Adobe Flash Catalyst, a new designer-developer collaboration tool, is designed to bridge the gap between design and development by helping designers create interactive designs using the Adobe Creative Suite tools they already know.
By Michael Pastore
Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) require a level of collaboration between designers and developers that didn?t exist in most organizations before enterprise software was Web-based. With enterprise applications moving toward rich media and graphical user interfaces, a new breed of designers, called interactive designers, is emerging.
Interactive designers want to take ownership of the user-interaction experience, said Doug Winnie, Principal Product Manager at Adobe. But interactive design requires that designers know more about coding, and many designers are struggling with the transition. There?s a lack of easy-to-use tools that help designers create interactive interfaces without getting too involved in coding. Adobe Flash Professional, for example, requires at least some knowledge of ActionScript.Adobe Flash Catalyst, a new designer-developer collaboration tool, is designed to bridge the gap between design and development. Flash Catalyst allows designers to create a design using the Adobe Creative Suite tools that many designers are already using. Flash Catalyst creates the code in the background that will make the design interactive. The designer can then save the file and pass it on to a developer who adds the logic and backend data sources.
Winnie knows firsthand that Flash Catalyst is a product that fills a need for both designers and developers. Three years ago, hewas an Adobe customer who just finished an automotive Web site project he described as a ?painful experience.? At the same time, Adobe announced its project code-named Thermo, which later became Flash Catalyst. It was, Winnie said, exactly what he needed for his automotive Web site project.
Since that time, Flash Catalyst evolved as a solution to help both designers and developers. Designers can use Flash Catalyst to create RIA interfaces without knowing code. Developers can work on data sources and logic without being tied down by design work. Each side can concentrate on what it does best.Winnie said Flash Catalyst also helps designers and developers collaborate because it presents an upfront contract on how they will work collaboratively.
?In this case the workflow itself is based on the collaboration between the designer and developer,? he said.
Flash Catalyst is built specifically around the open source Flex Framework. The code it generates when designers build an interface is MXML mapped to known and existing elements in the Flex Framework. The Flash Catalyst file format is .xfg, an open format that?s an XML representation of graphics. Once developers have the Flash Catalyst file they can use the language of their choice, such as ActionScript, Java, or PHP, within the Flex Framework to create the application.
Adobe hopes that Flash Catalyst will make interactive design more approachable. The Catalyst user interface easily directs users through stages of adding interactivity to design elements. It easily round trips edits, meaning designers can quickly go back and forth between Catalyst and a design tool like Adobe Illustrator, for example.
These features will be especially important to designers who resisted moving toward interactive design or older designers who didn?t make the leap to interactive. Winnie teaches an ActionScript class where many of his students are established designers being asked to do more by employers moving to interactivity. Flash Catalyst will ease the transition.