About Crank Jennie

Jennie used to dabble in code, but a love for sentences and the oxford comma lured her to pursue a career in writing and storytelling. Although she works primarily as a writer, she also volunteers as a mentor for organizations that teach girls and women the basics of web design, development, and WordPress. She loves cats.

Developing brilliant embedded UIs for the i.MX RT1050

Storyboard on the NXP i.MX RT

Late last year, NXP announced the i.MX RT Series, a crossover processor that is optimized for low power and high performance. Built for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and lower power usage, the i.MX RT Series doesn’t compromise on what’s important to end users; high-performance, usability, advanced multimedia, and impressive graphics. This series fills a gap and hits a sweet spot that offers the best of both the MCU and application processor worlds to provide an excellent platform option for medical, IoT, building/home automation, and smart appliance applications.

Helpful resources to get you started with embedded GUI development for the RT1050

Check out the following resources to understand more about building applications for NXP RT1050 platforms.

Demo images: We’ve been building up our inventory of NXP demo images to make it fast and simple for you to see applications on your i.MX RT1050 platforms with both uClinux and FreeRTOS variants. Download them and try them out!

On-demand webinar: In addition to demo images, we also have an on-demand i.MX1050 webinar, “Delivering performance, functionality, and stunning design to embedded products” available that we hosted with NXP.

EmCraft demo: Our friends at EmCraft Systems created a short demo built with Storyboard Suite and instructions for quickly installing it to an NXP i.MX RT1050 EVK board.

Haven’t tried Storyboard Suite yet? Download our full-featured 30-day FREE trial today, and test drive it for your embedded UI development.


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.


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.


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.