The Hyperactive FileMaker Layout

From Dwayne Wright PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
Certified FileMaker Developer

TWITTER: dwaynewright
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I stumbled upon the following article on The Wired Blog Network called “Why No One is Using Your Application or Website” and it intrigued me. Actually, it was the cartoon that showed first and it is from The Stuff That Happens blog. Check out both links please, because it is very interesting reading. The Stuff That Happens blog posting is a bit more interesting because of the long line of comments it has been growing.

My take?

Yes, I see layouts from customers every day that are too active for my tastes. I try to “Fischer Price” my screens as much as possible but there is a tipping point in both directions. I’ve seen articles and posts about this FileMaker layout expert and that FileMaker layout expert. Some of these experts, I cannot find a single database they have ever created. I scratch my head and wonder how this can be but I chalk it up to my need to get out of the office more.

However, there is a lot of good, very good, layout common sense out there these days. Much of it has to do with “less is more” but I do caution you on a knee jerk reaction to the way the wind is blowing at the moment.

Then you see something like Matt Petrowski’s Theme Library ... that just using it ... makes me feel pretty. I visited a customer office last week in which the office was divided about how effective the last developer for them had been. So divided that one department is using FileMaker 7 and the other is using FileMaker 5 and the heart of the matter was the layout design. I explained that we can use the same data table but have different layouts for each department and they were stunned. They asked me what layout design I use. I whipped out my purchased copy of the Theme Library and asked them to pick one and I’d use it for them. Again, they were simply stunned.

You can spend 5 days perfecting a recursive custom function and the client is bored. Show them a pretty picture and they may consider you a god. It is just the way it is in some situations.

Back to my client last week, my first round proposal will be to bring the entire office to FileMaker 9 and integrate the data set / security schema. I don’t plan on proposing any significant layout changes for each user set in phase one. In phase 2, I will do a case argument for the the benefits of a consistent user interface throughout the solution but I won’t push it too hard. I will probably push custom menus because they are layout agnostic. I will try to slowly remove buttons from the FileMaker 5 layouts and educate the users on custom menus. I will make a main screen that is role specific. This way every business role user can go to a screen that is customized with buttons for their role within the company.

Just a few thoughts there were created by seeing a cartoon, first thing in the morning! (grin)
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