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Lead a widget free life! Live a better life!

Dec 6, 2009 2:23:33 PM

I sat down to write out this entry shortly after writing about Storyboard's initial success, but I found that it quickly became something that would likely never be read.

Instead of that monster post, I'll just keep hitting the topic of widget free user interface development from different points of view in the next few posts.

Graphic Designers Don't Draw Widgets

If you are building a user interface design tool that is focused on a target audience of graphic designers and artists, you have to integrate into not just their tools and work flow, but their creative approach. 

 Some may say that building user interfaces that don't use traditional widget controls is a dangerous path to take so let me qualify.  I'm not suggesting that a user interface not have buttons, check boxes, scroll bars and the like.  I'm suggesting that if you ask someone artistically inclined to create a  button that there are very few constraints that they would encounter as part of their creative process.

It is the platforms that our application's run on that impose constrains.  When the windowing system, and application framework or some widget toolkit library declares that your button must have a particular shape, beveled edges, rounded corners or some other arbitrary limit, you are going to have to make one of two decisions:

  1. You compromise on creativity.  The stunning visual prototype of the application must be adjusted in order to fit in to the arbitrary constraints that are being imposed upon it externally.
  2. You pay more to get what you want.  Every constraint can be removed if you are willing to pay the cost, potentially meaning investing significant software development effort just to get the look and feel you want.

Call me stubborn, but I want to have my cake and eat it too.  The problem is not a technical one, it is a function of software user interface design.  In a desktop environment a homogeneous look and feel is a desirable attribute.  However, in embedded single focus devices there is no such reason to impose arbitrary limits on the creativeness of an application's user interface.

Next time, I'll talk about the reality of how most creative user interface design is implemented in today's embedded applications ... think canvas' and label's everywhere!

Thomas

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Thomas
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