Why You Should Use Excel With IntuiFace
Have a lot of content and want to make your experiences easier to build, simpler to maintain and faster to perform? Why aren't you using Excel?
Is any of the following familiar?
- Your experience is comprised of multiple scenes with identical layouts. The only difference is in the content. It's become a big (huge!) experience that's tough to manage.
- You're building your experience for a third party and they don't want (or you don't want them) to use IntuiFace. However, they do want the ability to make content changes on their own.
- You want your users to be able to call up any of a large volume of content. You've placed all this content in your scene and performance - particularly on tablets - is being affected.
Familiar? You need Excel. With it your experiences will run faster, be easier to maintain and simpler for third parties to update content
In fact, it's not so much that you need Excel. Rather, you need to externalize your content. This could be accomplished via databases, Web services or a wide range of back office systems - all of which are supported by IntuiFace - but Excel does it just as well. And since virtually everyone has at least a passing familiarity with Excel, leveraging it when creating content-intensive IntuiFace experiences is not difficult.
The general idea is as follows: Rather than inserting content (images, videos, documents) directly into your experience, just create the layout - a template - and have IntuiFace pull in the content dynamically, at runtime. Let me illustrate with an example. The following is derived from the Photo Exhibition sample you can download from the Marketplace tab in Composer and Player. You can also see it happen, live, by watching the "Working With Data" webinar. (A recording is located there as well.)
Imagine you want to create a digital representation of three photo exhibits in your gallery. Each exhibit will have its own dedicated IntuiFace scene, a floor plan identifying the placement of 15 photos. Selecting a photo opens its detail page, a page whose layout is identical for all photos: name of the photo, image of the photo, photographer name and price (should a visitor to your gallery wish to purchase it). Here's how you would use Excel to greatly simplify creation of the experience and improve overall performance and maintainability.
- On a PC with Composer installed, create a folder named Images (could be any name) and place all photo images into that folder.
- Create a spreadsheet in Excel, located in the same folder as Images. Each row represents a single photo. Each column represents a different "property" of that photo. In this case, its things like exhibit name, photo name, photographer name, price and the file path to the image file for that photo.
- This file path would be relative to the spreadsheet. Thus if the image is named Two Sisters, the file path in this example would be Images/Two Sisters.jpg.
- Run Composer and create a new experience. Drag-and-drop both the Excel workbook and the Images folder into that experience. This automatically creates both an Excel interface asset for the spreadsheet and a default visualization of the spreadsheet, something we call a data template.
- For each of the three exhibits, create a scene. In that scene, add an Asset Grid collection showing all photos in the spreadsheet who are part of the exhibit in question. To do this, simply filter the spreadsheet before displaying its contents.
- Create a Group collection that captures details when an image is selected. Through binding, you can have IntuiFace populate your collection with detail information for whichever photo is selected by a visitor.
In this example, there are no images in your experience. There aren't 45 different photo detail pages. There is just a single photo detail template that is populated on the fly.
Think about it. With the above approach, changes to the gallery just require a change to the spreadsheet (and deletion/addition of photos in the Images folder). Anybody can do this; it requires no knowledge of IntuiFace. In fact, it can be done even while the experience is running.
Even better, performance will improve because you've minimized the amount of content that needs to be held in memory. It's simpler to build and will perform extremely well.
Quite honestly, you'd be nuts not to take this approach to any experience comprised of a lot of content, content that may or may not have to change on a regular basis. Doing so vastly simplifies construction and maintenance, makes it easy for clients/colleagues not versed in IntuiFace to make content changes and will speed up performance on all of IntuiFace's supported platforms.
Intrigued? Watch our "Working With Data" webinar. I promise, you'll love what you can do.