Now that you’re clear on the data points you need, you’re ready to visualize how they will be organized into user interfaces. You’ll save yourself time in the long run if you sketch these interfaces on paper before you try to build them in FileMaker Pro.
The goal is to imagine your interfaces before you start working with your actual FileMaker Pro layouts. At this point, when you haven't yet developed fluency with FileMaker Pro's layout tools, sketching can save you a lot of time. But even later when you can build layouts quickly, sketching on paper can help you think more creatively.
Don't worry if you don’t have much skill at drawing. This isn’t about how pretty your drawings are, or even whether anyone else can understand them. It’s about making quick sketches that get you thinking about how your interfaces might be organized.
Many interfaces start off with the simple design pattern of a list, detail, and report. This was your approach in the Landscaping file, and we recommend the same thing here:
When the user wants to browse through records and explore the current found set, the list layout is ideal.
When the user wants more information or needs to enter data, they can navigate to the detail screen to view the record in question. Generally the detail screen gives access to secondary data as well (such as appointments for a patient, enrollments for a student, etc.).
When the user needs a higher-level view of the data, they run the report, which helps them make business decisions and decide which records in the database need their attention.
As you sketch out your list, detail, and reporting screens, ask yourself these questions:
- What information will you present on each screen and where will you put it?
- How will people interact with that information?
- How will people get from one screen to another?
Use the sketching process to double-check your list of data points. As you visualize the actual interfaces, you may realize that you need new data points, or that you don’t need all the ones you thought you did.
It also helps you decide how you’re going to organize the data points. How will you group them? Which ones are the most important? For cultures that read left-to-right, anything you place at the top left of the screen is perceived as the most important, and what you place at the lower right is the least important. We'll return to this concept when you build your interfaces.
Let’s look at some sketches that were made for the example scenario. We’ll pair each one with the resulting finished interface to give you a sense of before and after.
The Contact List screen presents contacts grouped by last initial (like on the iPhone) and acts as the landing page for the solution.
The Contact Detail screen presents contact information on left, with sales activity on the right. A large area is dedicated to sales activity, since this is the focus of the solution. This area shows both future activity and past — the difference is the activity status and date.
The Sales Activity screen gives various counts based on activity status and date. The counts are grouped by salesperson and week.