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Multi-Client Type Design Elements - Ya gotta keep'em separated!

Author's Note: I'm certain that I will hear about this from people who disagree - but that's what the comments are for I suppose...

I was actually on an interview a few years ago for a rather big-name product development company, when they brought in their lead developer to ask me a few technical questions. One of the things he asked me, was whether I developed common design elements or used individual (per Client Type) elements. In case I lost you there, do I have one Form design element for the Lotus Notes client, Web Browser client, and Mobile Device client types. In horror, I said "No - that's insanity. The only way you could pull that off is with hide-whens or subforms or something just as resource-consuming..."

His repsonse, which added shock to my horror, was that "[doing that] was [his] biggest pet-peeve" and that the products that they developed all had common Client Type design elements. He wanted to cut down on the maintenance of all of these design elements by having single design elements per all Client Types.

While functional, not always best!

While such a thing can work - I don't recommend it. In fact, I'll be a little more stern with my suggestion: Don't do it!

An application that is delivered via both Lotus Notes client and Web Browser client has major environment and usage considerations. Creating multi-client applications (especially when you factor in the Mobile Device client type) requires both an understanding of the application (what it does, and how it's being used) as well as an understanding how the to-be-supported Client Types are going to work.

I can hit my application with a WAP browser, but I can't use the advanced JavaScript that my Web 2.0-based UI uses. Do I take that same design element and play the hide-when game until I've got some "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought!"-Monster Design Element that no one wants to touch for fear that it'll break everything, or do I hide that design element from Mobile device types and create a WAP-friendly equivelent?

So, to recap. Don't be an asshat Create seperate design elements for your various supported Client Types whenever possible - which should be all of the time.

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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