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EclipseCon 2008 Report: Kimberley Peter on “Building On Eclipse In Interesting Ways – While Still Respecting Its Look and Feel”

(Note – this is part of a series of posts on Jazz-related activities @ EclipseCon 2008. See this entry for background.)

Presenter: Kimberley Peter (Jazz UI Design Lead)
Talk: “Building On Eclipse In Interesting Ways – While Still Respecting Its Look and Feel”
Reporter: Patrick Streule

Kim gave an overview of four conceptual themes that we’ve applied in many places of the Rational Team Concert user interface. She outlined the theoretical background of the themes and gave practical examples of how these concepts are being used in both Eclipse and Team Concert.

Theme 1: Condensed information spaces: How do we present rich information in a limited space? How do we draw the user’s attention to the most important information first? Among other examples, Kim showed how the Jazz Work Item editor uses user initials and color to convey comprehensive information about subscribers and their online presence in a very small area.

Theme 2: Contextual linking: How do we bring related artifacts and function into the context? One example was how Team Concert uses ‘Getting started’ links to guide the user to initial or required actions while at the same time avoiding empty views.

Theme 3: Pervasive progressive disclosure: How do we go from overview to detail, allowing the user to see more information when needed? As an example, Kim showed how Team Concert’s notification slide-outs can make you aware of a build failure and then allow you, if you wish, to proceed seamlessly to the build result editor in order to get the full story.

Theme 4: Adaptable color: Kim’s favorite topic of the four, and also the most complex one: How do we render interface elements elegantly and at the same time stay adaptable and accessible? Kim described a technique of how to blend colors adaptively by detecting the RGB range of a predefined theme color.

Several members of the audience made the point that while they see the value of these visual design techniques, their teams don’t have trained visual designers on staff. These audience asked where they could get visual design guidance in the absence of trained team members. Kim suggested that they look for attractive themes and UI patterns in Eclipse and other tools and products. She also suggested that both the Eclipse and Rational Team Concert New and Noteworthy documents tend to draw attention to new and improved visual designs.