AiS 25: Case Study: SSG

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Raymond and I have been working on a time crunch project for the past week. We take a break from our design work to discuss the project so far. We've been fortunate to work with an experienced team of professionals -- SSG -- who understand how to make a softawre project succeed.

SSG pulled together an exhaustive requirements document. This document is an outline-numbered list of line items, each one describing one functional aspect of the system. The requirements document gives the team a common set of goals from which to work. It doesn't explain exactly how each of these functional requirements are met. That job is left to the user experience designers.

SSG hired a user experience design team to construct a conceptual model of the system and translate that into a series of wire frame designs. A wire frame shows the visual components that comprise a system, but don't attempt to make those components attactive. For that, SSG has hired user interface designers.

The user interface design team is skilled in graphic design. They provide the artistic talent to make the user experience look good. That leaves Raymond and myself on product development. We are primarily responsible for making the system work.

SSG was seeking a parallel workflow between user interface design and product development. They chose to use Windows Presentation Foundation to separate those two processes. However, Raymond and I decided that the introduction of such a new technology to such an urgent project would add too much complexity. So we advised that we use Update Controls instead.

Fortunately, we may be able to bring WPF back into the project after the demo. It seems entirely reasonable that a XAML document could lay out Update Controls in addition to the more typical components. This should give us the best of both worlds: parallel development tracks and isolation of user interface components.

One other developer is involved in the project. While Raymond and I are creating the user facing parts of the system, an employee of SSG is working on integration with custom hardware. To mitigate risk on this integration, we designed an interface ahead of time. The interface accepts memento objects instead of business objects to further mitigate the risk of changes to the interface. Whereas business objects are likely to change, mementos tend to be more stable.

The design and techonogy decisions that we've made are driven by not only the requirements of the system, but also the structure of the team that is building it, and the time table in which it must be delivered. In future episodes we'll delve into some of the detail of design and implementation, and let you know how the project is progressing.

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