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It's the interface, stupid!

I've spent a goodly amount of time recently surveying client side technology. There's a number of things coming up personally, and professionally at Propylon that will involve UI work other than web interfaces. Generally we're adopting XUL/Mozilla at work, but I've been playing with Swing, WinForms, SWT, OpenOffice, WxPython over the last couple of months as well trying to nail down some choices.

And then two of my colleagues, Praveg and Tommy, pointed me at DB Designer 4. It's an open source database design and modelling tool targeted primarily at MySQL. DB Designer is a beautiful application - visually elegant, clean, responsive, consistent. It's intuitive - it mostly does what you expect it do. It also has a extremely good visual modelling space.

The last time I responded this positively to an application was probably IntelliJ IDEA or Mozilla mail. So given my current investigations, I had to go and get the source for this thing. And it's built on Delphi.

Which has served me a timely dope slap: it's the interface, stupid. Somewhere along the way I'd forgetten that toolkits come second to usability.

July 4, 2004 06:34 PM


Glen Stampoultzis
(July 5, 2004 01:24 AM #)

It must be better on linux because on Windows it sucks.

george cao
(July 5, 2004 08:36 AM #)

Have you looked at "rich internet applications" stuff? Altio, nexaweb, laszlo, macromedia, etc.?

Gavin Terrill
(July 5, 2004 04:40 PM #)

Don't be too hard on yourself. Sure, the interface is important, but the toolkit you select can mean huge differences in terms of the schedule and who can actually perform the work. For example, Swing requires advanced skills in order to put something together that doesn't end up looking like a breakfast fit for a dog - both in terms of the UI and what is going on under the covers. VB on the other hand... Seriously, I think the UI and toolkit selection probably share the same level of importance in the grand scheme of things.

(July 7, 2004 09:53 AM #)

Yep, I think Gavin's got it about right. Playing with Python (in IDLE) recently I've been missing Eclipse, but there's a lot less need for its features.

I had a look at DB Designer (I need to build a few tables myself, so am very grateful for the pointer). It does seem nice, despite one or two UI peculiarities. But having the visual diagram, yep, that makes a *big* difference.

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