The Wisdom of Whitespace, Part 2


in Studio Manager

The quest for whitespace in an ever more complex technology environment is diametrically opposed to the ceaseless addition of features that preoccupies most software firms. When it comes to a database product, what you see with more features is usually more reports. I want to use this post to explain why suckering into a report count is a really bad idea.

We do a lot of custom work for both our Studio Manager customers and other firms. When we estimate the cost of developing reports, the standard is 1 hour per report. Some reports require new uses of data and maybe even new data sets and those take more than an hour. But most reports are variations of existing reports. There, you duplicate the layout of the most similar report and then tweak it. You may also tweak the find criteria and sort order. I can walk a customer through creating these kinds of reports over the phone.

If you’ve ever done a big software or web site development project, you know that the enemy is complexity. Too many different things crossing paths in different ways. One thing dependent on another. The last thing you need is more *stuff*. Including more reports that you *might* want.

Just say no to products that are all about more features, more gizmos, more buttons, more stuff most of which you’ll never use. Think of it as clutter. Think of it as a refrigerator that needs cleaning, a closet whose contents is likely to spill out on the floor if you look at it wrong. Think of the frustration you’ll have plowing through the options to find the one you want.

Instead, look at the structure of the product. Is it flexible? Can you tailor it to your needs or extend it easily? Can you understand how it all works together?

My favorite aspect of Studio Manager was introduced in Studio Manager 8. We took the new tab control capability and made it the foundation of our entry screens. To do that, we re-did our entire user interface. We loved the look compared to our *fake* tabs that are still used widely today in other products. But it was the incredible functionality of FileMaker’s tab-making that made all that re-do work worthwhile.

We give you a way to fundamentally modify your screens to your liking in a few minutes. You can re-order, delete or add new tabs in seconds. You can put things away that are used infrequently or only by advanced users. Throughout the product. That’s really big. Way more important that whether we offer a particular report. That report is only an hour away should you want it. While the incredibly flexible and easy tab interface underlying Studio Manager makes the entire product responsive to you now and in the future.

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