Expanding system

As per the last two blog posts I’ve been spending time working on additional modules for Dlayer, initially I started with the Template designer and over the last couple of weeks I’ve moved onto base development work for the Content manager and the Form builder.

Each module has a unique function but they follow a very similar design, both in terms of the UI/UX and back end processing. As I expanded by adding the second module I obviously centralised as much code as I could, in adding the third module I centralised a little more code.

In doing so I’ve noticed a few minor ‘code smells’ that could very easily grow, as such I need to go back and adjust some of the base architecture. I’m not sure how long this will take me but obviously it is going to steal from my planned development.

The goal is still to release in late March but realistically it looks like I won’t be able to get the first alpha out until very early April, I really want at least one functional tool in the three modules listed above before I do a release, goal of the alpha is to show people what I am trying to create.

I’ll post another update at the end of the month.

Dlayer: Form builder

I’ve now spent nearly a week working on the content manager, still a never ending amount of development to do but rather than focus too much on one thing I am going to move onto another aspect of Dlayer for a week, from Monday I’ll start the development of the Form builder.

To date I’ve developed three Form builders, two XML based builders and one database driven one.

I developed my first full Form builder in 2008 whilst working as Head of Development at Web on High, now Generate UK. My team was getting a little tired developing forms so I decided to go ahead and create something to simplify the process. I ended up developing a Form builder that relied on two XML files, one that handled the structure of the form and a second that contained all the validation rules, the developer just needed to add the nodes for each input they required. The form builder sped up general development and simplified changes, a developer was still however required to make changes to the XML files.

The second, in 2009 was an improvement of the first, it supported additional layout controls, additional inputs, multiple validation rules per input and a simpler set up because everything was contained within one XML file.

The third was developed as part of my last contract, it evolved heavily during the contract but we ended up with a Form builder that was driven by an admin system and supported the majority of the features of my previous builders as well as the improvements below;

  1. It allowed the user to map inputs to database fields, as a result insert/update queries were generated automatically, even across multiple tables.
  2. It allowed the user to create complex layouts featuring multiple rows and columns.
  3. It handled files in a simpler way, all the processing happened behind the scenes.
  4. It featured additional inputs, such as version which was two selects, one for major and one for minor.

Although all the changes could be handled by the administration system it still required a developer with an understanding of the form builder to make changes.

The Dlayer Form builder, other than being a builder will in no way relate to the three I’ve developed in the past. It not only needs to be as easy to use as the other parts of Dlayer it also needs to handle all data transparently, as with everything in Dlayer the goal is that a non-developer can use all the tools.

I’m only going to work on the Form builder for a week so it may not make it into the first Alpha release at the end of March but it should appear in one of the later releases.