Sunday, December 16, 2007

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - Part 2

Subtitle: Why Development by Collaboration Is A Good Thing

First I borrowed from Notes 8 to update the UI for an app. Now I'm borrowing even more heavily from Ben Langhinrichs to make that application even more functional.

The challenge: Take four databases that have been in development for over five years and slowly grown into one application and provide a single cohesive interface. Provide a compelling UI that is intuitive and, well, prettier.

It's a pretty tall order, and it's something I have wanted to do for years. The core to these records is the workflow section, which was really rather simplistic. It consists of anywhere from two to six steps, with different groups responsible for each phase. The challenge was to present this in a coherent way without unnecessary screen clutter. The previous implementation was like this:

Lots of redundancy, lots of visual clutter. I started thinking about how I could use layers, and I remembered Ben's use of layers to put controls beside a section title. Perfect! It took some work to get it laid out (and a couple of e-mails to Ben), but I finally got it.

I came up with a technique I call section tables. This lets you present a single cohesive table to users, but they break apart to provide more information. I am using it for workflow. Here it is all collapsed...

And with a couple of sections expanded.

Here is a sample database for you to look at while I'm finishing up this application. I'm still pulling everything together to make it cohesive but I'll be doing some posts detailing how I did all this. Without the resources offered by the community I don't think this would be possible in such a short amount of time, and I'm humbled to be standing on the shoulders of giants.

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