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UI Design Becomes Flex Adoption Hurdle

Posted by Charles | August 31, 2006 .

I should say the lack of good UI design becomes Flex adoption hurdle.

After several whoo and whaa Flex pilot applications and setting developer loss to developing some Flex applications, we hit the wall.

Most of the new Flex applications came out boring, dull and having usability issues. People start asking “what’s the point of using Flex…”, considering some overhead and learning curve invested.

Here are the problems:

  • Good tool doesn’t give good product by default – it’s very obvious but more than often people forgot about this. Tools provides capability. It’s imagination and creativity bring out good product. Just cut developers loss and go all over Flex really won’t revolutionize the UI world.
  • Perception focused on Flash – When people realize that Flex output is Flash, they expect all the animation and other dynamic items beautifully dancing around the screen. But in reality, application is indeed boring and dull, regardless. Application is for doing their works but providing entertainment.
  • Expectation is high when tool/platform shifting – You can’t avoid this high expectation when shifting the HTML based web development to a windows alike and new tool based application development. “It got be great, doesn’t it.” For boring business application the outcome may not be that exciting.
  • Traditional developers are not designer, or verse versa – This is where the headache comes from. Flex CAN make boring business application exciting and inviting, but developers can’t. I know we should have designer in the team but can’t just for Flex. The developers seem doing just fine with HTML/AJAX application development. Expectation, expectation and expectation.
  • Developer generation gap – The developers who are doing the major part of coding are growing up with web application development. The windows based self-contained UI development should be relearned. The usability requirements are different.

Question is, how should we deal with these problems, especially when Adobe is focusing Flex on the enterprise market.

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9 Comments so far
  1. ajaxdu  August 31, 2006 12:31 pm

    yes, why flex when ajax can do the work.

  2. Johnny Boursiquot  August 31, 2006 2:11 pm

    I’m afraid UI design and usability are not Flex’s problem or any other technology for that matter. As you mentioned, good tool doesn’t automatically mean good product. Most developers had problems with putting together decent looking apps prior to Flex and will still continue to have such problems now that Flex is out. Nothing will change until they actually invest the time to learn about usability and perhaps a bit of design.

    UI design shouldn’t become the hurdle to adopting Flex, as developers, we can be our own hurdles.

  3. diamondtearz  August 31, 2006 6:30 pm

    Cooperation to the rescue!! Teams that were building cutting edge Flash RIAs when it was painful probably had some Flash designers involved to a large extent. Some folks with photoshop skills, After Effects skills and most importantly- they eye to see where it fits.
    Until the industry develops an integrated workflow(flash 9 IDE officially comes out) and JesterXL does a couple more presentations to spread the word etc we’ll be seeing hundreds of demos of how much faster this baby can generate PI to the nth digit, etc. I expect to see some mind-blowing applications come out of the flash platform.
    As a background issue I think everyone is trying to put on their “grown up programmer” face for now to show that Flash can handle the job and doesn’t have to be Flashy. After they stop calling Flash Show-Off long enuff to appreciate her strength and once these Flash designers that “don’t want no stinkin’ Flex” get a hold of that IDE hold on tight for the ride!

    We just got a brand new toy and there’s a whole demographic that has not been pulled into the fold yet- They are the ones that will walk by and let you know that the all gray interface won’t leave this production house as long as they’re living.
    I’ve got my fingers crossed- and I can’t wait for them to come out to play.

  4. JesterXL  August 31, 2006 7:47 pm

    Good post! I think a lot of the problems Microsoft will encounter with Expression is what Flex developers are encountering now: lack of designers in Enterprise teams. When I designers, I don’t mean software architects, I mean type of people combined with type of people. Software is already extremely hard. We now have a tool that has the capability to make it work well AND look good, but only a good team that is qualified can make that happen. Investing in training is great, but investing in a designer/information architect/interaction designer as well is also a necessarey step. That’s a lot to ask.

    People say AJAX, but that is a cop-out. There are 50 billion other issues associated with that (cross browser vs. not, cross OS vs. not, what version, what framework, what design level, what industry, etc.).

    For now, my hope is that enough Flash Developers who have a design background become Flex Developers with enough design sense to make a positive impact.

    …or hire me as a consultant, and I can then hire a designer on my team, hehe!

  5. Nick  August 31, 2006 8:25 pm

    As you mentioned, you need to have a designer on the team, or at bare minimum accessible for you as a developer to bounce things off of. Few are the developers who have a grip on what makes for good usability, aesthetics, and experience. Likewise few are the designers that understand the nuances of good coding practices like encapsulation, application security, etc. You need both for a quality application, when one or the other is missing, you shouldn’t be surprised when you end up with applications that are very functional, but not friendly to work with, or applications that are very easy to use and find your way around, but don’t work well if at all.

  6. Flexguy  September 2, 2006 11:23 pm

    Sorry, diamondtearz and JesterXL, somehow Akismet put your comments into spam queue. Just found out and report this to them.

  7. Musthafa  December 27, 2006 7:43 pm

    The capability is there, but it is totally up to the team to utilize it. Look at the web based conference application , now tell me if ajax can do it at all?

  8. Paula Thornton  July 18, 2007 5:48 pm

    Perhaps you’re all missing a critical realization that Microsoft has only recently embraced: design is the 80 not the 20. Development is not the ‘new black’ of solutions, design is.

    The technology is the ‘carrier’…it’s not the product. Customers don’t buy phone service based on the routers being used in the network (they might leave because of it…).

  9. Sanket  January 12, 2009 2:07 pm

    Are you jealous of the development taking place in ADOBE or the Web World? I think, FLEX is the easiest and fastest way to develop RIA. All your points go wrong when you check


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