I’ve always considered the challenge of designing a sophisticated AIR application was to hide that sophistication from the user.
It’s a challenge to make the complicated appear easy.
Conversely, it’s easy to make something simple appear complicated. And Flex is a wonderful tool for making things look difficult. Dazzle your user with DataGrids, List components and Buttons, and glue it together with data-binding and a few lines of ActionScript. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to build something in Flex that really confounds the user with information, and lacks navigational structure.
If you build yourself a showcase of such poorly designed Flex apps – you can probably pass yourself off as a Flex expert. Customers will be so baffled that they’re going to assume you must be some kind of genius!
Personally, I’ve taken the path less travelled. Incredibly sophisticated software projects. Months of intense development. Devilishly clever algorithms. Hundreds of pure-actionscript classes. All hidden behind a deceptively simple and intuitive interface.
e2preadsheet incorporates an algorithm that enables it to evaluate all the formulas in the right order (data dependencies), but avoid unnecessary re-calculations. It refreshes the spreadsheet behind the scenes, yet the naive user would be oblivious to its existence. The automatic scaling on graphs is also something I’m proud of.
e2vector incorporates a very sophisticated algorithm that enables it to splice paths. Pulling apart overlapping arcs so that they split at the points where they overlap. It takes a lot of code to achieve something that seems so simple and intuitive to use. Shape intersection and union are not trivial either.
A potential customer wrote to me recently, saying that he’d seen what was on my website, but was looking for something more sophisticated! I considered spending ten minutes in Flex to impress him with a DataGrid/ListBox monstrosity.
Instead, I’m preparing some online videos about my applications and their features. (Coming soon). Users tend to be too passive when they evaluate internet-related applications. Like watching TV. Actually, more like channel-hopping with a small attention span. That’s a problem with developing software for the browser. I’m sure that users are only impressed by entertaining Flash-like eye-candy. All style and no substance.
I thought that AIR might create a new niche. Running alongside conventional desktop applications would raise the bar. Applications with more substance that would change expectations about what the Flash platform was capable of. But I’m probably just wasting my time here…