Drawbacks of using Flex for data processing application?

23 Jan 2009 - 11:42am
5 years ago
11 replies
1756 reads
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

We are thinking about building data processing application entirely in Flex.

The benefits: there are component libraries (
http://examples.adobe.com/flex3/consulting/styleexplorer/Flex3StyleExplorer.html),
which can be modified via CSS, the initial development time is short,
charting capabilities.

Anyone has built data processing app in Flex before? What are the possible
drawbacks?
- UI and code maintenance, modification.
- Accessibility (compatibility with screen readers) - this is not for the
app, but relevant for side project.
- Scallability - presentation, manipulation of large amount of data in a
data grid.
- Licensing issues?

There was a brief discussion of Flash two years ago:
http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887<http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887&search=flash+awesome>
Any updates?

Thanks,

Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

Comments

23 Jan 2009 - 12:03pm
jeff noyes
2008

I designed a really complex enterprise application in Flex for Bank of
America. It's got some wonderful positives, but you're asking about
drawbacks, so here it goes:

1. Not a lot of Flex developers. Finding resources is a challenge
(although it's community has grown since my project)
2. It's accessible, but it takes work. There's a library of
accessible components out there somewhere.
3. Depending on it's use, it's footprint MAY be heavier than other
solutions.
4. It's not free.
5. Some designers don't know how to build in a page-less paradigm.
6. Getting data is fast, I wouldn't worry about that. You can lazy
load the data if needed.

I'm completely impressed with what's going on in the jQuery space, so
if you haven't checked that out, you should.

On Jan 23, 2009, at 11:42 AM, Oleh Kovalchuke wrote:

> We are thinking about building data processing application entirely
> in Flex.
>
> The benefits: there are component libraries (
> http://examples.adobe.com/flex3/consulting/styleexplorer/Flex3StyleExplorer.html)
> ,
> which can be modified via CSS, the initial development time is short,
> charting capabilities.
>
> Anyone has built data processing app in Flex before? What are the
> possible
> drawbacks?
> - UI and code maintenance, modification.
> - Accessibility (compatibility with screen readers) - this is not
> for the
> app, but relevant for side project.
> - Scallability - presentation, manipulation of large amount of data
> in a
> data grid.
> - Licensing issues?
>
> There was a brief discussion of Flash two years ago:
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887<http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887&search=flash+awesome
> >
> Any updates?
>
> Thanks,
>
> Oleh Kovalchuke
> Interaction Design is design of time
> http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

23 Jan 2009 - 12:41pm
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

Thanks, Jeff.

Well, since you have mentioned it, what are the wonderful positives?

Oleh

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 11:03 AM, Jeff Noyes <jeff.noyes at acquia.com> wrote:

> I designed a really complex enterprise application in Flex for Bank of
> America. It's got some wonderful positives, but you're asking about
> drawbacks, so here it goes:
>
> 1. Not a lot of Flex developers. Finding resources is a challenge
> (although it's community has grown since my project)
> 2. It's accessible, but it takes work. There's a library of accessible
> components out there somewhere.
> 3. Depending on it's use, it's footprint MAY be heavier than other
> solutions.
> 4. It's not free.
> 5. Some designers don't know how to build in a page-less paradigm.
> 6. Getting data is fast, I wouldn't worry about that. You can lazy load
> the data if needed.
>
> I'm completely impressed with what's going on in the jQuery space, so if
> you haven't checked that out, you should.
>
>
>
>
> On Jan 23, 2009, at 11:42 AM, Oleh Kovalchuke wrote:
>
> We are thinking about building data processing application entirely in
>> Flex.
>>
>> The benefits: there are component libraries (
>>
>> http://examples.adobe.com/flex3/consulting/styleexplorer/Flex3StyleExplorer.html
>> ),
>> which can be modified via CSS, the initial development time is short,
>> charting capabilities.
>>
>> Anyone has built data processing app in Flex before? What are the possible
>> drawbacks?
>> - UI and code maintenance, modification.
>> - Accessibility (compatibility with screen readers) - this is not for the
>> app, but relevant for side project.
>> - Scallability - presentation, manipulation of large amount of data in a
>> data grid.
>> - Licensing issues?
>>
>> There was a brief discussion of Flash two years ago:
>> http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887<
>> http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=21887&search=flash+awesome>
>> Any updates?
>>
>> Thanks,
>>
>> Oleh Kovalchuke
>> Interaction Design is design of time
>> http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm
>> ________________________________________________________________
>> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
>> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
>> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>>
>
>

23 Jan 2009 - 4:22pm
Nasir Barday
2006

Jeff, I know you were digging for drawbacks, but finding people with
the right skillset is less of an issue. If you're already a developer
that knows ActionScript (or Java/C/C++ in my case), the platform is
very easy to pick up. If you've got that kind of skillset lying
around, you can have an engineering team up in about two days (under a
day if they're real sharp).

Designers not knowing how to build in a page-less paradigm? Aww, that
makes me sad for many reasons :-( :-(.

Wonderful pros:
-) Apps are cross-platform and can run either in a web-browser or as a
real AIR desktop app, with an installer an' everything (for an
example, see http://www.twhirl.org/)
-) 60-day free trial
-) For desktop apps, there's a built-in mechanism to handle updates
-) Installing the AIR runtime and the apps that run on them is
seamless (as long as you have the security privileges to install
stuff)

Oooh, some cons:
-) Yes, it costs money. $250 a pop!
-) Flash Catalyst isn't out yet, so you can't roundtrip designs
between Creative Suite (Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator) and Flex
-) Adobe, please please please get us a beta of Flash Catalyst! I need
some relief here already!

- Nasir

23 Jan 2009 - 6:45pm
Steve Baty
2009

Nasir,

This has not been my experience. I've seen it take much, much longer for the
development team to get up to speed on Flex than 2 days. I'm not sure
whether you mean "ready to start" or "able to work just as efficiently as
they could in <insert previous dev language>" but the latter case has
certainly *not* been my experience.

Regards
Steve

2009/1/24 Nasir Barday <nasir.barday at ixda.org>

> Jeff, I know you were digging for drawbacks, but finding people with
> the right skillset is less of an issue. If you're already a developer
> that knows ActionScript (or Java/C/C++ in my case), the platform is
> very easy to pick up. If you've got that kind of skillset lying
> around, you can have an engineering team up in about two days (under a
> day if they're real sharp).
>

--
Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061 292 | E:
stevebaty at meld.com.au | Twitter: docbaty | LinkedIn:
www.linkedin.com/in/stevebaty

Blog: http://docholdsfourth.blogspot.com
Contributor - UXMatters - www.uxmatters.com
UX Book Club: http://uxbookclub.org/ - Read, discuss, connect.

23 Jan 2009 - 8:21pm
Angel Marquez
2008

Flex is not looking so good on the iPhone.

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 3:45 PM, Steve Baty <stevebaty at gmail.com> wrote:

> Nasir,
>
> This has not been my experience. I've seen it take much, much longer for
> the
> development team to get up to speed on Flex than 2 days. I'm not sure
> whether you mean "ready to start" or "able to work just as efficiently as
> they could in <insert previous dev language>" but the latter case has
> certainly *not* been my experience.
>
> Regards
> Steve
>
> 2009/1/24 Nasir Barday <nasir.barday at ixda.org>
>
> > Jeff, I know you were digging for drawbacks, but finding people with
> > the right skillset is less of an issue. If you're already a developer
> > that knows ActionScript (or Java/C/C++ in my case), the platform is
> > very easy to pick up. If you've got that kind of skillset lying
> > around, you can have an engineering team up in about two days (under a
> > day if they're real sharp).
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Steve 'Doc' Baty | Principal | Meld Consulting | P: +61 417 061 292 | E:
> stevebaty at meld.com.au | Twitter: docbaty | LinkedIn:
> www.linkedin.com/in/stevebaty
>
> Blog: http://docholdsfourth.blogspot.com
> Contributor - UXMatters - www.uxmatters.com
> UX Book Club: http://uxbookclub.org/ - Read, discuss, connect.
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

23 Jan 2009 - 7:30pm
Nasir Barday
2006

Yah, that was a bit cavalier on my part; thanks for calling that out.
I meant that after 2 days they'd be able to have an idea how to get
started and learn to use the available APIs. Would love to talk Flex
if you're coming to Interaction '09...

The Flex/Flash actionscript Twitter API, btw, is sorely in need of
updating; I'm considering making some changes myself ...

- Nasir

24 Jan 2009 - 3:36am
Angel Marquez
2008

Uhmmmmm, that is about the extent of my Flex knowledge. I did work a gig
doing visual support for a Flex app and that was interesting. It turned out
my client needed to meet their clients spec and it turned from flex to css
and javascript overnight.
I like flash and actionscript, downloaded the latest flex builder, did all
the course ware and like it, I like it a lot; but it's not a practical
solution. The spec dictates the solution. css and js covers more ground. You
can find the css.js equivalent for the flex stuff you listed.

I'm not sure if you were even talking to me...lol

I will not be attending IX09 (how many have been held?)

I will be there in spirit, have fun.

24 Jan 2009 - 6:06am
boon
2008

I've the lead programmer on a recent Flex project, and it's not easy
to get around, despite its similiarities to Javascript/HTML.
Flex tends to lend itself better to structured layouts (e.g. tables,
menus, "pages").
Getting it to do something else requires time, planning and good
execution.
Apart from that, it's a good platform, but it's definitely not going
to take 2 days for a javascript developer to get up and running.

Regards,
Boon

25 Jan 2009 - 8:16am
DrWex
2006

Oleh

I'm involved as the interaction designer on a Flex-based financial
trading application at the moment. I'm curious what sort of "data
processing" application you have in mind. How much data would you be
sending to the client and at what rates?

Or is your concern solely about the ability of Flex to present
data-intensive UIs?

Best,
--Alan

26 Jan 2009 - 10:57am
Oleh Kovalchuke
2006

It is for several different applications. One of them queries and sorts data
in hundreds of thousands of rows and a few dozens of columns.

The constraint is usual: limited and disconnected development resources,
hence we have to rely on canned components in Flex Builder 3. We initially
decided to go with Flex because of it's relatively light weight editable
data grid.

The immediate concerns I have about building entire application in Flex are:

- presentation of inline error correction messages;
- writing and editing contextual help messages;
- scrolling for dynamic, expandable content (this could be a non-issue);
- presentation consistency across different development teams (this
includes layout consistency (padding, margins, grids -- Flex CSS should help
here).
- propagation of updates to UI components across application.
- will entire application go bust, once new version of Flash player is
released and automatically installed on client's machine (a very plausible
scenario)? Can this mishap be prevented?

As for data-intensive UIs, I think Flex should be a great platform for
presenting information in dynamic charts -- look at Google Analytics, for
example.

Thanks,
Oleh Kovalchuke
Interaction Design is design of time
http://www.tangospring.com/IxDtopicWhatIsInteractionDesign.htm

On Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 7:16 AM, Alan Wexelblat <awexelblat at gmail.com>wrote:

> Oleh
> I'm involved as the interaction designer on a Flex-based financial
> trading application at the moment. I'm curious what sort of "data
> processing" application you have in mind. How much data would you be
> sending to the client and at what rates?
>
> Or is your concern solely about the ability of Flex to present
> data-intensive UIs?
>
> Best,
> --Alan
>
>

26 Jan 2009 - 11:28am
DrWex
2006

My experience is still somewhat limited but I'll try to address what
you listed, and ask more questions:

On Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 10:57 AM, Oleh Kovalchuke <tangospring at gmail.com> wrote:
> It is for several different applications. One of them queries and sorts data
> in hundreds of thousands of rows and a few dozens of columns.

Are you really shipping hundreds of thousands of rows to the client?
Are you doing sorts on the client or on the server?

Do you have some kind of grouping or pagination UI available for
people who see such large result sets?

> The immediate concerns I have about building entire application in Flex are:
>
> - presentation of inline error correction messages;

What is your concern here? I've seen several methods for doing this
in Flex and all seem as good or better than the traditional Web
(HTML/JavaScript) methods.

> - writing and editing contextual help messages;

Again I'm not understanding what the issue is here. We have two kinds
of error messages - one is a type that is fully preloaded into the
client and displayed when appropriate. The other is constructed on
the fly and may require retrieval from the back end. This is done
roughly as one would do an xmlhttp request in a page made with
HTML/JS.

> - scrolling for dynamic, expandable content (this could be a non-issue);

Are you concerned with the speed of scrolling? As in render speed on
the browser? We had some issues with this that I can discuss a bit if
that's relevant.

> - presentation consistency across different development teams (this
> includes layout consistency (padding, margins, grids -- Flex CSS should help
> here).

As with distributed development of a Web site, use of good CSS styles
and standardization seems to be the way to go.

> - propagation of updates to UI components across application.

What sorts of updates do you mean? Do you mean the components
changing or data content within a component changing? Or something
else?

> - will entire application go bust, once new version of Flash player is
> released and automatically installed on client's machine (a very plausible
> scenario)? Can this mishap be prevented?

Yes and no. Since the Flash player is made by Adobe one would expect
them not to distribute a player that will immediately break all the
existing Flex applications. Of course, problems always happen, but
again this seems roughly the same problem as a browser coming out with
a new JavaScript engine that breaks your existing JS code.

Best regards,
--Alan

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