Helping The User Grok A FileMaker UI

From Dwayne Wright PMP
Certified FileMaker Developer

TWITTER: dwaynewright
YOUTUBE: FileMakerThoughts

Please Note: If you are viewing this page in a news feeder, the images may get munged up a bit or other formatting of the posting may fail. For the best experience, please visit the journal directly by clicking (here).

As a developer or someone that has intimate knowledge about a particular layout, all the fields and the buttons might make perfect sense to you. They way you have grouped the fields, your tab panels and your layout order seems perfectly natural and defines your view of the business model. You might even make the user interface more inline with what is under the hood of the solution such as the tables and relationship graph. However, someone else that is not as familiar with your view of the business might be horribly lost.

So you will want to consider ways in which to help the user out, perhaps tweak the user interface to be easier for the infrequent user to understand, or more likely, a combination of the two. Here are a few of the many examples of what you can do to help the user out.

One thing that might help when you group your fields together is to give that area a section header. You can choose to include that area in a box or not. To the user, they can quickly see the title of the and decide if what they need is in that area or not. That way they can focus their attention to that area or completely ignore it for the immediate need.

Here you can see a category header (bold text) that identifies the address fields used for shipping and billing for a client.

A classic example of this is tab panels. You might want to tell the user a little bit about each tab they are in. This can be used in other areas as well such as new layouts, dialog boxes (that are actually new windows tied to a layout for dialog choice display) or groupings of fields. Normally, text that describes an area should look a little different than the other text. A common thing I will do is make the text italic and change the color somewhat.

Here you can see some underlined red italic text that identifies a tabs purpose.

Tooltips are one of the great features that are available for developers using FileMaker Advanced to attach an undercover message to layout objects. A tooltip is designed to show the user a helpful message as their mouse hovers over an object.

Here you can see tool tip in action that identifies a tabs purpose.

As you likely know, a tooltip is designed to show the user a helpful message as their mouse hovers over an object. I’ve seen opinions of tooltips vary from ...

- indifference (oh, I never noticed they were there),

- the warm embrace (these things are so helpful!),

- open contempt (would you turn that darn thing off?)

- combination thereof (normally prompted by caffeine levels of that user).

Now, you can use a conditional calculation to show what tooltip message the users sees or if they see a tooltip at all. Here is a rather bizarre example but I think you will see the point.

I have created a field called temp_showTooltip? and it has a value list of Yes/No attached to it. Now if the field isn’t set to “Yes”, the tooltip will not come up when the hover occurs. Then I did a goofy little branch that looks to see if the current day is Wednesday or not. It shows you a different message depending on these values.

Blog::temp_showTooltip? ≠ "Yes", "",
DayOfWeek ( Get(CurrentDate) ) = 4, "It is Wednesday!",
"It is NOT Wednesday!")

If you are unfamiliar with the Case function ... The Case Function post might help you out.

Here you can see the setup of the tool tip.

Here you can see the tool tip is not firing but the button is definitely being hovered. This is because the field (temp_showTooltip?) is not set to “yes”.

More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at

© 2008 - Dwayne Wright -

The material on this document is offered AS IS. There is NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY, expressed or implied, nor does any other contributor to this document. WARRANTIES OF MERCHANT ABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. Consequential and incidental damages are expressly excluded. FileMaker Pro is the registered trademark of FileMaker Inc