Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flash Catalyst Tutorial: Weather Widget, Part 4

Latest files:

In Part 4 of our Adobe Flash Catalyst Tutorial, we'll add some data to the project so that our application can represent a real data set. We wont actually be connecting to an data service for the weather, but you can see how the data would be structured to do so.

We'll be focusing on two things in Gumbo: creating a 'model' for our data, applying and binding the information in our model to our interface elements.

We're using a very loose implementation of a design pattern in our example application called the "model, view, controller" pattern or simply MVC. You may have heard of this in regards to RIA (Rich Internet Application) development before. What this means in simple terms is that we will be separating our code into sections that represent the model (data), view (interface stuff) and controller (event handlers, functions, logic, etc). By breaking the code up into these groups and having the groups or 'packages' organized, we will be creating a structure that allows us to easily edit elements without disturbing or breaking pieces that work - ie. changing interface elements without affecting the functions behind them.

Here are the steps I've taken to get to the latest version of the project.

In Adobe Flex 'Gumbo':

  • Import the .fxp project
  • Go to File > New > ActionScript Class

    Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

  • fill in the appropriate information into the form

You should now have a new class document named 'WeatherDataModel'. We'll be creating a singleton - a class that has one and only one instance - for this class. We do this so that we have one point of contact for our data in the application.

The function 'getInstance()' allows us to access this class from anywhere in our application by stating:


Nice! Next we'll add an actual data set to use. We'll define an XML document as our data source, but you could easily adjust this to any data type you'd like.

Now we have a data model with actual data in it. Lets move on to binding this data to our view. Open the cityComponent.mxml file. We are going to add some code to the Script tag:

Notice how simple it is to reference the model now! We bind the model's data to our visual elements toward the bottom of the page. Move down the file until you see the code for the TextGraphics in the 'current' Group. We'll adjust the parameters to the following:

When we use the curly braces in a parameter like this:

text="{[model.currentCity].name }"

we are binding the information to this view. If the information changes, the view updates. In this case, we defined 'model' as our WeatherDataModel. model.cityData points to the XML that we've defined in the model and then we traverse the XML tree to get the value we'd like to display.

Now we need to display the day and the hi and low for each day in our list below the current weather. Move down a few rows in the cityComponent.mxml document to the list of 7 component:dayComponent nodes. These represent the 7 day forecast list. We'll adjust that code to the following:

We've just bound each of the dayComponents to the same data model! If you save all your files and test the application, you should now see something like this:

Mozilla Firefox
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Our application now has 'real' data bound to the interface elements. Stay tuned for more Adobe Flex Catalyst and Flex Gumbo goodness!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CSS Body Typography Samples

I just stumbled upon a nice example of some body copy styles applied in CSS:

It's interesting to see the subtle changes in readability that leading and alignment can make to a block of text. Makes me think back to my days in editorial design and how things seemed to be simpler back then :)

This was a bit of new information to me:

p + p {
text-indent: 1em;

The use of the 'p + p' to define a style. I hadn't used that before but will now that I know it's usage and availability! Check out the drop cap example at the bottom... sweet! Too bad that IE doesn't support it very well. What a surprise.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Flash Catalyst Tutorial: Weather Widget, Part 3

Download the file for this part here:
Previous tutorial posts:
Part 2
Part 1


In this part of our project, I will begin to skin the widget with a graphical treatment similar to the Apple iPhone application. We'll be designing our skin in Adobe Illustrator due to the supported round trip features in the beta release. Normally, I would design these type of skins in Fireworks - I'm more familiar with the drawing and creation tools in Fireworks.

In Illustrator

  1. create a new document in Illustrator

  2. draw a black background box on the stage 250px wide x 400px tall to match the size of our widget

  3. draw a rounded rectangle that is slightly smaller than the background box with a dark blue color and a heavy light colored border

  4. name this layer with an appropriate name - blueBack

  5. copy blueBack layer and paste. change the color to a grey color for the background and for the lighter rule. this background will be for the 'back' of our widget

  6. name this layer - greyBack

  7. create 7 rectangles 230px wide x 30px tall for the background color of each of the days in the list

  8. alternate the color of the seven rectangles to represent an alternating list of items

  9. name these rectangles row1-row7

  10. create a small white circle in the lower right corner of the interface for the 'flip button'

  11. place the text 'i' on the white circle to represent 'info'

  12. group the white circle and the 'i' and call the group infoButton

  13. save your work

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Rather than starting from scratch with an import of our Illustrator document, we'll be copying and pasting our design elements into our current work in the Catalyst document.

In Illustrator

  1. select the blueBack and row1-row7 layers

  2. copy these layers

  3. switch to Flash Catalyst

In Flash Catalyst

  1. click on the direct select tool - the white arrow

  2. double click on the cityComponent to edit it in place - you should see the grey chevrons around the component and see the crumb trail in the upper left and see cityComponent as the right most item

  3. paste the copied Illustrator items in the cityComponent

  4. to make the items easy to move, group them and name the group graphics

  5. move the graphics layer to the bottom of the list in the component's layers

  6. adjust the position to your liking

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At this point, you should see the background image in place with the day components laying in place over the rectangles for the alternating days. You might need to adjust the position of those layers to space them evenly. You can do that either in Illustrator or in Catalyst. Next we'll define our info button graphics.

In Flash Catalyst

  1. select the direct select tool - white arrow

  2. double click on the round button in the lower right of the interface

  3. in the HUD click on the 'edit button appearance' 'up' button. this will open up the four states for the button component and list the button in the crumb trail

  4. briefly switch to Illustrator and copy the infoButton graphics group

  5. switch back to Catalyst and paste the graphics into the 'up' state for the button

  6. paste the graphics in each of the button states or select the small colored box in the layers palette for each of the states to copy them over

  7. change the colors of the background layers for each of the states by selecting the state and selecting the background layer. change it's color with the HUD

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

To make the rounded rectangle background stand out a bit more, we'll add a black background to the component in both states. You can either draw this layer and put it to the lowest layer in Catalyst, or draw it in Illustrator and copy and paste it like the steps above.

For the second state - chooseCity - we'll want to have a background with a rounded rectangle that has a bit of a different color to it to make the transition from the front to the back more dynamic. We created a greyBack layer in Illustrator so copy and paste that layer to the back of the choose city state. It should be placed to the bottom of the cityListGroup in Layer 1 in the layers palette.

If you test the application you'll see the blue background in place with the button graphics. Click on the button to see the transition we've previously built with the 'backside' color applied.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Flash Catalyst Tutorial: Weather Widget, Part 2

Download the current .fxp file here: weatherWidget_2.fxp

To view part 1 of this tutorial, click here.

Designing the Second State

In this part of our project, the designer is planning on adding some more elements to our wireframe to begin to flesh out the experience design (XD) of the application. In the iPhone and Dashboard versions of the weather widget, the 'back side' of the application has a function to choose which cities you'd like to track the weather for. Our designer decides to begin with this part of the app.

In Flash Catalyst, our designer opens up the .fxp file and creates a new blank state by clicking on the 'New Blank Slate' button in the Pages/States panel. Interface elements are placed in the new state and a state title of 'chooseCity' is given to this second state. In the chooseCity state the user is presented with a list of current cities that are being tracked in a scrolling list. Each item in this list has the name of the city and a button to remove the city from the list. There is also a button to add a new city at the top of the interface as well as a button to go back to the previous view. All of the UI elements are placed on the stage. 

Adobe Flash Catalyst - weatherWidget_2
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Next, our designer realizes that the scrolling list will have more than one city listed for a typical user. Since the items in the list will be similar, he decides to make this a Custom Component... good call! We create the custom component in the same way we created the dayComponent in the first part - select all the items for the component (remove button, city title, surrounding box) and click on the 'Convert Artwork to Component > Custom/Generic Component' in the heads up display (HUD).

Now that our second state wireframe is complete, we'll build the transition from one state to the next. For those of you that attended MAX in San Francisco and were lucky enough to get into the hands-on lab with Catalyst, you'll recognize the transition we're going to build. It is a rotational transition that makes the application flip over like a card to show the 'back side' of the app. This is the same transition that Apple uses on the iPhone and in Dashboard.

Begin by having the Timeline panel viewable - double clicking on the tab works if it's collapsed. Because we had Auto Effects for New Transitions checked by default in Flash Catalyst (it's in the Timelines menu) you should see some standard fade transitions between the 2 states. All the way to the left in the Timeline panel you will see 2 State Transitions - View City > Choose City and Choose City > View City. These represent the names of the 2 view states we've defined so far. We added 2 actions to each state transition - Rotate 3D - by clicking on the row for the item to be transitions (city and cityListGroup) and then clicking on the 'Add Action > Rotate 3D' button. We then selected each Rotate transition and changed the values to the ones in the diagrams below in the HUD. For the second state transition (the one that goes back to the viewCity state) we just reversed the order of the transitions.

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To trigger the interactivity for the transitions, our designer selects the round button in the first state, and adds a transition to second state interaction. On the second state, the back button is selected and an interaction is set to go back to the first state. If you run the application, you will see a transition like the one below. (click image to play movie)

Handoff to the Developer

The designer is satisfied with the transitions and basic wireframe positioning of elements and saves his .fxp and hands off to the developer again. Our developer realizes that some changes have been made to our project with a warning presented to him in Gumbo on import of our updated .fxp file. He accepts the changes as none are critical to the functionality already built.

The first thing our developer does is to rename the newCustomComponent that our designer created in Catalyst - I'm hoping that Catalyst will allow you to declare class names in the future so as not to require that as part of the workflow - so that our naming conventions are consistent with one another.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

After digging into the created code a bit, our developer realizes that the button component that our designer created to transition from state 1 to state 2 is just 'floating' in state 1 and not part of a group or custom component. He thinks that might not be the best way to have this button represented and decides to place it into the group on state 1. The problem is, when doing this, it becomes difficult to access the state transition that occurs 1 level up in the display list chain. There is no event that would allow us to track this user interaction so a custom event class is created: FlipEvent.

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Our developer opens the cityComponent class and adds a few lines of code to include the new custom FlipEvent we've created. He ties that to the button - hmm, gotta' rename that button ;) - which triggers a function to dispatch our new event.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Because our cityComponent is now set up to dispatch our 'flip' event, we can listen for that event in our application! In the weatherWidget_2 file, we add some code to listen for the event to be triggered. Rather than setting up a function to be called to switch the states of the app, we're using a shorthand for that by using the {} with our expression embedded in it to switch the currentState property.

Flex Development - weatherWidget_2/src/weatherWidget_2.mxml - Flex Builder Gumbo - /Users/erik/Documents/Gumbo MAX Preview
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

When we test our application now, we have the same effect as displayed in Catalyst, but we are now using a custom event to trigger our transition.

Part 3 - Let's get some skin on this sucker!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flash Catalyst Tutorial: Weather Widget, Part 1

I've been playing with Flash Catalyst for a few days now and have a pretty good handle on the basics. I was scrounging around the web trying to find a tutorial or any sample files anyone had done with the MAX release of the software, but have not been able to find one. So, I thought I'd put one together myself and share.

The idea for this sample is to try to emulate and demonstrate the capabilities of Flash Catalyst, Flex Gumbo, and the designer/developer workflow. I hope that I am accurate on my assumptions for the software and it's best practices - given that it has only been in the public eye for a week or so. Please feel free to comment on suggestions and ideas for the tools and techniques. On with the show!

Catalyst Weather Widget

The current .fxp document:

Our client has asked us to build a weather widget application to have on their travel site. They love the iPhone and would like us to build an application that very closely emulates the functionality and design of the iPhone's built in weather application.

The first step in our process will be to create wireframes of the application. In our wireframe, we will capture all of the major sections of content and their basic placement within the constraints of the application footprint. Our designer opens up Flash Catalyst and begins to block out areas for data and imagery.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

All of the sections were placed on the Catalyst canvas using the tools in the toolbar (box, text field, circle). The top section was created first with a text holder for the city, the hi and low for the day, the current temperature and an area for the current weather graphic (snow, rain, sunny, etc). This section was then grouped to make it easier to move around the stage.

Create the dayComponent
Next, the designer created 1 day section by laying down a rectangle for the surrounding box, text holders for the day, the hi and the lo, and a box to serve as a placeholder for the forecasted weather graphic. The day section contents were then converted into a custom component by selecting 'Convert Artwork to Component' > 'Custom/Generic Component' from the heads up display (HUD). Our designer duplicated the new dayComponent 6 times and spaced them evenly down the space to represent each of the days of the following week of forecasts.

Create the cityComponent
After returning to the main stage by clicking on the leftmost link (not sure what this is called exactly, but it's the crumb trail that is displayed immediately below the 'Pages/States' section in the interface), our designer selects all of the contents of the application that have been built so far. This includes the top section (in a group), the seven day components, and the little round button on the lower right. With all the items selected, we again convert into a custom component by selecting 'Convert Artwork to Component' > 'Custom/Generic Component' from the HUD. We now have a cityComponent as a custom component that is made up of a top section and seven embedded dayComponents... looking good!

When we test our application at this point, the wireframe has the correct positioning for it's components but not much else. Because the dayComponents are all the same, and Catalyst doesn't support and UI based logic statements, it's time to put our code hats on!

Handoff to Flex Gumbo #1

Our first step of our developer is to import the Flash Catalyst .fxp file. When we do, we're presented with a Flex Package Explorer that looks something like this:

Flex Development - weatherWidget/src/weatherWidget.mxml - Flex Builder Gumbo - /Users/erik/Documents/Gumbo MAX Preview

Editing the dayComponent.mxml
Our first task is to add some mechanism to dynamically name the component text areas within our application. We'll do this in Flex using databinding and with some custom parameters. At the top of the dayComponent file, we'll add some <Script> tags and define 3 variables for the textfields in our component - day, hi and lo. Then, we go to each <TextGraphic> tag and find the 'text' attribute. This defines the text to be displayed in our component. We use the binding symbol of curly braces '{ }' and place the names of our variables on the appropriate TextGraphic tag.

Flex Development - weatherWidget/src/components/dayComponent.mxml - Flex Builder Gumbo - /Users/erik/Documents/Gumbo MAX Preview
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Editing the cityComponent.mxml
Next, we open our cityComponent.mxml document and add the code required for this to be dynamic. We add another Script section to the top of our document, this time including the city, dayHi, dayLo, and currentTemp as variables to display in the top section of the interface. Down on line 37, we replace our text parameters with our curly brace friend and the appropriate variable name. You'll notice that our developer wanted to keep the 'H:' and 'L:' as prefixes to the hi and lo information in the design. The way that is done is with string concatenation which is indicated here by this code:

text="{'H: '+dayHi}"

Basically, that states - take the letters 'H', ':', and a space and then add to that string, the value of dayHi.. easy peasy!

Now then. Since we've already edited our dayComponent.mxml to include a new variable called day (check out the screen shot from above) we can add values for those names in our cityComponent file! The next blocked out section in the diagram shows the dayComponent placed on the stage and at the end of each line a 'day' variable is being defined. One of the cool things about using Flex Builder is the fact that because we've defined this variable in our dayComponent 'class', Flex Builder code hints this new variable for us to fill out... less typing = happy carpal tunnel ;)

Flex Development - weatherWidget/src/components/cityComponent.mxml - Flex Builder Gumbo - /Users/erik/Documents/Gumbo MAX Preview
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Editing the weatherWidget.mxml
Last part of our first handoff is for our developer to open the weatherWidget.mxml document and define the variables that he has created. We define the city, currentTemp, dayHi and dayLo on our cityComponent tag.

Flex Development - weatherWidget/src/weatherWidget.mxml - Flex Builder Gumbo - /Users/erik/Documents/Gumbo MAX Preview
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

OK. We've had our designer create a basic wireframed application - blocking out areas of content and imagery. When our designer runs the application out of Flash Catalyst, the blocked out areas are correct, but all the names of the days are the same and information is 'hard coded' into the text fields. Our developer picks up the .fxp file from our designer and he adds a few simple lines of binded variables and scripting code. When our application is run now, the names of the days are 'dynamically' placed and the application has the basic structure we'll need for further steps.

If you open the weatherWidget.fxp document in Flash Catalyst, you'll notice a strange looking thing - What is up with those long curly braced names?

Adobe Flash Catalyst - weatherWidget
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Remember, our developer replaced the names of our 'hard-coded' values with binding variables. If you dig into the components in Flash Catalyst, you'll see that the text name in the HUD's are now the binding names from Flex Gumbo with the curly braces... aha! So don't change them, or our developer friend will have to change them back again. Actually, when the developer re-imports the .fxp after we do some more designing, he'll have the option to write over changes or not, so I guess that last statement is up to your normal workflow process you have at your gig.

The current .fxp document:

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Tour de Flex: Great AIR App for Flex Developers

One nice utility application that was released at the MAX conference this year was the Tour de Flex AIR application. It's a great utility for referencing Flex and AIR objects and API's. You can download it by clicking on the badge below:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flash Catalyst in the Wild!

Adobe released a 'MAX Preview' of the anxiously awaited Flash Catalyst (Thermo) this year at the MAX conference. Catalyst is a design centric application that allows a designer to work in tools they are graphically comfortable in - Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator - and import them into Catalyst to add expressive functionality all the while creating a working Flex application.

The preview is well executed but does have a 'raw' feel to it. The full application is not expected for a year... or at least that was the general statement from Adobe folks. There are a limited number of components available at this time but when the application reaches a public beta, I would expect quite a few more to be added.

The one thing that Catalyst does seem to be ready for right now is it's use as a wireframing tool! In fact, Catalyst might be THE wireframing tool of choice for experience design professionals. On the flight home from San Francisco, I was able to make 5 or 6 different versions of an application that Christian, Joe, and I have been kicking around! These are fully immersive wireframe models with clickable areas and transitions from state to state. They give the very lo-fidelity prototype 'teeth' that can be evaluated and iterated upon. It's exciting to see the potential! I'll post screen shots and some samples soon.

Chrysler Didn't Win at MAX

Oh well. The Chrysler application that we from Knoware worked on last year did not win the MAX award at this year's Adobe MAX conference. But, it was an honor to be involved with a project that was nominated none the less! was the winning entry in the section that the Chrysler application was up for. Congrats to Scrapblog and their excellent RIA!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Woohoo! Adobe MAX Awards Chrysler wiTech AIR app

Joe Johnston of Universal Mind forwarded a link to me the other day regarding the Adobe MAX Awards for 2008. One of the finalists in the contest for the RIA category is an application that Joe, Christian Saylor, Tim Todish, Grant Carmichael, Mike Kopchick and I worked on back in the day - Chrysler's wiTech Auto Diagnostic AIR application. Our team worked with the team at Atomic Object on the original proof of concept as well as a good portion of the final build.

This application was built to display the diagnostics of a vehicle when the mechanic hooks the car up to the 'computer'. Joe, Tim, Christian, Grant, Mike and I worked on this back when we were all at Knoware. Jim Mitchell was our point person over at Chrysler when we worked on this app. Congrats to Jim and the Chrysler crew for all the hard work on the completed app!

Big props to Joe, Christian, Tim, Grant, Mike and the AO crew for all their work on the app - since the original team is nowhere to be seen in the award entry on the MAX site... bummer!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Here we go...

As we all know, it's about that time again. Do we change what we're going to do as a country moving forward, or do we stay the course and weather the storm? No matter what side of the coin you're on, voice yourself with your vote.

And just because Sarah Silverman is so damn funny, try this one on for a good laugh:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Working with XML Namespaces in Flash

Today I was having some issues with parsing RSS/ATOM feeds in Flash. I forgot to factor in the fact that both use namespaces in the XML. Here's a simple block of code I used to handle the namespaces and parse the XML into Value Objects:

public function xmlLoaded(event:Event):void


trace("done loading");

theXML = XML(;

var ns:Namespace = theXML.namespace();

for each (var property:XML in theXML..item)


var atom:Namespace = property.namespace("atom");

var fVO:FeatureVO = new FeatureVO();

fVO.pubDate = property.pubDate;

fVO.updated = property.atom::updated;

fVO.category = property.category;

fVO.title = property.title;

fVO.summary = property.atom::summary; =;

fVO.enclosure = property.enclosure.@url;

fVO.xmlData = property;


trace("creating featureVO "+fVO.enclosure);


This is what the sample xml looked like from Blogger's RSS/ATOM feed:

<rss xmlns:atom='' xmlns:openSearch='' version='2.0'>



<lastBuildDate>Wed, 10 Sep 2008 19:07:53 +0000</lastBuildDate>




<managingEditor> (Erik Loehfelm)</managingEditor>






<guid isPermaLink='false'>,1999:blog-</guid>

<pubDate>Wed, 10 Sep 2008 19:07:00 +0000</pubDate>


<category domain=''>feature</category>

<title>People Singing</title>

<atom:summary>This is going to be a feature for the portal.v/atom:summary>


<enclosure type='image/jpeg' url='' length='0'/>

<author> (Erik Loehfelm)</author>




You can see the syntax to be used on the 2 lines highlighted in bold above. The first defines the namespace (atom) and the second shows how you access elements in the xml that have the atom namespace applied to them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Photoshop Tip: Creating a dotted line

Here's another handy tip for Photoshop CS3. To create a dotted line in Photoshop:

  1. Select the Pencil or Brush tool from the tool menu
  2. Open the Brushes Palette from the Window menu
  3. Click on the 'Brush Tip Shape' item in the list on the left
  4. Adjust the 'Spacing' slider on the bottom of the right list
Photoshop_dottedLineThis will give you a dotted line while drawing with that particular pen/brush! Save it as a new brush if you'd like to use it again in the future. Adjust the 'Spacing' slider to give you the spread between the dots that you'd like. Playing with the adjustments on the other settings will allow you to create dashes, or other shapes along the same pattern. Easy peasy!

Photoshop Tip: Switching between open documents

As basic as this might seem, I always seem to forgot this little key combination to switch between open documents on the Mac.

Hold down Control:Shift and press Tab to cycle through the open documents in Photoshop.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Photoshop Tip: Color picking from anywhere

Here's a quick Photoshop CS3 tip to sample colors from applications other than Photoshop:

  1. With a Photoshop document open, click on the color swatch/color chooser in the tools pallette to open up the color picker.
  2. Mouse over the Photoshop document so that the eyedropper tool becomes visible.
  3. Left-click your mouse in the Photoshop document and continue to hold the mouse button down.
  4. You can now move your mouse outside of the Photoshop document and sample colors from anywhere on your computer screen!
  5. Release your mouse button when you have found the color you desire.
  6. The sampled color is now the selected color in your color picker! Be sure to have the "Only Web Colors" checkbox unchecked to allow a wider gamut of colors to be sampled.
Note: This will only sample colors from what is visible on your screen. It will not allow you to move windows to find colors on a 'buried' screen. Be sure to set up your workspace so that the open Photoshop document and whatever your color sample source will be are both visible.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Flash Heat Mapping

I've been working on a widget-like application at the office for about a month now, creating an application that collects data from users and displays it as a heat map.

We're expecting this to be a part of a great portal we're currently designing. This will be one of the 'sticky' parts of the portal contents that allows our readers to take a stab at where the market is going to be in the future. It displays the current Foreign Exchange pair pricing and will allow you to guess what tomorrow's high and low will be. Then, it will map the answers as a heat map on the interface to display the accuracy.

Here's some preliminary screen shots:

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!


I'm testing a few blog publishing platforms these days. The first on the list is MarsEdit - a Mac specific platform for publishing, editing, and overall management of blogs.

So far, the experience has been pretty good in my tests. I'll be interested to see the flexibility of it as I move forward. We have a need at GFT to blog on a daily basis and we are evaluating software to help us accomplish that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AIRFare AIR Application

My old friends Joe Jonston and Christian Saylor - both of Universal Mind - have been working on an AIR application called AIRFare that is a flight and hotel lookup app using data services from Kayak. Joe has been knee deep into the Experience design of the application and created a couple of videos of his progress:

You can also follow Joe's progress at his blog at

Friday, May 16, 2008


I've been working on a very cool little application at work over the past few days. It is a mapping application leveraging the Yahoo! AS3 mapping API in Flex 3. We needed an application to be able to view a regional snapshot of our account activity over a given time period. We new the following data:

  • account address
  • account value
  • age
  • gender

First had to get the geocodes for all the addresses but found plenty of places to do that. So, here we are with a spreadsheet of almost 5,000 people and couldn't find an easy to use online application to display them.

Enter Flex.

I built the application in Flex 3 using Yahoo!'s api. It was a fairly easy workflow with the Yahoo! classes. Although, I would have liked to have seen the code for the classes from Yahoo! to see how some things were put together that I was extending. The plotting of the points was straightforward but kind of cluttered when you have so many of them in a small area.

Enter filtering.

I created a way to filter by general region of the globe, gender, age, and account value. This helped to narrow down the field of view quite a bit, but there was no way to direct focus on a particular are of the map - no way to see all of the accounts in Chicago for example.

Enter Zones.

At any time you can drop a 'zone' on the map. What the zone does is aggregate the data in a given geographical radius from the center of the zone. This way, you can explore the details of an area and have a summary of what's going on in the area. The zone becomes active after it is dropped and moved or it's size adjusted.

After the completion of the web based app, I decided it would be valuable to create an AIR version. This way, the data could be swapped out for a new data set by simply selecting a new document. I used a tab deliminated text file for the data source but that could easily be swapped out for another format later. I was considering releasing it as a public application at some point and adding customization features like:

  • select a data file and choose what columns to plot data against
  • customize the filtering based on the data
  • customize the zone details based on the date
  • save the 'file settings' as a favorite for recall later or to use with multiple files of the same format
Anyway, fun stuff and very valuable for what we needed!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cool Design Publication

I've stumbled upon a very cool publication on web design and development. Its called WebDesigner and its published in England. It has some really great articles on how to execute the latest and greatest in web techniques. Most of the technology how-to's focus on Adobe products - Flash, Flex, Photoshop - but they also cover some Silverlight projects.

They have some great portfolio sections as well, showcasing some great designs across the web. You can check them out online at I've been able to pick up copies on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble in the computer or art sections.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another Chapter...

Well, another phase of my professional career is coming to an end - I resigned from Haworth on Monday. I'm currently working out my required 2 weeks notice and plan to start at my new job in March at Global Forex Trading ( I'll be heading up a sort of web R&D practice within the company doing what I like to do best - building cool shit! I'm very excited and plan to share more of my work here for anyone that cares.

Onward and upward!

Friday, February 08, 2008

WebKit News from the Mother Ship

I was fortunate enough to meet with Apple this past week on a trip to the Bay Area. In my visit I learned of the web application team and specifically the WebKit team within Apple. This is a dedicated team to developing and furthering the progress of the WebKit technology that forms the backbone of Apple's Safari browser, Mail client, and Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch browsers, among others.

One of the unique features of this group is the fact that it is one of the few open source teams within the Apple umbrella. They are working in the code base with developers from around the world driving the next versions of the products and technologies to be included in the WebKit open source project. Any of us can go to to contribute to the project, download source code, or play with nightly builds. This is one place where we can actually see a 'product roadmap' for what Apple will be including in their products in the future.

Some of the cool features that we should be able to see in an early phase from the nightly builds are things like:

  • Embedded browser database for occasionally connected data access

  • Expressiveness in transitions - basically browser based Flash-like transitions

  • Downloadable fonts

  • Inline CSS editing

  • Full support for SVG

Very cool stuff! You can also follow the threads at two blogs related to WebKit development at aka SurfinSafari.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Experience Design, Where to Start and End

Joe Johnston (, Christian Saylor (Mighty), Grant Carmichael (knoware) and I have been having some great conversations around the concept of Experience Design (XD) lately. Late last year, pretty much during the MAX 2007 conference in Chicago, I latched on to the XD conversation in full force. I hadn't realized it, or labeled it as such, but XD is what I've been doing for a couple of years now... nice to actually have a name for it - I've gotten sick of saying "oh, I do web stuff" when someone asks what I do :) The idea of interaction design or web architect always flies over the non-web person's noodle.

One of the struggles I've been having in wrapping my arms around the discipline, is where does it end? In print, once the piece comes off the press, your done. But in XD, the conversations continue to get more and more lofty. Initially, XD is focused on the user's interaction with the site/application/widget/etc. But this easily begins to transcend this easy to define 'web physical' realm into the oh-so-fuzzy realm of brand, consumer relationships, trust.

The building blocks of XD for the web - in my opinion - are founded on the physical and emotional touchpoints a person has with a web solution. This can manifest itself in the things that a normal rich internet development/design process would undertake:

  • clearly articulated objectives

  • measurable success criteria

  • simplicity and focus

  • content is king

  • provide personalization

  • minimize the chrome

  • just enough is more

  • respond to actions

  • motion has meaning

  • preserve context

  • design with consistency

But lately, I've been struggling on where to put the cap on the conversation. A great blog I follow at Adaptive Path pointed out how experience design is not about brand. In my reflection though, brand is the culmination of experience design. Brand, from the perspective of an organization is inside-out - where the organization is attempting to shape public perception based on it's messaging and externally facing tools. Brand, from the perspective of a consumer is outside-in - where my perception of what a company represents and how it engages its customers is based on the experience you've had with an organizations products and services. These 2 perspectives do not necessarily end at the same point - a cohesive brand - but they do end at the same general point - brand.

This is where I'm stuck. I'm not sure how to tie the loose ends together or if they should be tied at all. The conversation of experience design can be capped at the physical elements of the experience - graphic design, motion design, interface design, etc. Or, it can elevate to the level of the entirety of a brand.

The fact that I bought Apple stock at $19 (and sold it at $50 before the split... DAMMIT!) points to the value I held in Apple back in the day - my 'experience' with Apple products and services formed a personal brand experience with me that was valuable and made me purchase the stock. That experience was rooted all the way down to the icons and sounds in the OS and the little smiley face on start-up. Did the designers at Apple consider my perception and acceptance of this experience at this low level so many years ago? Was it a conscious effort to engage me to that degree or was it just creating something cool for coolness sake?

So my question is, where does an experience designer start and stop?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Laughing Hard

So, I listen to Opie and Anthony on my commute into work in the morning and there have been 2 episodes that I laughed so loud and hard at that I was crying while driving! Not safe, but a definite pick me up in the morning.

This morning, they were busting on a friend in studio who plays a WWII video game with the team name of Gaays. The guy is a bit overweight and they were throwing out really funny names of war movies he 'starred' in:

Fridge Over the River Qui
Apocalypse Cow

And my favorite, which took me 10 minutes to come up with but a caller called in with it a bit after:

The Guns of Provalone

LOL! Really funny stuff. Check out They might have the clips up there.