Rapid Developer Profile: Michiel Maassen and the Pursuit of Great UX
Rapid development isn’t just a matter of speed; our community is focused on improving results across the entire app lifecycle. To do this, cross-functional collaboration is key.
1. What is your education and professional background? Did you have prior development experience?
I studied Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology and joined Accenture, in the system integration consulting group, straight after school. I first worked on SAP integrations. As a designer, I was very surprised by the user experience of these systems. The designs felt very outdated and you had to type commands. It felt a lot like what MS-DOS was in the old days.
2. How were you introduced to Mendix? What was your initial reaction?
I heard about the Mendix App Platform through Accenture about two years ago. I was immediately interested in the possibility of quickly creating user friendly applications. I took the initiative to dive into the platform on my own and become really interested in what I found.
3. What was most helpful when learning Mendix?
I started by taking the Mendix introduction course and then moved on to build a few small, internal applications on my own to practice and learn on the go. The best way to learn Mendix is really to get in there and test it out, learn by doing or by creating something. For example, download a few modules from the App Store and see how they work.
In addition to practice, I also really enjoyed working with the Mendix community and team. It’s been a great experience so far – everyone enjoys working together.
4. What have you built?
Many things, including an internal tracking application and a master data workflow application.
The tracking app was used for the Accenture Innovation Awards in The Netherlands. This annual event required 25 interns to help manage multiple excel sheets for event registration and management. We built a Mendix app that covers the full event process, from online registration to event updates; it even ties into the event website. We quickly improved the overall view of the event and made the interns’ job much easier.
Another big project was to migrate users from a workflow built on top of a BPM tool to a Mendix app. The original system was not agile; it was hard to add new functionality. The new workflow app allows users to request master data and then make updates back into the SAP systems. There are over 20 SAP instances integrated into this app, and a number of other systems including Navision, user identity management, and client portal. For the end user, our new Mendix app is much more user friendly and visually attractive.
5. How does Mendix make it possible to deliver great UX?
I don’t need to program; I can brainstorm a workflow on paper and then use the Business Modeler to make whatever I want. It’s also very flexible. With Mendix, I can sit next to the business user and discuss UX ideas. For example, does the button work best on the left or on the right? I can easily show both in a matter of seconds – and decide with the user.
In general, I’ve found that clients like to have influence over the development process. And with a better way to gauge and collect feedback throughout the development cycle, I am always confident that I’ll deliver the right UX.
6. What components within the app store do you use most frequently?
I use a lot of the app store components; it really ranges by project. Most often, I use E-mail Module, Excel Importer, Excel Exporter, and Community Commons Function. There are also several specific modules I use for integrations into SAP and Salesforce.com.
7. Have you had an ‘aha moment’ working in Mendix?
I recently gave a Mendix demo to an SAP group within Accenture. I created a simple app with a few clicks and showed them how quick I could create a fully functional web service. The audience was really surprised and wowed. It reminded me of my first experience in Mendix – just so fast.
8. What advice do you have for other Mendix developers?
Start playing with Mendix, especially the modules in the App Store. You can learn a lot about how they are built and what they do. They’ll also help speed up your delivery.
9. How has Mendix made your life easier/better?
With Mendix, I’m able to develop something in close alignment with my end users. I can show them what’s being built and what’s coming up, and then have a more direct conversation regarding the application. It’s definitely added value and makes my life easier and more fun.
I also really enjoy working with Microflows because I can use my design skills to visualize my app. It allows me to focus less on programming – and more on how I can do things more efficiently and more aesthetically.
10. How would you describe Mendix in your own words?
Mendix is for custom development. It’s a platform where you can quickly build custom, multi-platform apps.
11. What are your favorite news sites/blogs/forums?
In addition to the Mendix Forum, I like the Accenture blog on emerging technology.
12. What are you interested in/passionate about outside of work?
I play field hockey and like to sail. I also like to play around with gadgets, really any modern technology or device. For example, I just bought a new house and am looking into smart systems.