When Written: April 2010
As I mentioned previously I have been busy watching Microsoft presentations from MIX10 as well attending at the later ( and poorer) Tech Day, this along with the Adobe product launches ( which I can mention now ) and Google days mean that things have been busy. Whilst I was sitting watching a presentation I started to envy these developer/ presenters.
Not for them the difficult decision as to what technology to invest time and money in. For them it’s easy, if you work for Microsoft it’s ASP and Silverlight if you work for Adobe it’s PHP and Flash, if you work for Google it’s HTML5. For the rest of us the choices are sometimes difficult. The big question currently facing developers is do you go the Adobe Air route or Microsoft Silverlight? Both technologies are producing some very cool applications both for the web and the desktop, but will they be rendered pointless when HTML5 comes along?
And what about Flash not being available on the iPhone, is that a real barrier for your company? If displaying video in a browser then both Flash and Silverlight are currently compelling solutions but what about the <video> tag in HTML5, will this render the other two obsolete? For the purpose of designing user interfaces then obviously not, but AJAX and HTML are showing that they can do some pretty amazing things in this arena. Browser based applications are sandboxed and so have very little access programmatically to the user’s computer and this can limit what an application can do.
However Silverlight 4 now has an extended desktop mode where it can, if the user allows it, have a greater access to the user’s machine. This along with the new text editing control means that an application like Word could be written in Silverlight, is this going to be the new deployment system for Microsoft applications in the future? The other day whilst at the badly organised Techday I was treated to a piece of UI design that made me smile. The design brief was to take a business desktop application that showed the performance of branches of a company around the world in a unique way rather than the standard grid / spreadsheet type of view. As the data was of a geographic nature then mapping was considered, then they got a little carried away.
The idea was to produce one of those fantastic and unlikely UIs that you see in films like the Bond series where the evil criminal is hunched over this map with nonsensical graphics and numbers scrolling over it, you know the sort of thing. So this digital agency Mando Group (http://www.mandogroup.com/ ) approached a designer and then implemented this UI in Silverlight ( http://silverlightdashboard.dev.mandogroup.com ).
Redesign your app UI and take over the world!
Now whilst this sort of UI design might be a little on the extreme side it does demonstrate what can be done with a different approach to the problem of visualising data. There are others ways to do this rather than just using grid and charting controls, and you don’t have to use Silverlight. Sit back and think if you could improve the UI of one of your applications with a different approach.
The technology to implement such UIs is available now and its implementation is not too hard ( bugs permitting ).
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton