nice animation is punishable offense. Anything that “moves” is potential target and a lot of Playstation concepts are at play here.

Cool pictures showing RIA’s “best practices” would worth thousand words. A book with words explaining along the patterns of user interaction would be priceless


Anatole Tartakovsky


4 thoughts on “Missing link in Flex architecture

  1. Great post. It’s odd that the old MM had internal teams working on prototypes and demo’s for and with corporate clients to show the potential of RIA’s but that experience and knowledge was never materialized, collected and publicized in an official way. Some of that work _is_ being shown to potential clients through sales engineers and evangelists and some of those apps and breezos are available if you have the right contacts within Adobe.

    That’s indeed an opportunity that has to be addressed by Adobe and it’s something ‘traditional’ platforms do have ( UI guidelines / Best Practices / Demo apps ) through companies like Microsoft, Apple and Sun. So who at Adobe is willing to take that chance? :)

  2. Well said. There is a lot of consideration in the design of a RIA that is more than just athestics. If a well thought out design / ui is in place moral, productivity and many other benefits occur. The time saved by not using animation or good ui is not a saving. It is saying, “the experience of the user is not important”. A telemarketing company I applied to once had very dirty call center environment. During training many of us noted that we did not feel valued. Not long after many of us quit because it was affecting our moral. I would not have noticed this subtle reality as well except for the fact that I was in an extreme case and the affects applied very rapidly. The same with UI. Value passes through the experience.

    @Owen – MM seemed to do this twice now. Horde the resources once the tool is made. At least that is the way it feels. They really need to come to bat and show more best practices application.

  3. Last year I’ve attended a training class on a new J2EE-based software that targeted specific business need of maintaing a trustworthy information about customers of large enterprises. I was well versed in all supported software technologies (JMS, EJB, Servlets), but the class was structured around configuring all these pieces to work together. When I asked the instructor to tell us about best practices of architecting such systems in the real world, he just said “Welcome to Joe’s imaginary enterprise, and let’s go through my sample application” (his name was Joe). This was a clear indication that the software is new, and the vendor just does not have enough real-world implentations to share with us.
    RIA is also very new, and as the number of implementations will increase, we’ll be gaining such experience and share with each other.
    Best practices books are needed badly, that’s for sure. But Adobe evangelists or R&D team can’t write if for you just yet. People in the trenches should start blogging about it just like Anatole did, and eventually some brave person(s) will write a book on the subject.

Comments are closed.