Re: FlairBuilder review

This evening I received from Cristian Pascu a response to my FlairBuilder review. I am posting Cristian's entire message as it does help better understand FlairBuilder and its audience. That Cristian took the time to directly address my criticisms does speak well of his commitment to creating a valuable product.

From: Cristian Pascu
Date: Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 7:59 PM

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for taking a look to FlairBuilder and for your honest review. With your permission I would like to add my comments to your thoughts only because there are somethings on which are agree with you and some other that I’m not sure I understood them exactly.

"There are no general nesting widgets and no split pane widget.”

I tried to introduce a split pane widget but then I faced the issue of having a liquid layout, something that is possible in coded prototypes but harder to do when defining an UI by simple absolute positioning. There is a trade off between having coded like prototypes with nested widgets like tabs, accordions and a simple plain contraints-free layout. I am not at all saying that I found the middle ground between these two, and feedback like your surely help me see where I stand exactly the this time.

On the other hand I don’t understand what do you mean by general nesting widgets? My single container is a canvas, starting with pages themselves. Tabs and accordions are also comprised of set of canvases. When focused, a canvas is surrounded by a yellow border denoting an area to which contained widgets are bounded. Unfortunately yes, to unbound an widget you’d have to cut/paste it else where. This is a limitation no one really complained too much about until now. Nevertheless, it is something I want to correct as soon as possible. I was thinking about Ctrl+drag to move outside the container or simply detach dragged widget once its boundaries have gone outside the container margins. This widget bound to a container was mainly forced by the tabs/accordions because you’d want to be able to flip from one tab to another. Having widgets simply absolute positioned within the page would not have allowed me to mimic a tabbed interface.

"All the widgets are fixed size and so my approach of laying out the widgets using their natural nesting and then tuning their positions and properties was not possible.”

What exactly do you mean by fixed size? Couldn’t you resize widgets? In case of some widgets like Tabs or Groub box you’d have to Ctrl+click the area inside that widget to selected the widget itself and then resize it, or Ctrl+drag to move it around. Otherwise, any other simple widget should be easy. I’m bit puzzeled here and I suspect that in fact other was the the issue you were facing. Would you mind clearifing this for me?

"this indirect model of interaction can be difficult for non-programmers”

I have users that when communicating with me use a non-programmer language, but still they seem to be able to use FlairBuilder. Not that you are not right, I’m just hoping that I’m not too far from a non-programmer friendly user interface. I am very much afraid of introducing very technical terms into the FB’s UI and I admit that this is very much possible given my background.

I strive to provide a tool that makes it easy for non-programmers to build interactive prototypes, the kind of prototypes they have been creating in PowerPoint or Excel or PDF. Therefore, provide the minimum set of l’n’f customization and a sufficient set of interactions to describe desired behavior up the level where it mimics enough the intended real product. I personally believe that not everyone have to skill to see far enough behind a static image, especially when it comes to more advances interactions. I may very well be wrong here.

Once again I thank you for sharing your thoughts about FlairBuilder. I will surely use your feedback trying to make it a useful product