A Great Development Experience for Building Delightful Apps
A Great Development Experience for Building Delightful Apps by Gordon Van Huizen
This month we’re excited to take the wraps off a release that significantly improves the development experience in Mendix. Mendix 7.12 is chock full of enhancements designed to give developers not only what they need be more productive, but to be more satisfied. “Productive, expressive and intuitive” – these were the goals we kept in mind as we thought through each and every enhancement in this release. Behind those goals was a rallying cry that inspired our R&D and UX teams to go the extra mile: making the Mendix developer experience delightful. Let’s look at what’s new.
New Desktop Modeler Experience
The most immediately noticeable change in Mendix 7.12 is the look and feel of the Desktop Modeler. We’ve given the tool a completely clean and modern look, with the goal of making it a workspace that developers find pleasing and to help inspire the creation of great apps.
The fresh new Desktop Modeler UI provides the same great look and feel as the Web Modeler, providing a consistent developer experience across the platform. At the same time, we ensured that the transition for existing Desktop Modeler users will be as seamless as possible by not altering the tool’s fundamental workflow – there’s no learning curve needed when cutting over to 7.12 from earlier versions.
And realizing that every pixel makes a difference to both the experience of using a product and to how quickly new users can understand and make use of it, our UX team handcrafted and user tested nearly 400 new icons to be both attractive and intuitive.
It’s the Little Things
While visual aesthetics play an important part in user experience, the usability and expressiveness of a tool goes much more than skin deep. It’s how the tool’s design anticipates and responds to your actions that can make the difference between a fluid, rewarding development experience and one that is halting and cumbersome. We’ve taken a holistic look at the Mendix developer experience to drive enhancements, both small and large, across the developer’s surface area of our platform—the Desktop Modeler, Web Modeler, Mendix Portal and Mendix Mobile App.
We drew upon research and sources of inspiration, both external and internal, to deliver enhancements that make a material difference to a developer’s day in, day out work. We performed task analysis. We asked every member of our R&D organization to spend a few days working with the product to identify developer challenges for themselves—and to ideate creative solutions. And most importantly, we listened to our developer community, including the ideas contributed to the Mendix Idea Forum. We designed and implemented dozens of enhancements to make development in Mendix faster, easier and more fun.
For example, we introduced a new auto-layout feature that automatically arranges even the most complex of data models into clean, clean, easy-to-read, and easy-to-follow layouts. And if the developer doesn’t like the automatically generated layout, they can simply click again to get a new one.
Developers can now easily reuse portions of page designs, using a new Snippet feature. On the mobile front, we’ve done things like make it easy to customize the look and feel of native apps, as well as automating the generation all the necessary sizes of app icons and splash screens. We’ve implemented scores of such enhancements across the platform, and there’s more to come in each and every Mendix release.
Building Rich User Experiences with Nanoflows
In addition to greatly enhancing our tools, the 7.12 release marks the initial availability of a new edge computing capability: Nanoflows. Complementing server-side Microflows and employing the same familiar modeling approach, Nanoflows allow developers to visually create logic that runs directly on a mobile device or in a Web browser. With Nanoflows, it’s easy to build rich, offline-first mobile apps as well as dynamic, highly responsive user interfaces for any channel.
Since Nanoflows execute directly on the device without the need for constant roundtrips to the server, apps built with nanoflows respond instantly to user interaction and produce less network traffic. They’re also perfect for offline use as they don’t require a network connection—they can operate autonomously on the client device using local data until network connectivity is restored. Developers can use Nanoflows to:
- Dynamically show or hide UI elements based on business logic
- Create intelligent data validations
- Perform calculations based on data and context
- Support complex, dynamic navigation
Nanoflows are automatically refreshed on the device through hot deployment, allowing developers to instantly test their business logic and for ops teams to roll out app updates to users over the air.
From Us to You
We’re thrilled to get the results of our R&D and UX efforts into your hands. We hope that you feel the love that was put into crafting them. We know that our tools are where developers spend 1/3 of their lives, so we’ve endeavored to deliver a slate of enhancements that make Mendix a joy to use while allowing developers to more quickly realize their app vision. As always, we look forward to seeing what you will build!
For more on what’s new in the release and how to begin working with Nanoflows, please see:
- Mendix 7.12: Sharing Developer <3 From Us to You!
- Introducing Nanoflows, Mendix Logic Running on the Edge