Archives For April 2009

Since our new book focuses on rich interactions, I want to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great user experience. This is part 4 of 6:

Stock your Toolbox: 40+ Custom Flex Controls

Flex 3 includes a wide range of controls. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have all of the Essential Controls I use for RIA design. But fortunately, talented and industrious Flex developers have created numerous custom controls for Flex.
40_flex_custom_controls1

I pulled together a visual repository of custom Flex controls. Most of these controls were created to showcase certain functionality- not usability best practices. So some may need further refinement to comply with the usability principles discussed in the previous posts. Click on the picture for the demo.

01. Accordions

accordion_with_custom_header
Complex Headers
accordion_horizontal
Horizontal Accordion
accordion_apple_style

Apple Style
More under ‘Collapsible Panels’

02. Auto Complete

auto_complete
More Examples

03. Bar Code Generator

barcode_reader

04. Build a List

build_a_list2

05. Calendar/Scheduler

calendar1
ILog Elixir
calendar
Ely Greenfield’s early Scheduler
calendar_scheduling
Adobe’s Scheduler on flexlib see flexlib.scheduling package

06. Captcha

captcha

07. Charts & Graphs

chart
3D charts by iLog Elixir
graph_drill
Chart Drill Down with Animation
dash
Dashed Line Series
graph_compress
Chart Offest
legend
Advanced Legend
scroll_zoom
Scroll and Zoom

08. Collapsible Panels

collapsible_panels
Window Shade- panels roll up and down
collapsible
Arc90’s Collapsible Panel
stacked_panels
Early Stacked Panels

09. Cover Flow

coverflow1
Doug McCune’s updated Cover Flow

10. Data Visualization

diagrammer
gauge
Kap IT Lab
ILog Elixir
BirdEye

11. Docking

dockable

12. Drop Down Menu with Scrolling

menu_scrolling

13. Find and Highlight Text

highlight
In flexlib as Highlighter

14. Fisheye Menu (like Mac Dock)

dock

15. Flip Card

flip

16. Floating

floating

17. Gantt Chart

gantt
ILOG Elixir Gantt
gantt
Doug McCune’s Early Gantt Chart

18. Inline Edit (Fields)

inline_edit
Early example by Ely Greenfield
inplace_edit
Modal editing variation by Ryan Swanson
* The hover invitation to edit on a field by field basis (like Flickr) works best for infrequent edits

19. Icon Loader

image_converter
On flexlib under Icon Loader

20. List/Tree Converter

list_tree
On flexlib under Convertible Tree List

21. Mask (text input and validation)

mask
On Adobe Flex Exchange

22. Multiple Document Interface (MDI)

mdi1
On flexlib under flexlib.mdi

23. Magnify

magnify1
magnify_big

24. Map Callouts

map_callouts

23. Pan and Zoom

pan_zoom

24. Page Turn

page_turn
Peek Panel by Bill White (nice blog)
Ely Greenfield’s early FlexBook

Didier Braun’s PageFlip

25. Pivot Table

pivot
Satish’s Pivot Table
pivot_flexmonster
Flex Monster product

26. Resize

resize1
Resizeable and moveable window
resize
Resize Objects with ResizeManagerFX

27. Scrolling-Internal

scroll_panel
In flexlib as Drag Scrolling Canvas

28. Side Tabs/Vertical Tabs

side_tabs
Degrafa ToggleButtonBar vertical tabs
side_tabs_2
side_tabs_3
Vertical Tab Navigator

29. Sliders

slider_dual

30. Sliding Panel

slide_panel

Early example
Slide out menu with effects instead of states

31. Sparklines

sparkline
More examples:
Fusion Charts
Sherlock Informatics
Birdeye
19nates

32. Spell Check

spell_check
There is also a Spell Check component on Flex Exchange

33. Tabs (configurable)

tab_2

34. Text Prompt/ Watermark Fields

watermark
At flexlib under prompting TextInput

35. Tree Table

tree_table
Early Tree Grid

36. Time Picker

time
Alternate one on Flex Exchange as Time Chooser

37. Toolbars

toolbars

38. Trees

tree
Open branches by clicking on the row
Adding leaf notes
Showing XML
Rearranging nodes with drag and drop
Drag from a Grid to a Tree

39. Upload Files

upload

40. Vertical Browse

vertical_browse

Comment with your custom Flex controls

Please comment with a link to your favorite custom Flex controls.

Since our new book focuses on rich interactions, I want to spend some time on Adobe Flex/AIR.

These tips are based on the best Flex resources I have found, and how you can use them to craft a great user experience. This is part 3 of 6:

Learn from the Rest: 10 Great RIAs

Take a look at some of the best RIAs on the web. How did I decide these are the best? I reviewed numerous applications, basing the evaluations on Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Principles for User Interface Design:

Feedback — Metaphor — Navigation — Consistency — Prevention — Recognition — Efficiency — Design — Recovery — Help

I realize these guidelines are a bit old (from 1990!)- but all applications should meet these guidelines at a minimum. The applications listed below also embody our 6 Principles for Rich Interaction:

Make it Direct — Keep it Lightweight — Stay on the Page — Provide an Invitation — Use Transitions — React Immediately

01. CrazyEgg

crazyeggcrazyegg_confetti

Fantastic application which adheres to every one of the principles. At first, I thought the confetti feature was going to ruin the evaluation, but it is a perfect balance of innovation and usability. Look at how they use common checkboxes for selection, and wiggle the confetti when a source is added- very rich, very nice.

Interactive demo is available

02. Mint

mintmint_saver

Mint’s user experience only gets better and better. You may want more features in the product (money market support…), but the features they offer are perfectly executed. Primarily developed with HTML, CSS, JS and Ajax, they chose to incorporate Flex in the Trends section.

The new Ways to Save section is completely dynamic, updating as you adjust amounts, scores and preferences.

Free registration is available

03. Wufoo

wufoowufoostatistics

Wufoo is an extremely well designed tool that has more than meets the eyes. Play with the templates and report creator for inspiration in keeping it simple, and look at they way they use Blank Slate and Help Tips to keep you moving towards your goal. It is almost even fun!

A nice product tour and free plan is available

04. 280 Slides

280slides280slides_toolbar

One word- slick. If only all of my projects could be this perfect. Yes, it seems like Keynote (or PowerPoint) on the web, but take a closer look at some of the features. Instead of the maddening Inspector and Format menu, the common formatting functions are in the toolbar. Everything is there when I need it, they even incorporated Adobe Kuler in the color palette!

Free trial available

05. Action Method

actionmethodactionmethod_dialog

Another very well implemented product. It is easy to get started with the Blank Slate screens providing tips and directions, and even easier to get comfortable using the product because it uses a standard screen patterns and common controls.

Every detail has been accounted for. Notice the visual design that makes it clear that the tasks can be dragged around and reordered.

Trial version available

06. Fidelity Labs

fidelitymyplanfidelitylabs_mortage

In 2006 Fidelity Labs started cranking out some very nice RIAs, one of them being Fidelity MyPlan. The Mortgage Search and Homes Sold were also very nice, but have been retired. Unfortunately, their newest 3D Portfolio Analyzer, is not up to par with their earlier beta products.

The direct interactions and what-if scenarios in MyPlan seem to have inspired Discovers Paydown Planner and other direct manipulation financial planning tools.

Fidelity MyPlan is publicly available

07. Pandora

pandorapandora_tip

Pandora has been around since 2005 and has finally gained popularity. It has a very simple, intuitive interface, which makes it easy to get started. The menu offers direct interaction for rating the song ‘up’ or ‘down’, while also providing advanced options such as “don’t play this song again for a month”. And the help tips, shown at just the right time in the workflow, provide a glimpse into advanced features.

Pandora is publicly available

08. Wave Maker

wavemakerwavemaker_model

Wavemaker is a great example of how a complicated product with many features can be clarified with good interface design. They use a logical page flow from left to right- matching the developer workflow of adding a control to the canvas (LEFT) , physically manipulating it (CENTER), then entering tweaking the details in the properties and style panel (RIGHT).

A Cloud Edition is available

09. SugarSync

sugarsync_grid

sugarsync

Another great product that relies upon standard screen patterns and common controls to create an intuitive efficient experience. Awarded Top 10 User Interfaces of 2008 by Jakob Nielsen. Report available for purchase.

A 45 day trial is available

10. clickshirt

clickshirtclick_hoverclick_click

clickshirt keeps it simple and fun with integrated demos and lively interactions. Event the checkout is rich, hover to see more details about the t-shirt type, click to specify the size and quantity. No gratuitous paging in this application.

clickshirt is publicly available

More Good RIAs

These products have good examples of rich usable components, although they may not have met the 10 basic principles for usability throughout the whole application.

NetVibes

netvibes1

Trulia Snapshot

truiasnapshot1

37signals products like Highrise

highrise

Wesabe

wesabe

Keep an Eye on These

iWork.com Publishing Tool

iworkcom-comments

Atlas

atlas

Bespin

bespin

OtherInbox

otherinbox

Comment with your favorite RIA

I realize I have only skimmed the surface here, please comment with a link to the best RIA you use.

Thanks to Rob Jones and Greg Leppert for helping me pull together this list.

I realized after 3 years of using OmniGraffle, I should break down and make a cursor stencil to make my job a little easier. These are all on a transparent background, so you can put them in your wire frames to show cursor state for specific rich interactions.

original

It is at http://www.graffletopia.com/stencils/450