When Less is so Much More

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iPhone.TW.v2014.05.22Why Brazos UI has one-third the number of components than the average IBM BPM Partner UI toolkit, yet it’s used by ten times more customers than the next most popular one.  In this post, let’s examine why.

Brazos UI was built on 3 tenets:

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Meet any business requirement for a process application UI.
  3. Drastically exceed customer expectations of what product support provides.

1. Keep it simple

While the promise of most new technology is to make lives simpler, it often has the opposite effect. The user is either overwhelmed by options they never desired or faced with a whole new set of problems. The few companies that have been able to truly deliver on the promise of simplicity have amassed tremendous success due to their breakthroughs. Take Apple with the iPod or Google with search, for example. Simplicity is not easy to achieve because it requires a comprehensive understanding of the problem in order to eliminate the obvious and add the meaningful. This understanding can only be achieved by a relentless yet structured approach to solving the problem.

In our case, John Maeda’s “Laws of Simplicity” provided the blueprint for what we’ve achieved with Brazos. Constantly reevaluating our implementation against this highly regarded set of principles allowed us to ‘keep it simple’ for both the developers and business users alike. Staying dedicated to this goal was not easy.

With over 100 production deployments of Brazos live in 2016, our customers have presented us with a variety of business and technical requirements over the years. These requirements ranged from new layout paradigms, to purpose built widgets, to many others. In each case we took the time to evaluate the requirement holistically, in the context of both Brazos and similar best of class solutions. While the customer may not have always gotten what they asked for, they were thrilled to get exactly what they needed.

2. Meet any business requirement for a process application UI

In 2014, Google first introduced Material Design, a visual language for creating responsive web applications. With thousands of feature rich solutions offered by Google, the Material Design team was faced with the daunting task of creating a single vocabulary that would work for all of them. Additionally, whatever they created would need to be used by others to create new and unknown solutions – a problem we understand well at BP3. The effort took an understandably large investment on the part of Google, but has resulted in a highly acclaimed solution, winning a multitude of design awards. While Google Material offers a unique and novel paradigms to building applications, it has just twenty five components.

Coincidentally, Brazos UI as of June 2016 has twenty four components*. Since Brazos was not built with Material Design and the problem space for Brazos UI is a bit different than Material Design, the components don’t match one to one. Still, what is important is the number. This number is high enough support a broad range of applications, yet low enough to learn quickly and use effectively, and to solve any problem we’ve been faced with. Although on a different scale and starting prior to Material Design being announced, we have taken a similar approach by analyzing our problem space and coming up with a holistic solution. By going through hundreds of process solutions across Insurance, Banking, Financial Services, and a variety of Operations units we’ve come up with a unique design paradigm and twenty four controls that can efficiently fulfill any business requirement in process application UIs.

Why do competing offerings have more components?  Because they didn’t start with a clear vision of what they were building. Because they haven’t reconciled the overlap and inconsistencies in their offerings.  Because they haven’t paid down technical debt. Because they think more is inherently better than less. Because they value quantity over quality.  Because they took the faster easier path per component, and created something slower and more complex for the end users and developers.

3. Drastically exceed customer expectations of what product support provides.

In almost 4 years since Brazos originally came out, many IBM BPM UI frameworks have come and gone. Even the framework shipped with the product has changed a couple times over, requiring organizations to rebuild their interfaces, in order to upgrade. On the other hand, any Brazos Customer who built an interface with the first version of Brazos can upgrade to the latest snapshot today with one click. Read that again.  Compare to any other UI framework you’ve used over a similar 4 year time frame.

This is possible because Brazos is a holistic framework for building process application UI and not just a set of widgets that can be used to do so. Even though we’ve added hundreds of features throughout the years to accommodate many more use cases, the foundation and core tenets and principles of Brazos have not changed since the very first release.

Our dedication to support does not stop at never abandoning customers on past versions, nor with localization to many languages, nor with support for those with visual disabilities. Brazos experts in Austin, Ukraine, and Australia provide around the clock assistance. From patterns, to implementation reviews, to custom controls, our team is relentless about exceeding customer expectations.

Of course the reason behind these three tenets and our relentless dedication to them is: they work. This dedication has led to the fastest approach to building process application UIs that exceed business user expectations of what enterprise software can be. That said, we’re not claiming to be done. Every day we question, learn, reevaluate, and expand the capabilities of Brazos based on customer, market, and technology shifts, staying true to our core tenets through it all.

 

*The twenty four component count in Brazos excludes charts. The Google Material component count takes the same approach.