5 capabilities that entrench embedded UI designers in the development process

The following is a post from Fancy Dan, one of our creative and talented in-house designers. Dan uses Storyboard Suite on a daily basis to create awesome user experiences for embedded applications. I asked him to share the top 5 features that make his job easier and his designs awesome.

Storyboard Suite top features

Dan’s top 5 list

  1. Integrate content from Adobe Photoshop » Storyboard brings a .psd file to life
  2. Add and refine motion easily » Easy to use, but do a lot
  3. Layout and position content precisely » Subtle features that go a long way
  4. Enhance user experience with actions » The combination of trigger events, actions, and parameters
  5. Make it real. Touch the design. » From simulator to target

Integrate content from Adobe Photoshop

As a designer, I find working in Storyboard to be a great experience, and a major contributing factor for this is the Photoshop integration. Photoshop has been around for decades, and it plays nicely with Adobe Illustrator, two tools that I use to design and plan a UI. Many of the design-based decisions I make in Photoshop, such as organization, naming, and planning, are brought forward to Storyboard when I import my .psd. When I start working in Storyboard, I’m working on a project that I already have a good handle on because the Application Model in Storyboard is based on the content from my layers view in Photoshop.

With Smart Objects, I’m able to go back into Photoshop and make edits to my Illustrator content or layer effects and bring them back into Storyboard. Because I can import multiple Photoshop files into Storyboard, when I complete one section of the UI design I can bring it into Storyboard and start adding functionality. At the same time, I can continue to work on the UI design for the next section and bring the UI together in Storyboard as each part is ready for import.

What’s extra great?

The Photoshop re-import process. If I change the look and layout of an existing design in Photoshop, I can re-import the artwork into my Storyboard project. The project compares itself to the new Photoshop file and allows me to replace existing content with the new designs and updates the look, size, and positioning from my redesign and retain existing functionality.

Add and refine motion easily

animation_timelineMotion makes a UI come to life, so it’s important to have a workflow that includes working with animations. In Storyboard, working with animations isn’t convoluted. If I want to create, edit, or preview an animation, it’s pretty straightforward. When recording an animation, changes made to the UI are recorded as animation steps and saved. The animation timeline view shows the saved steps. Here I can see the steps in relation to one another and make further edits to the timing, easing rates, and values. Using the animation preview, the animation can be played back, paused, and scrubbed through so that I can see how all of the movements work together.

What’s extra great?

I can quickly create a reversed version of an existing animation, finely tune the ease rate of motion, and apply a single animation to multiple model objects. These capabilities allow me to easily control how things move without having to touch any code.

Layout and position content precisely

When the design is complete, most of the UI layout has been established. Further refinement like adding logic, motion, and additional content is easy with the layout and positioning options in Storyboard.

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Reference point location – The reference point location might appear to be a small detail, but it does a lot for controlling the position and transformation of an object. The reference point location icon is available in the Properties view for dimensions. The top-left reference point shows the x,y location of an object, but selecting another reference point shows and applies transformations based on that relative point. If I want to increase the width of a control by 50 pixels, and have the center point remain the same, I shouldn’t have to move the control 25 pixels to the left and then add 50 pixels to the width. I simply want to add 50 pixels to the width that expands from the middle and let the software figure out the rest.

Property value calculator – An easy way to control the values of a property is to calculate that number in the property field. If I want to move a control 20 pixels left to a third of the way across a screen designed at 720p, I could go to the properties view X: positioning and enter 1280/3-20 (which is the screen width divided by 3, then subtract 20) or enter 1280*.333-20 (which is the screen width multiplied by one-third and then subtract 20) and the X value will automatically calculate 406. If I want a circular progress bar to fill up 43%, I can enter 360*.43 in the Rotation field and the angle will calculate to 154.8º.

Applying some quick math makes it easy to land content in a specific spot. I can apply it to an alpha value, apply it to an offset, or apply it to the timing in an animation. It saves me from going to a separate calculator app, writing it out, or doing it on my phone.

What’s extra great?

Q: Does it use BEDMAS? A: Yes, it does.
Q: What the heck is BEDMAS?

Enhance user experience with actions

It becomes increasingly engaging to work on a UI as it takes on more functionality. Adding actions to the UI improves functionality. There are a lot of combinations and triggers that make actions happen so I’m not limited by what I can do.

Storyboard provides an extensive list of trigger events that goes beyond the basic taps and gestures that are available in most prototyping tools. Many things can trigger an action, such as the completion of an animation, arriving at a particular screen, completed timers, scrolling starts or stops, etc. With a trigger in place, I can select an action. Actions can call an animation, stop an animation, go to a new screen, change some data, start a timer, or, for those who are are scripting savvy, call a Lua event. Depending upon the type, an action’s parameters can vary. An action parameter might cause something to loop, indicate a direction, set a duration, or select an external file. Events can happen any number of ways, to any of the model objects that trigger an event.

What’s extra great?

I can copy an action from one control to other controls. For example, I can copy a screen change action from one button and paste it to other buttons to give them the same functionality.

Make it real. Touch the design.

Working in design, sometimes your work is used only as a representation of the UI. This isn’t limited to UI design. Mock-ups, presenting artboards, and showing prototypes for apps or websites are great, but at the end of the day, seeing the design in the real world and its surrounding context is awesome.

Storyboard keeps the design in the designer’s hands, which enables me to deliver my design vision to the final product. In traditional workflows, this often isn’t the case, and instead, the UI on the embedded device isn’t a reflection of the designer’s work. It’s common for designers to create prototypes that demonstrate how the UI should look and behave, and then provide the development team with the UI assets to create the UI in code. It’s an inefficient workflow to have the development team recreate what the designer has already solved.

Storyboard provides tools that make it easy to quickly export applications directly to hardware for testing. Seeing how an animation runs or how a transition looks on an embedded device gives me insight and confidence that the UI performs as intended. Good design principles value function over form. Using Storyboard, I have everything I need to test how my design will function on an actual target device.

What’s extra great?

I can test my application on an embedded board, make changes to the UI, and then export the app back to the board in under a minute.
*Drops Microphone*

To try Storyboard Suite for yourself (and to feel like a design rockstar), start your free trial now and see how easy it is to create beautiful embedded UIs from concept to production.

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See scalable Storyboard demos on the Microchip SAMA5D2

Curious to see Storyboard Suite in action on your hardware? Our pre-built and packaged demos make it easy for you to test drive different types of applications designed for specific hardware platforms, letting you experience the powerful controls and smooth animations that create beautiful UIs and rich user experiences.

Scalable UIs across display sizes: SAMA5D2 demos for medical, white goods, and home automation

Storyboard applications are scalable across a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. Experience this on 480 x 272 and 800 x 480 displays with Storyboard demo images for the Microchip SAMA5D2 platform. These images include everything you need to get up and running in minutes, offering the following demos in both resolutions:

  • Smart washing machine – drill down into operational settings and track progress through cycles
  • Medical – browse through typical patient diagnostics, electronic health records (EHR), and security verification
  • Home automation – play with temperature controls, check out local weather, and customize lighting throughout the floorplan

Also included are instructions for flashing the image to an SD card and running it on your own board.

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To try Storyboard Suite for yourself, start your free trial now and see how easy it is to create beautiful embedded UIs from concept to production.

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Meet the New Storyboard Suite at Embedded World 2017

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Join us at Embedded World 2017 in Nuremberg, Germany, March 14-16, to experience the latest and greatest in innovative embedded technology. It’s always an exciting show and we will be there again this year with a booth filled with embedded application UI demos built in Storyboard Suite across a number of platforms. Our passionate UI design professionals will be on hand to showcase the latest features and capabilities in Storyboard Suite, our development framework for building beautiful UIs for embedded systems. If you are at the show, stop by Hall 4/4-270 to say hello and check out demo applications we’ve designed. While there, ask us to show you what’s new in Storyboard Suite for 2D and 3D artists and embedded systems developers.

Interact with Storyboard GUI demos on Embedded Hardware

Hardware. We are bringing so much hardware.
We know that embedded teams want to be able to interact with real demos instead of watching edited videos and listening to us boast about features. Our booth will be brimming with multi-market Storyboard demos on a number of platforms, including:

Our UI demos this year cover a wide range of markets, including automotive, home automation, white goods, medical, and kiosk solutions. All demos have been designed and developed in Storyboard Suite, using the latest features from our upcoming 5.0 release.

In addition, you’ll find Storyboard demos in other booths at the show, including NXP (Hall 4A/4A-220), Embedded Artists (Hall 4/4-544), Toradex (Hall 1/1-639), EBV (Hall 3A/Stand 229), TQ-Systems (Hall 1/1-578), and VeriSilicon (Hall 3/3-510).

Follow us on Twitter to see photos and videos from the exhibition floor throughout the week.

Hear us Speak!

We are fortunate to be speaking at Embedded World this year, so reserve some time on March 14th to learn more about our thoughts on and approaches to UI design and development for embedded systems.

Speaker: Thomas Fletcher, VP Research & Development, Crank Software
Time: March 14th, 5:00 – 5:30 PM
Presentation: Keep Designers in the Driver’s Seat and Build Better User Interfaces

Check out Storyboard Suite 5.0

We are getting set to release Storyboard Suite 5.0  and we are excited to show off the features and capabilities we’ve added for embedded UI design teams. Stop by the booth ask to see it in action.

To learn more about what to expect in the Storyboard Suite 5.0 release, check out our recent webinar, now available on-demand.

If you want to get together with us at Embedded World, please contact us to set up a meeting. Alternatively, just drop by our booth and chat with us. We are friendly Canadians and we’d be happy to talk with you about embedded UI design and maybe hockey and cold winters.

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

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See Storyboard User Interface Demos on your Hardware

Storyboard Suite User Interface Demo Images

When working with any embedded platform it’s helpful to be able to quickly validate its capabilities and performance before investing the time and resources to create and deploy applications. Pre-built and packaged demos make it easy to test drive hardware with applications designed to its specifications.

Over the past several months we’ve been building a demo image library of application user interfaces created in Storyboard for a variety of platforms and hardware. Each demo image is built for a specific target with its unique capabilities, constraints, performance, and screen form factor in mind. The Storyboard user interface demos are packaged with simple instructions for getting the applications up and running on your target quickly.

Browse our library of Storyboard demos for platforms from NXP, STMicroelectronics, Microchip, and more. We will be adding new demos in the coming months, so check back often.

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Here’s an example of one of the Storyboard demo images, a multi-market demo on the NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus:

Download a free 30-day trial to test drive Storyboard and create your own application UIs.

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Experience Storyboard GUI Demos at NXP FTF Technology Forum

Storyboard GUIs at NXP FTF Technology Forum

Crank Software will be well-represented at NXP FTF Technology Forum 2016 next week in Austin, Texas, May 16-19. We will be running a hands-on lab again this year, as well as showcasing demo GUIs and Storyboard Suite features and capabilities at the exhibition. If you are going to the show, here’s what you can expect to see.

Exhibition Hall – GUI Design Demos

Visit the Crank Software booths (151 & 154) to check out a wide range of application GUIs designed and developed with Storyboard Suite. We will also be demoing the latest enhancements and features in Storyboard Suite 4.2.

You’ll find innovative Storyboard Suite demos in a number of partner booths at the exhibition as well, including:

Crank Software & NXP booths will be showing Storyboard Suite GUI demos that span automotive, white goods, and lifestyle applications on a variety of NXP iMX family processors. Not to be missed is the impressive Movie Theatre Kiosk, an interactive demo built with Storyboard Suite, running on the high-performance NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus on Linux with OpenGL ES rendering.

Hands-on Learning Opportunity – Storyboard Suite Lab Session

If you’d rather learn by doing rather than watching, we will be teaching a hands-on lab again this year, so make sure you rearrange your busy schedule at the show to attend our session. You’ll get your hands dirty in the 2 hour classroom session, so bring your appetite for learning and try your best to stump the Crank instructor.

Hands-on Lab – The Evolution of Embedded GUI Design: From Photoshop to Crank Storyboard Suite to i.MX Series Hardware in Minutes (FTF-DES-N2034)

When: Tuesday, 4:45 PM
Where: Griffin Hall 5 – Level 2
What: In this session, users will: import design artwork directly into Storyboard Suite; add interactive functionality and rich animations; test in the simulator to quickly refine and update the design; and deploy a functioning application prototype directly to an i.MX platform. After completing this workshop, users will be able to import artwork directly from Photoshop into Storyboard Suite, develop a rich application GUI, and deploy to hardware.

We will be tweeting from the show, so be sure to follow @cranksoftware for updates.
The NXP FTF hastag this year is #NXPFTF.

If you haven’t taken Storyboard Suite for a test drive yet, download a 30-day free evaluation and start designing today.

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See you at the show!