One thing I’ve taken to heart during my years developing software is that one of the most important things you can do while developing a product is to think about how the end user ???feels??? when using it. It’s funny to think about, especially as an engineer, since most development is focused on implementing the low-level bits rather than UI or end-user experience. How are they going to feel when they initially open the app? How are they going to feel when using the app day-in and day-out, like we do with our IM clients? The real challenge for me was to finally accept the fact that I can’t figure this all out on my own. Getting input from the community, both good and bad, is invaluable.Since Spark launched, there have literally been thousands of posts with feature requests. Some are as simple as adding extra emoticon packs, while others are a little more complicated (e.g. the ability to tie into any CRM application). When I initially saw some of these posts, I took the hard-nosed stance that adding these features was ridiculous (who needs a different way to smile?). But as I continued development on Spark and the feedback and feature requests kept rolling in, I realized people were taking time out of their days to give feedback because they actually cared about the product. Now when I say ???cared???, I mean that some emotion was evoked in them (good and bad), that motivated them to take the time to write up a request and send it off. That just blew my mind. Before Jive, I worked at Oracle and never had a chance to get this close to users.So you’re probably now asking yourself, how am I going to benefit from Derek’s realization? Well… . one of the more obvious things to do is just make Spark feel better/cooler, or as Sam (who heads up marketing at Jive) might put it – make Spark more lickable. There are two areas where we’re pushing Spark in this respect. The first is the overall speed of the client itself. In the past we’ve been limited by the speed of the Java engine. With the Spark 3.0 release and the new and improved Java 6, known as Mustang (responsiveness of the application.
The second improvement area is in the UI. I really wanted to go down the road of having Spark feel light and sexy. For the ???light??? part, I updated the parent frame that Spark runs in to be thinner and sleeker. Take a look at the two screen shots below, the first one is the current released version of Spark and the one below it is just Spark with a thinner frame (although we’re still playing with the final look). Oh la la.
[https://jdk6.dev.java.net/|http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads /2006/12/old_spark.png|Old Spark] [https://jdk6.dev.java.net/|http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads /2006/12/new_spark.png|New Spark]
For the sexy part, I’ve updated Spark to fully support themes within the chat window. By following a standard HTML template, organizations can now change the UI of their chats or select from a set of defined themes. The same thing applies to the new Adium for paving the way for us. We’re actively working with them to define a cross-platform theme engine, but more on that in another blog post. An example of the new features are below.
[https://jdk6.dev.java.net/|http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads /2006/12/chat_window.png|Chat Window] [https://jdk6.dev.java.net/|http://www.igniterealtime.org/blog/wp-content/uploads /2006/12/preferences.png|Preferences]
As a side note, I would like to say that this is my first blog entry ever. I look forward to talking smack as time goes on.