4 Replies Latest reply on Dec 26, 2006 8:53 AM by Matlus

    Flex for a New Project?

    Andy -- Chicago
      I'm launching a new project and I'm considering using Flex. I'm hoping you can provide me with some feedback on viability and perhaps some guidance.

      The project would be for building dyanamic, database-driven websites in the recreation industry and a content management systems to configure the sites. One code base for multiple, customized sites. They would share components (weather, map, ads, etc) and templates to make building them faster and updating them universal. The site would search inventory, provide for checkout / purchase, recognize users' account balances, things like that.

      If, for instance, we were going to do a website for a golf course, we would use the content management system to:

      1. Add a site to the system
      a. Designate the URL
      b. Designate style elements
      c. Designate header, footer and menu

      2. Add a page to the site
      a. Choose (or build a new one) a template
      b. Add components to the template (prebuilt or freeform html)
      c. Designate its position in the menu

      The website would be accessing data through web services.

      I'm in the process of writing specifications and I feel a need to have more information.

      1. Is Flex a good choice?

      2. Is the model of sites/pages/templates/components appropriate? Would flex be able to create these based on database settings? I'm probably not saying that the right way. A site (abc.com) has a page (Map and Weather) with a template (Template A) which has 4 forms (Form A across the top, Form B down the left side, Forms C & D in the center of the page) and components Header, Menu, Map and Weather assigned to these Forms. All designated in the database.

      3. How should style elements be included? (background color, font family, etc., etc.)

      4. Web services? Is there an advantage to using Cold Fusion? ASPX? The backend will be MS SQL.

      5. Language sensitization issues?

      Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
        • 1. Re: Flex for a New Project?
          peterent Level 2
          We are introducing a new feature in Flex 2.0.1 that's due out early next year. The feature is called "Modules" and it was discussed at this year's MAX 2006. You can read more about it on Roger Gonzalez's blog: http://blogs.adobe.com/rgonzalez/ - check the "Modular Applications" articles. I think this will go a long way to making the reusable parts you are talking about.

          Flex does not build things from instructions unless they are written in ActionScript. We have customers that do create dynamic interfaces based on data loaded from a database, so it is possible. But if you have pre-built templates and all you need to do is change certain aspects at runtime, it should be pretty easy with Flex. Take a look at the Flex documentation, especially the part about the Flex framework and how Flex sources are compiled into SWFs.

          You style Flex components using style sheets (CSS files). This also includes specifying skins for components if you decide to give something a whole new look.

          I'm a bit biased here, but I think using ColdFusion (version 7.0.2) with Flex 2 is very easy. But it depends on your needs, budget, deployment, etc. WIth CF 7.0.2 and Flex Builder 2 you get wizards to be build both CFC (ColdFusion components) and matching ActionScript objects so that you exchange objects, not just data, between Flex and CF.

          WebServices can also be used (with CF, too). This gives you more choices to the backend. If you have a large amount of data or it is complex, consider Flex Data Services as that has data management capabilities.

          Flex 2 has localization capabilties. You create a 'resource bundle' in various languages and build SWFs for each one. When the end user choses their preference, take them to the page that loads the appropriate SWF.

          HTH
          • 2. Re: Flex for a New Project?
            ntsiii Level 3
            I have to put in my word for HTTPService. If you only need to pass data, and not complex objects, and you do not plan on making your data services accessible to anonymous third parties (with a wsdl), XML over HTTP (HTTPService in Flex) is simple to use and remarkably fast.

            Any real server-side platform can provide XML over HTTP! I mostly use aspx, and have done examples using jsp.

            Tracy
            • 3. Re: Flex for a New Project?
              peterent Level 2
              A good example of this is the REST spec; I wrote an Flex interface to Flickr using HTTPService and following the REST pattern. You give a URL with some parameter=value pairs and the server responds with XML. Plus in Flex 2 you can use E4X to make parsing the XML easier.
              • 4. Re: Flex for a New Project?
                Matlus Level 1
                My person opinion is the the IDE and debugger suck big time. They will drastically slow down (amonst other things) your development.

                If you're still leaning towards Flex, using it for the "content Management" part rather than the content publishing part will save you from the unsable Flex controls for content publishing purposes. The controls are sort of ok for "applications" (which I assume it their intent), but border on the "painful" for content layout kinds of things that html is far better at.