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How to Make Users Happy

You pour your heart and mind into creating an application that meets your users’ requirements but many times little time is left to ensure you’re creating good user experience.

Editorial Note

This article is in the Product Showcase section for our sponsors at CodeProject. These reviews are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers.

This is a showcase review for our sponsors at CodeProject. These reviews are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers.

Introduction

Writing complex applications is not as easy as most of us would like. Though tools like Visual Studio 2005 make developing applications easier than ever; you still have to do way too much work to create rich user interfaces that, these days, end users are expecting more and more. You can write a lot of code to create custom controls, or you could use a toolset such as NetAdvantage from Infragistics, which has most every type of user interface control you need in applications.

But having a bunch of cool UI controls does not necessarily make you happier. To be truly happy, and to have it shine through in the applications you deliver, you need a totally RAD (Rapid Application Development) experience when designing your UI's. With Infragistics, you can create modern and rich user experiences that users will find pleasant to use, that makes their day-to-day grind more enjoyable, and that they can recommend to others.

The Road to Developer Happiness – A Better User Experience

Seeing a beautiful user interface can bring a tear of joy to the eye of even the most hard core developer. Seeing a beautiful user interface that works well, does not have bugs, is consistent, and improves the overall quality of work life will definitely bring a tear of joy to the downstream consumer of your applications. Being able to create that comprehensive experience of joy, both for the developer and end user, with relative ease, is a thing of beauty.

The NetAdvantage family of products from Infragistics can deliver a RAD experience that will bring that tear of joy that you have been searching for your entire life when developing the presentation layer. This RAD experience in WPF, Windows Forms, and ASP.NET for .NET developers, as well as in JSF and SWING for Java developers, is accomplished in several ways:

  • Writing less code by using Designers, Smart Tags and Presets
  • Keeping a familiar Microsoft look and feel that makes it easier to learn your applications
  • Sharing common object models across platforms to leverage learning
  • Easing professional quality application design with Application Styling
  • Providing modern technologies and approaches out of the box like AJAX, WPF, and CAB

Writing Less Code using Designers, Smart Tags, and Presets

Writing quality code with no bugs is always the goal. Being able to produce the same quality output without writing as much code is even better. Through a rich design time experience, NetAdvantage lets you create highly-interactive, highly-styled user interfaces without writing any code at all through its designers, smart tags, and presets.

Notice the smart tag in Figure 1, which is for the WebGrid in the ASP.NET toolset. By checking a few options on the smart tag, you get a complete AJAX-enabled grid with cell-based updating for data entry, row adding, and deletion as well as AJAX paging, AJAX sorting, and Excel-style fixed columns! Developers creating this from scratch would have to write hundreds of lines of server-side code and as many more in JavaScript on the client to accomplish what you can do with a few simple checkboxes using the Infragistics WebGrid for ASP.NET.

Figure 1: Smart Tag for the WebGrid

Try NetAdvantage for ASP.NET!

You can also use the custom designers for all of the controls in the NetAdvantage toolset to get quick access to presets, object models, and feature picker lists. Let's say, for example, you wanted an Office 2003 Blue style for your WebGrid, WinGrid, or even an Xbox-flavored UI. Using the built-in presets, which are simply XML files, you can quickly style individual components at design time or runtime. Built-in style presets include Office 2007; Windows XP Blue, Silver, and Olive; Office 2003 Blue, Silver, and Olive; Office 2000, and Microsoft CRM. You can customize existing presets or create your own from scratch. Figure 2 shows the WinGrid designer's Feature Picker with an Xbox look and feel.

Figure 2: WinGrid Designer and the Feature Picker

In this case, happiness is using rich design-time tools and writing almost no code to produce an extremely rich and highly styled user interface.

Familiar Microsoft Look and Feel – Easier to Learn Applications

Building user interfaces that share common colors, controls, and behavior with other applications that your audience is accustomed to using on a daily basis makes them easier to use and more accepted by your customers. Applications like Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel are probably the most widespread in the business world. Using NetAdvantage, you can style your applications with the new looks of Microsoft Office 2007 as well as Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003. Using the built-in Office 2007 styles, you can build full, contextual Windows Forms-based applications using the Office 2007-styled Ribbon and Gallery. In both Windows Forms and ASP.NET, we ship the three new color schemes (Blue, Black, and Silver) that are standard in Office 2007.

All of this styling and behavior can be done with absolutely no code—simple property settings can change the entire look and behavior of your application. This makes it easy to always have the most modern UI without having to change any of the underlying codebase. Figure 3 demonstrates a new Office 2007 Ribbon control in the NetAdvantage for Windows Forms toolset. Also notice the rounded corners of the form, the styled StatusBar, and the TaskPane on the right side of the UI. These are all built-in controls of the toolset.

Figure 3: Get the Office 2007 Ribbon look, feel and behavior with a simple property setting

Try NetAdvantage for Windows Forms!

In this case, happiness is building an easy-to-use, common user interface that end users will gladly accept without having to write any code and being able to update the interface just as easily!

Leveraged Learning - Common Object Models Across Platforms

Because our controls are built on our Presentation Layer Framework (PLF), there is a single, intuitive learning curve for a developer that carries over from Windows Forms to Web development. You'll find a consistent development experience that will lead to a consistent user interface and end-user experience. Consistency for the developer, and for the end user, is the key to increasing productivity.

Infragistics' Presentation Layer Frameworks provide this unparalleled consistency as a common substrate upon which all Infragistics .NET controls are built. You can even build your own custom controls based on the PLF and leverage our infrastructure so that your own controls support XP Themes and Office styles. Additionally, you can leverage our logic for hit-testing, painting, transparency, gradients, eventing, and more. Our PLF is an incredibly powerful tool, available for you to leverage to your greatest advantage.

Professional Quality Application Design with Application Styling

Design Once, Style Everywhere. Think CSS for Windows Forms. With the NetAdvantage Application Styling Framework™ (ASF), developers and designers can now set the look and feel of applications at run time with an XML-based style library file. Our style libraries use style inheritance to provide global styling functionality for Windows Forms that is analogous to web-based cascading style sheets (CSS). Style libraries also provide shared, reusable resources that can be applied effortlessly across multiple Infragistics controls in an application or multiple applications using Infragistics Windows Forms controls.

This powerful framework enables many styling scenarios that were formerly difficult or impossible to achieve on the Windows Forms platform. The ASF allows developers and development teams to:

  • Ensure a consistent look and feel across an application or the enterprise with centralized, global styles
  • Update styles at run time without code changes or recompiling – this means an ISV can rebrand an entire application with no change to the codebase
  • Use dynamic styling to change an application's look and feel at runtime based on use case or business requirements
  • Customize an application's look and feel at run time with the NetAdvantage AppStylist run-time component

Figure 4 demonstrates the same application, with different Infragistics Application Style Libraries (ISL's) applied. Note the complete look and feel can be changed with a single line of code!

Figure 4: Design Once – Style Everywhere. 2 Style Libraries, 1 application.

It's important to note that Infragistics ships over 20 ISL files, such as Obsidian, Rubber Black, Radio Flyer Red, Spring Green, and Appletini as well as the full suite of Office 2007 styles! And our NetAdvantage AppStylist tool that is included in NetAdvantage for Windows Forms empowers designers to create new and compelling styles with ease.

In this case, happiness is creating highly stylized and amazing apps without needing a graphics designer!

Watch this video of how you can use Application Styling and NetAdvantage AppStylist for your applications.

Try NetAdvantage AppStylist!

Modern Technologies Built-In – AJAX, WPF and CAB

Infragistics first delivered AJAX features in October 2004, well before the term "AJAX" was coined and has been supporting the Microsoft ASP.NET AJAX framework since it was in its first beta.

Infragistics was the first component vendor to demo a WPF control at PDC 2003 in Los Angeles.

Infragistics helped Microsoft write the component interaction in CAB, the Composite UI Framework.

Having all of the latest and greatest frameworks at your fingertips if you want to use them, as well as the commercial class frameworks that are used in hundreds of thousands of applications worldwide, gives you the flexibility you need to choose the right tool for the job.

  • NetAdvantage for ASP.NET has a full range of AJAX capabilities in controls such as WebGrid, WebTree, WebSchedule, and the WebAsyncRefreshPanel.
  • NetAdvantage for JSF was built from the ground up using AJAX. All interactions the components have with the server are done using AJAX. Try NetAdvantage for JSF!
  • NetAdvantage for Windows Forms ships with the NetAdvantage CAB Extensibility Kit (NCEK), which contains CAB UIElementManagers for Toolbars, TreeView, ExplorerBar and StatusBar as well as CAB Workspaces for DockManager, Tabs, TabbedMdi, ExplorerBar and ToolbarsManager.
  • NetAdvantage for WPF, currently in pre-release, gets you ready for the next generation of user interface design.

Figure 5 shows off the DataPresenter control, in a tabular view and carousel view.

Figure 5: The NetAdvantage for WPF DataPresenter control in action

With a toolbox full of tools for any job, happiness is having the ability to choose the right technology when you need it.

Are You Excited?

By now you should have the idea that happiness for you and for your users is not far away! You can save tons of time and energy by building rich user interfaces with the NetAdvantage toolsets for ASP.NET, Windows Forms, WPF, and JSF. By using the controls in the NetAdvantage family, you can build and style modern UI's with little or no code. With a rich and intuitive design time experience, you'll write less code, have fewer bugs, and be able to prototype faster than ever. With the various built in Office styles, presets, and Application Styling style libraries, your end users will have applications that are more familiar to them, have a modern look and feel and behavior, and a consistent user experience.

What are you waiting for? Go download NetAdvantage to try it out for yourself and get started on the road to happiness!

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... PinmemberKenGuru7-Mar-07 1:03 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... PinmemberRoger J9-Mar-07 2:06 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... PinmemberTonyS12-Mar-07 1:32 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... Pinmemberranbla20-Apr-07 6:59 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... PinmemberMarc Greiner20-Apr-07 7:21 
GeneralRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... Pinmember))lance((5-May-07 5:52 
AnswerRe: Before choosing infragistics (former sheridan)... PinmemberFranck Kay10-Jul-07 6:21 
GeneralWe use DevExpress too... PinmemberDmitri Nesteruk21-Sep-07 8:11 
GeneralIn general PinmemberUser of Users Group3-Feb-07 4:13 
QuestionHow to make users even happier PinmemberMarc Greiner at home2-Feb-07 5:43 
QuestionThe ranting of a madman? PinmemberDark Profit30-Jan-07 4:51 
AnswerWe hear you both! PinmemberMT_Infragistics31-Jan-07 7:00 
AnswerRe: We hear you both! PinmemberLonnie McCullough31-Jan-07 18:38 
GeneralRe: We hear you both! PinmemberMike Voissem23-Aug-07 4:47 
QuestionHow 'Happy' a User can be using Infragistics is Relative I think PinmemberTuk29-Jan-07 6:08 

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