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Thread: Feeler question about ExtJS look-and-feel

  1. #1
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    Default Feeler question about ExtJS look-and-feel

    Hi all,

    I'm tossing out a generic question based on feedback I've heard a number of times from my business customers.

    We made a decision a while back to stick with the default ExtJS theme without modification because we've been burned in the past with updates breaking things (more so with other libraries, but a few times even with ExtJS). This has also helped up get some much-needed consistency across apps in our business, which has historically been hard to come by.

    Because of this, we get comments sometimes from people saying the app isn't "colorful enough", or isn't "sexy enough", or something along those lines. Naturally, there's never anything *specific* that I can directly act upon, so I'm left trying to see what they see.

    My question is really this... what are people doing in terms of "fancying up" their ExtJS apps? Are you using different themes a lot? Have you created your own themes? To what extent are you modifying themes, whether modifying an existing theme or creating a new one? Just a few colors here or there or really wholesale changes?

    Any other things you're doing? We put icons on all our buttons for example... a simple but nice touch... we're also starting to put subtle background images in places where there's a lot of whitespace. Any other things along those lines?

    How do you deal with the interface kind of "running together"? Maybe it's more a function of the nature of the apps I typically am building, but there's many times a lot of panels in various sections of a layout and it all does admittedly kind of blend together because there's no real variation in color or anything. Anyone doing anything to deal with that?

    I've historically made the arguments that:

    * The types of apps I'm mostly dealing with are backoffice business apps, they don't have to be sexy and fancy, so long as they improve efficiency they're doing their job

    * Give me some specific things to look at rather than general "I don't like it" kind of feedback because I can't do much with generalities... but, we've heard similar thoughts from enough people that I have to try and approach it differently now

    * ExtJS brings so much functionality and ROI in terms of development speed and what we can actually deliver that it's a fair trade-off if it doesn't look like a million bucks (I've never personally had much problem with the default theme by the way, but seemingly many do, at least in my company)

    I've generally been successful making that pitch, but recently the volume has turned up a bit from the sales people wanting something prettier to sell. I'm not unsympathetic to their point of view frankly, I do at times see some of it... so I'd be very interested to hear what others have done to address these sorts of concerns.

    Thanks,
    Frank

  2. #2
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    Sales droids eh? What do they expect? I don't know!

    I think the default theme looks OK. But as a geek, I'm concerned with functionality.

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    You and I agree The problem I have is twofold... first, as you say, the marketing droids DO have a strong voice (and rightfully so I'd argue, annoying as it may be at times), and second, I myself have more of a design background than many developers tend to, so I'm thinking similarly myself... I'm with you, my geek side tells me function-over-form is what matters, but for many devs that's the end of it... unfortunately, as it sometimes is, I have the form-over-function side yelling at me at the same time

    I too think the default theme looks OK, if I didn't I never would have suggested we standardize on it... and I haven't really seen a theme that I thought was *so* much better either... but like I said, when you're looking at a complex interface with a lot of components, it *does*, to my eyes as much as the sales droids, kind of run together a bit.

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    We've implemented a theme changer control, and ship with just the official ext themes and one in-house one (a derivation of the blue theme). The admins can either lock the app to a theme or let the user change their own theme. If customers want a different look and feel, they can get ext themes from all the places they can be obtained from. All they need to do is drop them in the right folder and they automatically get picked up. However, we don't actually provide support for any third party themes (without being paid extra ).

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    Sencha User jay@moduscreate.com's Avatar
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    the reality is:
    - customers want a custom look and feel for their app.
    - Sometimes this goes well beyond standards and can increase the learning curve for users, hindering user acceptance
    - The feedback I get from various sources is that the "Ext JS theme is now dated." When coming from a modern OS UI, Windows 7 and OS X, it feels like "XP" (Even though it was inspired by vista).

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    Who decides these dates?

    "now dated". If my boss told me something like that, he'd get short shrift.

  7. #7
    Sencha User jay@moduscreate.com's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Animal View Post
    Who decides these dates?

    "now dated". If my boss told me something like that, he'd get short shrift.
    People with creative minds. People get used to new and refreshing UI themes and sometimes when looking at Ext JS, they seem dated.

    I've been hanging around a lot of artistic folks and have begun to absorb their way of thinking a little. :-\

    To put some perspective on it: Other "dated" UI themes include:

    Qooxdoo : Welcome to linux of the late 90's.


    Same with jQuery UI


    Again for YUI



    Active Widgets : OS X 10.0 (Circa 2000)



    --------------

    UIs that are "hip" or "up to date":

    Kohive :


    A customer of mine: Slightly modified Ext JS gray theme, but "nicer".




    I would *love* to see the creative minds at Sencha come up w/ a really artistic and functional theme for Ext JS 4.0 that elevates the framework outside of the blah-enterprise-windows look and feel.

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    I don't want this to become gripping about the default theme or anything, but I've heard similar comments frankly. It's really amazing what happens... the functionality universally loved, in a BIG way I mean... but then you hear "it doesn't quite look modern", or some variation on that theme.

    @joeri- What has been your experience with ExtJS upgrades and custom themes? One of the reasons we've standardized on the custom theme is based on our past experience with Dojo... we found that every single upgrade was a complete nightmare, breaking things left and right, and we actually hit a point where we simply COULD NOT upgrade because the time/money investment was too great, so not being able to upgrade is a situation we NEVER want to be in again... with ExtJS the situation has been *much* better, we're actually current right now, and although there's been a few upgrades here and there that caused us some fairly significant pain, usually its minimal... but one of the conjectures I've always made is that if we use a custom theme that expands the circle of stuff that could get broken... for every upgrade, if we really went nuts customizing, we'd have to do additional work to ensure (a) no styles or anything changed and ( we update any images we've modified. That's a lot more work to undertake, and it's never seemed worth it to me. What kind of experience have you had in this area?

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    Those blue tabs on your nicer theme look more dated to me than Ext's standard tabs. And the shaded background of the input fields is just plain ugly to me (too heavy).

    The way I interpret "modern" as you seem to mean it:
    - large icons, simple shapes, gray, 2d
    - dark backgrounds
    - flat shading in some of the UI

    Edit: Kohive does look really really nice though...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeri View Post
    Those blue tabs on your nicer theme look more dated to me than Ext's standard tabs. And the shaded background of the input fields is just plain ugly to me (too heavy).
    Not my theme. i'm not a designer.

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