I’ve done this presentation 3 times this year, and it has changed a lot in the past 3 months. That was when I started experimenting with getting Flash content to work with Flex, ultimately coming up with the idea for my presentation. I’ve learned some new things since then, talked to some real people already doing this type of work, and refined the communication of the ideas. The most drastic has been my return to the design world via a consulting gig, which has greatly affected my views on the subject. All of my OOP purism and framework obsessions in the past few years in application development and programming has definitely compromised my perception of design. I usually expouse the feature set and thus potential, but usually find myself longing for real, and actual designer participation. The larger projects, the less designer participation. Even worse, the “designers” have been less of what I would call a true designer.
I wasn’t “walking the talk” as it were, and it was quite frustrating. Constrained IT budgets leaves the responsibility up to me to convey value of good design, and thus pitch to my employers the need, from a technical perspective, of why we need budget for an extra team member. I’d say all 3 of my attempts that I can remember failed.
I remember reading a blog posting from a Flash designer on LiveJournal about 8 months ago. I had read his posting on one of the Flash community groups there about how a lot of his former work was getting outsourced. He perceived a lot of the work done as comparable. I’m sure some subjectivity colored his perceptions, but his main point was that he couldn’t compete with the insanely low rates and was extremely frustrated.
I suggested he charge for the creative vision, and long, satisfied client list he would bring to the table. I’m not sure if that advice went anywhere. Not sure if it went anywhere.
My network of design talent is just insanely small. I’d say I have a very valuable network of friends and colleagues that greatly contribute to my success. Only 1 is a professional creative, and 2 can do design services if asked.
That’s pretty pathetic compared to the programming talent I know. It makes it even harder to identify an “A-Team”. Typically, I don’t have to and most clients and potentials ask me about the development talent I know; rarely if ever do their requests vary from that.
That doesn’t help me when I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on a project by recruiting design talent. I need to do another contractor post to garner talent, but I have a feeling I need to get into some different blog aggregators.
Anyway, back to the presentation bashing. First off, in seeing myself speak and answer an audience member’s question, I have failed to effectively communicate what states and transitions are, as well as their value to the various programming and designer camps. I need to work on that.
Second, after talking to some coworkers, I need to do some more compare and contrasts of methodologies. A lot of people don’t recognize all the painful alternate routes one can take when using Flash in Flex, and therefore it is not immediately apparent why my methods are valuable and hard won.
I need to show some of those ways as well as their pros and cons. The tradeoff will be less in depth explanation of what Flex 2 offers with regards to design. I think it greatly adds context but gotta trim the fat somewhere.
One subtle thing that needs to be modified is the attitude. In talking to some individuals, I’ve found the traditional Flash Development workflow used in Application Development doesn’t fly because it’s based on flawed assumptions.
The assumptions were “Designers are not allowed in the FLA. They hand over production art as a prototyped FLA, and the programmer implements.”
This same assumption translates to Flex as “The Designer cannot create usable MXML. They instead should provide, like Flash, a set of comps or even a prototype FLA like before.”
This is flawed logic. One team has successfully had designers create usable MXML that the programmers can later utilize, as-is. That’s huge. Let me say it again in case you missed it. A designer created some MXML that the programmer liked. !!!!!!!
Naturally this is just one company, but it’s a fantastic sign nonetheless. There are plenty of Flash designers that can navigate a programmers FLA and be extremely productive and have a great contribution to the project. However, the pretense was that the FLA was setup, from the start, by a programmer.
This, to me, was WAY more important in Flex because of the way Cairngorm works and the insanely large code-bases on some Flex projects. Having designers navigate package structures seemed like a no win situation. Apparently I’m wrong and glad to be so.
Furthermore, my comments on the Flex design view weren’t agreed with by some. I verbally bashed its representation of my apps. While I did recognize it is a phenomenal improvement over Flex 1.5, I criticized how it’s not entirely there yet and thus shouldn’t be considered an iron clad tool in the designer’s toolbox. Others had contention with this and haven’t experienced the frustrations I have. Apparently the way I structure my MXML either is not the optimal way, or my expectations are too high. Hopefully the latter.
Again, I think I need to trim some of the Flex design context… that or just breeze through those slides quicker. As long as the audience recognizes the capabilities, that’s fine; the actual implementation on some of those things like programmatic skins isn’t really that important.
My original test run was 1 hour and 40 minutes with 20 of that actual Flex Builder 2 and Flash 9 demoing of code. The Flex Seminar one, because of hardware issues, was condensed into 30 minutes. If I speed through some of the Flex CSS and Skinning, I think that will allow more time for IDE showcases of code that really drives the technical points home. I’ve gotten decent feedback, and none negative, on my Flash approach code-wise. Still, I need to finish some more sample code. The examples I’ve shown in the past have been received well when seen in context, but are definitely agency biased vs. typically software shops.
I’ll iron this stuff out by MAX.