Evolving UI Technology Is More Than Just Skeuomorphic to Flat

Monday, April 4, 2016

There’s no way around it, expectations around UIs have changed dramatically with the rise of touch-friendly smartphone apps and the proliferation of sophisticated web applications (we’ve talked about it before). For 30 years, NI has empowered engineers to build UIs that look exactly like they want in LabVIEW, but it’s time to do more.

 

These new experiences are not just the result of an evolving design aesthetic for what makes a UI effective. Even more important than changing shapes and color schemes is the underlying technology that enables these new capabilities. This underlying technology is what we are investing in to enable you to meet design expectations.

 

WinForms.png

 

WinForms (Desktop)

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WPF (Desktop)

SilverLight.png

 

Silverlight (Web)

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HTML5 Prototype (Web)

 

 

 

Let’s take a look at the evolution of UI technology over the last 30 years. From Windows Graphics Device Interface (GDI) to Windows Forms (WinForms) to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Microsoft has continually provided new APIs and libraries for composing UIs in Windows applications.


Over the same time period, web browser and mobile OSs such as Android and iOS have emerged as new application platforms. With each of these platforms, there has been an entire evolution of UI technologies – Java, Flash, Silverlight, and HTML5, to name a few.


Right now we are investing in two UI technologies – WPF and HTML5. WPF is hardware accelerated and based on DirectX, incorporating advanced graphical features like gradients, opacity, animation, and an advanced composition model. Simply put, with WPF we can build you stunning, theme-able controls that you can customize with artwork imported directly from Adobe design tools. We added WPF support to Measurement Studio in 2013 and are currently working to bring this technology to the rest of our software platform.


Meanwhile, HTML5 has emerged as the de facto web standard for beautiful, interactive web applications. In addition to richer graphics, HTML5 can facilitate dynamic animations and responsive layouts in combination with CSS3 and JavaScript. Very importantly, HTML5 does not require any client-side plugins like Silverlight and is supported in all modern web browsers.


We’re excited about bringing these technologies into tools like LabVIEW because of the new things it will enable application developers to do. Each brings new capabilities for native controls, such as WPF tables with mixed data types or Google Maps integrated into an HTML5 page. Controls also have the potential to be customized in new ways using vector-based graphics that can scale flawlessly to different resolutions. In addition to these advances, technologies like WPF and HTML5 bring rich ecosystems of existing controls and frameworks that can be reused by application developers.


Changing UI requirements are much more than just changes in design fashion from skeuomorphic to flat. UI technology has been evolving, and NI is investing to keep up.


What UI technologies are you excited about?