Bennie from Arc found my blog and wrote a couple of comments on this post. I started writing a response but it got a bit lengthy for a comment so I decided to throw it into a new post:
Bennie, thanks for responding. That install was almost half a year ago. Ancient history! 🙂
Regarding my comments, I hate Java. Arc Express, Cisco’s ASDM, Cisco’s abomination for router configuration (can’t remember the name now) all use Java and to varying degrees show off what’s horrible about it. My overriding problem with Java is that it breaks User Interface conventions. Or rather, it has it’s own set of them and developers implement them inconsistently. The result is often a mess of a program where users have to struggle with silly things like inconsistent window focus and “enter” not doing anything. It’s 2009, I shouldn’t be forced to click the ok button because someone couldn’t program what the “enter” key should do in a text field.
It’s a whole slew of oddities like this that Arc Express seems to have hit on, all combining for a frustrating experience. Regarding this experience I seem to have purged the whole thing from my memory. You can see from my comments that I had numerous problems with UI elements acting inconsistently.
Do you really want my suggestion? Run away from Java. Drop it like it’s hot. Also, your product has all of the hallmarks of being written by engineers, for engineers. Maybe you’re ok with that but I don’t think that’s the market you’re going for.
Lastly, my memory is a little fuzzy on this but I seem to recall having to jump through some strange hoops to get the license or access to the install guide. I don’t recall exactly what the deal was with that but I remember it being bizarre and frustrating. It’s just an attendant app but somehow it’s like you guys want to build a certified installer ecosystem. Maybe I’m remembering it incorrectly. It’s just an app though. Sorry to burst your bubble but you don’t warrant an entire certified installer ecosystem.
As an alternative, look at Asterisk’s Flash Operator Panel (FOP). This program runs on the server, is included with just about every Asterisk distribution and for the most part just works. Now, I’m not real thrilled about Flash as that has potential to be another rathole like Java. Still, they’ll probably be able to port their app to HTML5 pretty soon.
In a nutshell, don’t “be different” when it comes to UI because the programmer thinks it’s cool. Especially because the programmer thinks it’s cool. That and accept that although you guys have a deal with Cisco, that doesn’t mean you are Cisco.
Sorry, one last thing. The UI I’m referring to here is almost universally the install UI, not the actual attendant console. As I referenced before I think the attendant console is actually ok. Not great but ok. This is one area where you have non-technical end users and they probably would benefit from thinking differently about the UI. One feature I love on my iPhone is conferencing multiple parties together. It’s painfully obvious how it works and it works great!