Crank Software is moving!

It was inevitable. Eventually, just about every successful company has to take the leap and uproot and move its office. For a growing company like ours, moving to a bigger office space is almost a rite of passage and is a commitment to our employees, partners, and customers that Crank’s story is evolving and our future is bright. Our new office has space for us to double in size, and we plan to make full use of that.

But moving can be daunting. With so many logistics to manage and the potential for things to go wrong, we’ve put countless hours into planning and anticipating to minimize any disruption to our customers and our business.

Tomorrow is the big day! We have bins stacked high full of beloved desk essentials, all anxiously awaiting their new, bright, beautiful home.

via GIPHY

So, why did we have to move?

Simply put, we’ve run out of room! This is a good thing. We’ve been growing to better serve our customers and to continue to evolve Storyboard Suite to make it the best possible GUI development framework for embedded UI designers and developers. Not just good, but the best.

We’ve been joking over the past couple of months that any additional Crankonauts (Crank Software employees) would have to work in the washroom, server room, or coat closet. The idea of double-decker office spaces was floated and, rightfully so, shot down. We’ve completely outgrown our boardroom and lunchroom. We’ve been having meetings wherever we can find space. It’s been getting harder to find places to put our bikes. Time to move!

Also, the new office is closer to the mountain bike trails.

How does the move affect our customers and partners?

We are working hard to minimize any potential disruption. The move will happen tomorrow and it will be business as usual on Monday. We will still be responding to calls and emails promptly during the move. Our phone number and email address remain unchanged:

Phone: +1-613-595-1999
Fax: +1-613-701-0204
Email: info@cranksoftware.com

Our shipping address change is effective immediately, so please update your records with our new contact information:

Crank Software Inc.
1000 Innovation Dr, Suite 100
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K2K 3E7

As always, you can download our full-featured 30-day FREE trial of Storyboard Suite and test drive it for your embedded UI development.

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Storyboard Suite 5.3: The latest in embedded GUI development

GUI Software Crank Software Storyboard Suite
Here at Crank, we update and release Storyboard Suite on a regular cadence. We generally have a major feature release followed by a maintenance/refinement release. This release strategy helps us balance the need to deliver new functionality with ensuring we get a chance to refine usability and reduce technical debt as the product evolves.

Storyboard 5.3 was intended to be a maintenance release. Customer feedback (which is very important to us) provided us with a list of small changes that would have a big impact on usability, such as automatically opening up the design report after it has been generated, allowing control alignment to be used outside the editor, and creating a dedicated action to stop timers as well as providing timer selection through a drop-down list.

This release is full of these small, but significant, Storyboard Designer changes for embedded GUI development. They are captured in the release notes, but ideally, you won’t even notice them. Instead, you will just get the sense that using Storyboard 5.3 is an even smoother and easier experience.

Storyboard Suite 5.3: More than a maintenance release

Even though Storyboard 5.3 is a maintenance release, the Storyboard development team couldn’t resist adding in some new functionality. The existing Storyboard Engine performance logging was enhanced with new instrumentation for timers, animations, control cloning, screen transitions, and event communication. Periodic reporting of key metrics such as frame-rate, memory, and CPU usage is now available and can be dynamically controlled while the application is running.

To help digest all this new data, a completely revisited performance log editor was created that provides a number of statistical breakdowns of the data in addition to the hierarchical log file listing.

Embedded GUI Design performance logging

Looking forward, the team is excited about introducing a graphical timeline-based view of this performance data to help match what you are seeing to what you are designing. It isn’t part of this “maintenance release”, but look for it in a future Storyboard release.

There are two other enhancements that you might want to try right away:

Manage text overflow: For text that exceeds its display area, there is an auto-ellipsis option that can be enabled. To better understand what areas of your project this might best apply to you can run the Design Report and look at the Text Translation content.

Embedded GUI design text overflow

 

Easily locate the center-point: To make the process of selecting the center point for rotated images, such as needles and dials, we’ve added a rotation center-point tell-tale. It’s small and subtle but we feel that it’s just the right amount of hint without getting in the way of your visual design.

Enhanced platform support for embedded GUI development

We now support Raspberry Pi with both an OpenGL based renderer and a software renderer out-of-the-box. We are working on a demo image for the Raspberry Pi and will be posting that to our site, so watch for that in the near future.

Give Storyboard 5.3 a try and let us know what you think. The Crank team is always receptive to feedback and we’ve already started laying out the new features for the next major Storyboard release so it’s a great time to incorporate your feedback.

As always, we provide a full-featured 30-day evaluation for you to try it out first hand.

Visit us at NXP Connects Santa Clara

Crank Software is proud to be a sponsor at NXP Connects Santa Clara, June 13-14. With a wide range of technical sessions, hands-on labs, and networking opportunities, NXP Connects provides a great opportunity to learn about the latest innovations in IoT solutions, automotive technologies, and more.

See intelligent HMI demos in the NXP Connects Technology Lab

If you are planning to be at NXP Connects, visit Nik in the Technology Lab to see HMI demos that span home appliance, consumer electronics, and automotive applications on a range of NXP i.MX processors, including the following:

  • i.MX 8M – automotive digital cluster, IoT 3D smart home, and movie kiosk
  • i.MX 7ULP – fitness tracker
  • i.MX RT1050 – coffee machine

We would be happy to chat with you at the show to give you an impromptu Storyboard Suite demo. Nik Schultz, our talented field applications guru, will be on-hand to walk you through UI creation, from Adobe Photoshop to simulation.

Meet Nik

 

Creating innovative user experiences for VxWorks platforms

Crank Software Storyboard Suite support for Wind River VxWorks

Powering billions of intelligent products, Wind River VxWorks has long been a trusted real-time operating system (RTOS) for deploying embedded products and systems. With wide processor support, broad connectivity, and proven real-time performance and reliability, we are excited that VxWorks is a supported platform for bringing world-class Storyboard Suite applications to market.

At Embedded World 2018, we showcased an innovative programmable full-color dashboard display, built by Bosch Motorsport and running on VxWorks. The DDU 10 user interface was developed using Storyboard Suite and has configurable pages for customizing motorsport applications. Check out the video from Embedded World to see it in action.

 

Why bad UIs happen to good people

Today’s guest blog post is by one of our UI designers, Ahren. Ahren recently experienced a world of frustration trying to use a self-checkout kiosk. What should be a simple interaction turned out to be unnecessarily frustrating due to some small, but major, problems. So I asked him to write about it.

Good design is intuitive and gets out of our way. Bad design makes simple tasks overly complicated, frustrating and wastes valuable time. I experienced this recently and wanted to write about it, to discuss what happens when systems are engineered without a solid focus on simple design best practices.

Single Serve UIs have a unique mission

Everything has a screen now, so UIs are everywhere. We’ve likely all interacted with bad UIs, which leads to a frustrating experience as we try to finish up the task we have set out to do. I’d argue that buying groceries shouldn’t be a complicated task.

Recently, I was using a self-service checkout and I noticed that the design had been updated. Sadly, the update was a design regression. I used to know exactly how to use the kiosk I was now staring at and trying to figure out, which generally hadn’t been a problem until now.

On this screen, while they do use a green button for a continue action, the trend does not continue through the UI. As well, a simple press to start would help a lot.

Red never means forward

I noted two major problems immediately:

  1. They had tried to replace every label with an icon. While that can sometimes work, on a UI that must be identified and understood quickly, this was a huge issue of form over function. The kiosk had functionality that could not be explained through an icon and I was left bumbling, pressing things just to see what they did.
  2. When I navigated to the main screen, which is likely the most-utilized screen, I noticed that not all of the colors follow standard design principles. A button to navigate out of a menu was green, whereas a button to continue on with the purchase was red. Most people wouldn’t see red and think, “there’s my path forward”. Red usually means stop, not go forward.

Here they use a red ‘$’ for checkout, and also trigger you back to the main screen after the first press, making it seem like it isn’t the way to go to a checkout.

The UI should not need a legend

Note in the photos that they added a paper legend to the bottom of the kiosks to help users out. A well-designed UI doesn’t need a legend.

As a UI designer, I get frustrated that problems like these exist, especially in systems from large corporations with resources. And definitely at a kiosk whose main objective is to make checkout efficient. A designer would have easily been able to point out these fundamental problems and carry out some UI/UX research, therefore never allowing these problems to end up in a live deployment.

An embedded team with a designer on board would pull from a number of knowledge resources to ensure that the UI is easy-to-use, intuitive, and following well-researched design best practices. For example, Google has Material Design, Microsoft user Fluent (Metro), and Apple has what they call Human Interface Guidelines. While utilizing resources like these might not fix all of the problems, it is a good place to start when designing these single-serve UIs. I quickly mocked up a simple UI below in response to some of my frustrations over the design deficiencies. While it isn’t an exciting overhaul, it took very little time and it works, because it follows common design practices. In a future post, I’ll delve further into the design process for single-serve UIs.

This is a quick example of just using Material design guidelines. It is a boring and generic however it will work and a person will have an easier time understanding it. As well it took very little time. We will go through the process behind this in part 2.