It was 9:00 on a beautiful fall morning. I was unpacking my laptop, setting up for my first real on-site job at a real client site. I hadn’t turned the office light on so the room was dark, except for the beam of fluorescent light floating in from the hallway.
Suddenly, the fluorescent light dimmed. I looked up and saw the receptionist standing in the office doorway. She asked, “Don’t you just hate The FoxPro?”
“Uh, no,” I responded. “Actually, I love FoxPro. It’s what I make my living with.”
She replied, “But, it’s so – I don’t know – ugly.”
About 20 minutes later, I got my first look at their custom FoxPro app (written by the owner’s daughter). The app was a one-size-fits-all ordering, shipping, inventory, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink application. It was originally written in FoxPro for Windows 2.6, but had recently been “converted” to Visual FoxPro. To run it, the user had to open Visual FoxPro and type do mainmenu in the Command Window.
That was one ugly application, and as far as the office workers who used the app were concerned, the app was Microsoft Visual FoxPro.
It was around this time that I began to notice a common theme in the Fox blogosphere. People were talking about how much their clients hated THE FoxPro, and a few bloggers (namely, the Craig’s – Bailey and Boyd), began talking about how we, as Fox developers, can make our apps a bit less ugly (or, more professional).
Remember Billy Crystal’s character Fernando on Saturday Night Live? His catchphrases were “You look mah-vel-ous!” and “It is better to look good than to feel good.”
In my experience with software, Fernando was right. Sometimes, it really is better to “look” good than to “feel” good. I’ve seen people get excited by an aesthetically-pleasing, yet buggy, application and completely ignore a rock-solid app that looks a bit, well, ugly.
Although we spend a great deal of time as developers trying to meet specifications while minimizing bugs, one thing that I always keep in mind is, “as far as the user is concerned, the UI is the application” (from the Coding Horror blog link below).
The goal of this session is to provide some tips and tricks to ensure your UI looks “mah-vel-ous!”