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Swing Apps Can Look Nice

Swing Apps Can Look Nice

There's an undeniable shift toward aesthetically pleasing UI. I think Mac OS X is entirely to blame for starting the recent surge in popularity of nice looking UI (along with its dastardly co-conspiritor, cheap display technology). Windows XP, Eclipse, NetBeans, Whidbey etc. are getting in on the act too with high color icons, use of gradients, alpha blending and vibrant color palettes.

I read Don Norman's excellent book, "Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things" a while back. Norman talks about how making a product aesthetically pleasing isn't just fluffy decoration but has real, measurable, usability benefits.

Among many "proper" features we're adding in the next release of JDeveloper, we also have a specific effort to improve the aesthetics of the product.

I don't want to show too much of this yet, partly because it isn't complete yet, it's changing rapidly, and also because aesthetic changes tend to be more effective if they come as a (hopefully nice) surprise when the product is released. It wouldn't be a fresh look for the product if I post a whole bunch of screenshots months before it's available :) Besides, I'm in enough trouble with the powers that be at Oracle for inappropriate blogging as it is... . If you do want to see some of the work-in-progress though, drop by the Oracle demo-stations at JavaOne.

Over the weekend, I was tinkering around with visual ideas for some functionality I'm working on, and came up with this (click on the image for a larger version):

multiple_uc_small.png


The style of the list is clearly inspired by a certain open source project. I like the visual effect of the gradient, the checkboxes that overlay the icons slightly and the bold text. I also think the "large list item" style where all the relevant information about each item is inside the item itself is easier to read than a tabular display or a master-detail.

What do you think? Do product aesthetics matter much to you? All feedback welcome!

More Stories By Brian Duff

Brian Duff is a principal engineer in the JDeveloper development team at Oracle. Brian has been actively developing with Java since 1994, and has been involved in several open source Java projects, including NewsAgent & Grendel (mail readers), JFreeCiv (Civilization in Java), JDiff, and most recently WinLAF. In the JDeveloper team, Brian is responsible for team-based development (version control), user interface, look and feel, and extensions -- including the reference implementation of JSR-198. As part of this responsibility, Brian has worked closely with tool vendors to integrate extensions into JDeveloper.

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