In May of this year, we introduced Screen Builder, a powerful design tool that helps you quickly scaffold mobile apps and connect those apps to data. Since its introduction, we’ve heard from many of you that Screen Builder is a perfect fit for your development workflows and that it’s quickly becoming your go-to design tool in the Telerik Platform.
With the introduction of Screen Builder, we took some time to evaluate our entire Platform story in order make sure that the products we’re putting “in the box” deliver the most value to you, and align to our long-term plans. To that end, I’d like to share a bit more about the history of design tools in the Platform, and what this means for the future.
As many of you know, Screen Builder is not the first design tool that we’ve included with the Telerik Platform. In early 2014, we introduced a product called AppPrototyper, a design tool that allows designers to create mobile screens—either from existing design assets created in Photoshop or from a toolbox of mobile widgets—share those screens, and capture feedback via in-product comments. Internally, we refer to this product as a “visual designer,” meaning it is a tool focused on helping you express what you plan to build.
Screen Builder, on the other hand, is a “functional design” tool. While it has features and capabilities that overlap with a tool like AppPrototyper, functional design tools exist to speed up the implementation of your app through a visual interface; one that allows you quickly create screens, connect to data and configure the behavior in your app before stepping into code.
Another way to emphasize the difference between visual and functional design tools is via their end-state deliverable. With a visual designer, the end state is a functional high-fidelity prototype that can be reviewed, commented on and refined. With a functional designer, the end state is a generated or scaffolded project that contains all of the plumbing code and dependencies you need to take your app across the finish line. Done well, that tool will generate clean, opinionated code that gets you quickly past the boilerplate parts of app development and right to the important critical capabilities you’ll add via custom code.
So, in summary: two tools, two different uses and two different outputs. Both approaches have clear strengths, but in the context of mobile application development(the bread and butter of the Telerik Platform), there’s no doubt that the scaffolding capabilities of a functional designer deliver a much stronger value for developers.
So, we had one designer, now we have two. You might be wondering what the future holds for these tools. Read on.
When we introduced AppPrototyper, we got a lot of feedback from you all suggesting that, while you liked it, what you were really looking for was a way to kick start your app development with a visual tool. You wanted a functional design tool. It didn’t take us long to hear and internalize that feedback, and in the summer of last year, we began working on the capability you now know as Screen Builder.
In parallel to our development of Screen Builder, we started to discuss what this would mean for our AppPrototyper tool. Should we continue to evolve two products that, while different, do have overlap and create two, sometimes confusing, ways to “get started” with the Telerik Platform? Or should we keep our story simple; instead of stuffing the box full of a litany of products and features, focus on a single design tool that best matches the needs of our customers?
As with much of our planning, we decided to let you guide our decision. And you did. Both in one-on-one conversations we’ve had with many of you and in your increasing adoption of Screen Builder since its launch, we’ve learned that Screen Builder is your design tool of choice, and its power to help you jump-start your apps is something we should continue to invest in, and expand upon. We’ve heard you loud and clear, and we fully plan to do both in 2015 and beyond.
By focusing all of our design tool muscle on Screen Builder, we’ll be able to deliver you a product that is second-to-none on the market in its ability to take you from idea to app, quickly, for Hybrid and Native projects.
With that focus comes some change in prioritization, so in an effort to simplify our product offering and focus on the tools that deliver the most value to you, we are retiring AppPrototyper over the next few months. Even though we’re talking about two products in practical terms, I think it’s more accurate to look at Screen Builder as the evolution of the design journey we started with AppPrototyper. And who knows? With your feedback, we might even find value in taking features of AppPrototyper and putting them into Screen Builder, marrying the best parts of both visual and functional design. In-app comments, anyone?
Here are some details: starting on July 6th, you’ll no longer be able to create new AppPrototyper projects within the Telerik Platform. Your existing projects will be available until August 6th, after which time we’ll be removing AppPrototyper access for all customers. We’ll keep everyone’s projects around for 3 months after that, so if you need help exporting existing projects after August 6th, you can email us at PrototypingNews@telerik.com and we’ll help you out.
We’re excited about the future of Screen Builder in the Platform, and are planning even more powerful features for the coming months. As always, we want to hear from you as we evolve our product, so if there are features in Screen Builder that you want, or things you’ll miss in AppPrototyper that we should consider integrating into Screen Builder, post a comment to let us know or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy (functional) designing!
Brandon Satrom (@BrandonSatrom) is General Manager for Telerik Developer Tools and Platform. A longtime developer, Brandon is passionate about the web, mobile and is an aspiring maker and electronics enthusiast. Brandon has spoken at national, international and online events, and he loves hanging out with and learning from passionate designers and developers. He is the author of two books, the latest being "Building Polyfills" from O'Reilly. Brandon lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Sarah, and three sons, Benjamin, Jack and Matthew. He can be found on Twitter as @brandonsatrom.