1 2 Previous Next 15 Replies Latest reply on Jul 13, 2014 8:50 AM by jasongodoy

    WebDirect: Disappointing

    mdiehr

      I've been running IWP solutions on FileMaker 11 Server Advanced for years now. While limited, I found that IWP was generally clean enough and fast enough to do the job.

       

      I've just started runnign tests converting a solution to FMS13 and WebDirect.

       

      My overall impression is that this is beta software: it's buggy, slow, and aesthetically unpleasing to my eye.

       

      Here are some issues and limitations that are already proving problematic in the first 24 hours of testing:
      * the [Guest] login is not working properly (it seems you have to set File Option to Guest login for it to work, but this has side-effects)

      * Exit Application doesn't work if there's an "On Last Window Close" script

      * the menubar and statusbar/toolbar flash on for 1-2 seconds on page load (which looks extremely unprofessional)

      * upon exiting the solution, there's a giant red banner which says "Connection Lost" (or something, it flashes on briefly - which also looks unprofessional)

      * data entry problems: hitting the Tab key sometimes skips fields, there's also no way to trap Return or Enter keys

      * text in Merge fields doesn't line-wrap properly

      * there's no way to pass in a parameter in a URL

      * there's no way to navigate to a new URL in the same window

      * there's an ugly "Script is running" dialog box that pops up frequently.

      * the price per seat is crazy (as has been discussed)

       

      Now, to be fair, perhaps my use case is not what WebDirect is meant for? I want a simple, lightweight web connector that can let the public fill out a few forms, do a search, and see some results. I don't want or need the entire full spectrum of filemaker featurues (menu, status bar, portals, import, export, etc.)

       

      Given this experience, I'm seriously considering whether WebDirect is something I want to roll out for myself and my consulting clients. It may be that using the PHP connector is really going to give me what I need? That way I have full control over HTML/CSS and won't suffer all these limitations.

       

      I'm looking for both general advice ("Use PHP?") and specific solutions to any of the issues I listed above.

       

      As always, thanks in advance for help.

        • 1. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
          mikebeargie

          Now, to be fair, perhaps my use case is not what WebDirect is meant for?  I want a simple, lightweight web connector that can let the public fill out a few forms, do a search, and see some results.   I don't want or need the entire full spectrum of filemaker featurues (menu, status bar, portals, import, export, etc.)

           

          If your solution is so simple, then yes, CWP may be the right choice for you. But given that description, I've successfully deployed multiple similar webdirect solutions without 90% of the gripes that you list above, and work arounds or minimizations for the other 10%. A lot of it boils down to "create, not convert", literally, rebuild your file to be optimized for webdirect.

           

          Webdirect, more than any other previous incarnation of the filemaker platform, exposes flaws in development methodology. I'm not insulting your development methods, rather pointing out that this platform requires serious thought into optimization. It's unlike any other platform out there, and it's less than a year to market. So yes, we're all still learning, pushing forward and coping.

          • 2. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
            mdiehr

            Mike, I thank you for your comments, but lest you get the wrong idea, I'm talking about a very simple form here:   A layout that has 3 fields (Name, email, order#), a "Search" button, and one merge field for showing results.    This is not some sort of complex solution that has layers and layers of cruft.   

             

            I would be happy to test out creating a new layout with 3 fields and a button, if you think it would somehow work better, but I'm not sure I understand why that would be the case.

             

            Also, you state that most of the issues I raise have workarounds. Would you please be specific about what they are?

            • 3. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
              ibrahim_bittar

              Certainly there are issues but most of them can be resolved/worked around.

               

              I agree completely with Mike regarding the creation of a new solution, instead of converting.

               

              See the screenshots attached. I made a new layout specifically for WebDirect (used a Mobile theme). All this took me a couple hours and works very well. In fact, now I have a new problem: users don't want to use FileMaker Pro anymore...

              Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 17.38.07.png

              Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 17.38.27.png

              • 4. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                mdiehr

                Looks like a nice site, but doesn't answer any of my specific problems. 

                 

                I'm still in the planning phases.  Right now, I'm thinking that, given these serious bugs, and the cost, and the fact that PHP is so much cheaper & faster, my purchase plans are leaning towards PHP.

                 

                I'm still on the fence though, and am able to be influecend, but I'd need real solutions for the following WebDirect issues:

                1. the menubar and statusbar/toolbar flash on for 1-2 seconds on page load (which looks extremely unprofessional)
                2. upon exiting the solution, there's a giant red banner which says "Connection Lost" (or something, it flashes on briefly - which also looks unprofessional)
                3. data entry problems: hitting the Tab key sometimes skips fields, there's also no way to trap Return or Enter keys
                4. text in Merge fields doesn't line-wrap properly
                5. there's no way to pass in a parameter in a URL
                6. there's no way to navigate to a new URL in the same window
                7. there's an ugly "Script is running" dialog box that pops up frequently.
                • 5. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                  intex

                  mdiehr schrieb:

                   

                  Looks like a nice site, but doesn't answer any of my specific problems. 

                   

                  I'm still in the planning phases.  Right now, I'm thinking that, given these serious bugs, and the cost, and the fact that PHP is so much cheaper & faster, my purchase plans are leaning towards PHP.

                   

                  I'm still on the fence though, and am able to be influecend, but I'd need real solutions for the following WebDirect issues:

                  1. the menubar and statusbar/toolbar flash on for 1-2 seconds on page load (which looks extremely unprofessional)
                  2. upon exiting the solution, there's a giant red banner which says "Connection Lost" (or something, it flashes on briefly - which also looks unprofessional)
                  3. data entry problems: hitting the Tab key sometimes skips fields, there's also no way to trap Return or Enter keys
                  4. text in Merge fields doesn't line-wrap properly
                  5. there's no way to pass in a parameter in a URL
                  6. there's no way to navigate to a new URL in the same window
                  7. there's an ugly "Script is running" dialog box that pops up frequently.

                   

                   

                  1. yes, even if it is the very first script step you have, you will see the FM toolbar for a moment. It is annoying, but there seems no way round - sadly.

                   

                  2. yes you get that, but I don´t think it´s bad - people should know, when they lost connection so that they don´t try to enter something to nowhere.

                   

                  3. don´t have this

                   

                  4. what do you mean by this ?

                   

                  5. ?

                   

                  6. Where do you want to navigate ? Since external websites mostly use http and your connection to the database should be https it´s best to show external websites in a new windows instead of using the webviewer I think.

                   

                  7. yes you get that. Optimize your script to run faster or try performing the script on the server rather than the client machine.

                   

                   

                  And yes, a complete new construction is the best choice, because then you use themes and stylesheets from ground up.

                   

                  Webdirect can look really nice.

                   

                  intexcloudindreibrowsern.png

                  • 6. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                    mdiehr

                    intex wrote:

                     

                    mdiehr schrieb:

                     

                    Looks like a nice site, but doesn't answer any of my specific problems. 

                     

                    I'm still in the planning phases.  Right now, I'm thinking that, given these serious bugs, and the cost, and the fact that PHP is so much cheaper & faster, my purchase plans are leaning towards PHP.

                     

                    I'm still on the fence though, and am able to be influecend, but I'd need real solutions for the following WebDirect issues:

                    1. the menubar and statusbar/toolbar flash on for 1-2 seconds on page load (which looks extremely unprofessional)
                    2. upon exiting the solution, there's a giant red banner which says "Connection Lost" (or something, it flashes on briefly - which also looks unprofessional)
                    3. data entry problems: hitting the Tab key sometimes skips fields, there's also no way to trap Return or Enter keys
                    4. text in Merge fields doesn't line-wrap properly
                    5. there's no way to pass in a parameter in a URL
                    6. there's no way to navigate to a new URL in the same window
                    7. there's an ugly "Script is running" dialog box that pops up frequently.

                     

                     

                    1. yes, even if it is the very first script step you have, you will see the FM toolbar for a moment. It is annoying, but there seems no way round - sadly.

                     

                    2. yes you get that, but I don´t think it´s bad - people should know, when they lost connection so that they don´t try to enter something to nowhere.

                     

                    3. don´t have this

                     

                    4. what do you mean by this ?

                     

                    5. ?

                     

                    6. Where do you want to navigate ? Since external websites mostly use http and your connection to the database should be https it´s best to show external websites in a new windows instead of using the webviewer I think.

                     

                    7. yes you get that. Optimize your script to run faster or try performing the script on the server rather than the client machine.

                     

                    1. I see that this is a known issue : I hope it's merely cosmetic, and doesn't actually represent a security hole!

                    2. In the case where you've launched the WebDirect database with the "homeurl=" parameter, this giant red flashing message seems very amateur.   The solution should just quietly go to the home url as specified.

                    3. other folks have reported this, too.  It seems as if hitting the Tab key causes a round-trip connection to the server?  So if a person is typing "ABC[TAB]DEF" by the time they type DEF the page may have updated causing typing to be lost.

                    4. Try it : put a bunch of text into a merge field.  In IWP, the text will wrap to fit the merge field.  In WebDirect: no wrap.

                    5 and 6 :  this is probably the killer deficiency in my mind : the H in "HTML" means "HYPER" which means "links" : having a web-product which can not receive, or send an arbitrary URL is very limiting.

                    7. This "script is running" dialog should be optional.  It's very user-unfriendly.  How many non-computer folks know what a "script" is or why it would "be running"? :-)

                    • 7. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                      intex

                      1. With the script step "Allow user abort" set to off this should be no security hole.

                      2. it´s the way it is

                      7. same as 2

                       

                      can´t comment on 3 and don´t have real world uses of 4, 5 and 6 - at least for our solutions.

                      • 8. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                        mdiehr

                        Some of these items I can live with, but this one is really proving difficult:  https://fmdev.filemaker.com/thread/77230   Basically, you can't use the Tab key to move between fields in a WebDirect solution.

                        • 9. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                          intex

                          of course Webdirect is no speed rocket.

                           

                          If the layout is set to autmatically save every entry automatically, then Filemaker will need its time to save and refresh all screens/users/computers showing the same data due to its auto-refresh ideology.

                           

                          So the user who hits tab will have to wait with typing further until the cursor is actually in the next field. If you/he do/does that, you don´t have a problem. Just tried it for myself with Safari and Chrome.

                           

                          Of course people typing with 10 fingers rapidly won´t have much fun with WebDirect.

                          • 10. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                            mdiehr

                            "If the layout is set to autmatically save every entry automatically, then Filemaker will need its time to save and refresh all screens/users/computers showing the same data due to its auto-refresh ideology.

                             

                            It doesn't matter, turning off "Save Record Changes Automatically" has no effect.   This is just a bug in WebDirect.   Amazing that this was released in v1, and even more amazing that it remains unfixed in v3.

                            • 11. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                              mikebeargie

                              It sounds like you've already made up your mind to use PHP which is why I didn't really want to chime in above.

                               

                              Don't be confused though, just because they fixed some bugs, webdirect is not "v3", it's still "v1", with some of the bugs worked out. six months of released time to the public for a new technology is not long enough to work out all the kinks, let alone add NEW features. Couple that with the FM development team needing to correct issues across the platform as a whole with the 13 release, as well as address the heartbleed and openSSL issues throughout, their resource scheduling is probably a little thin for WebDirect updates. 13.0v2 had over 30 updates for WD, so they are invested in the platform, and will continue to improve it.

                               

                              WebDirect builds on everything that Filemaker has become in almost 25 years of development of the filemaker pro product, and attempts to duplicate that functionality, with little to no work for you, in a web browser. The amount you CAN do with the platform is amazing. If it doesn't work for you that's fine, but just keep in your mind that there are developers out there that are working with WebDirect, even with limitations, and making successful solutions. I'll echo what I said in my first post, if your solution is indeed so simple, then CWP may be a better choice for you. Meaning at this point your resources should be directed towards developing that, rather than arguing here about something you do not intend to use.

                              • 12. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                                mdiehr

                                Mike B :  Believe it or not, this is not a decision I've made yet, nor will I make quickly.   I'm doing tests with PHP and with WebDirect and gathering info.   Your points about WebDirect still really being "v1" are interesting, and I do take them to heart.  On the other hand, I am a bit gunshy having dealt with IWP, a technology that FileMaker introduced and then basically abandoned.   Given how much FM is now trying to charge per-seat for WD, one hopes their committment to it is more serious than it was to IWP.  

                                 

                                I'm also a bit worried about security with WebDirect:  the 13v2 update which removed the direct URL linking is kind of problematic for me : does this mean that nobody on the WebDirect team even consdidered the security limitations of having the commands in the URL?  What did they do to fix this, did they just move the commands from GET to POST and figure that it was good enough?   If this product was not designed from the ground up with security in mind, it's going to be very hard to graft it on later.  

                                 

                                I want to make decisions soon, but it is not urgent, so feel that I have time to get more info, recommendations, advice, etc.

                                 

                                One thing I don't have a handle on yet:  The half-dozen (or so) serious issues that I found with WebDirect in 24 hours testing : is that all of the big ones?  Or is that just the tip of the iceberg?   From the comments, it sounds like other folks are saying "It works great" which the optimist in me would like to interpret as "basically it's a solid product with a few warts".   The pessimist in me is not so sure.

                                • 13. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                                  jasongodoy

                                  mdiehr,

                                   

                                  I've just gone through what you're now going through now in trying to figure out if WebDirect is the right solution over a PHP FM DB app.

                                   

                                  While I share a lot of your issues with WD, I have just put together a solution that while a little pokey in the speed department (tabbing as you've mentioned), has been well received by the external customers using it.  It's a simple app, but I do have some complexity to it.  I make extensive use of the ExecuteSQL function (working great).  I'm using a plug-in on the server to write data (using SQL INSERT AND UPDATE) to the FM databases instead of switching layouts (by the way, I'm using the separation model).  I also use portals, globals, and I have to say, the GUI that you can create is pretty damn impressive in that if you want to try something, you have results in seconds/minutes, not hours.  I've never seen anything like it, period.  However, the custom theme I'm using is heavily optimized as I've learned from the Richard Carlton video on YouTube, and that helped with gaining some extra speed a lot.

                                   

                                  Truth of the matter is, I hitched my wagon to FileMaker 8.5 years ago and my company has never looked back.  It was a risk at the time, but it's paid off in spades and is the best IT decision I've made.  This experienced factored heavily into my decision to use WD and after the FMS 13.0v2 update, I couldn't wait any longer and had to pick a solution.  In my testing with FMS 13.0v2, I deemed the it "good enough" and crossed my fingers because I had to get a solution done within a month.  Needless to say there was a slight learning curve with WD dealing with browser issues, but as long as you educate users why they need to use a modern web browser (just as a good practice), I feel that with the combination of speed of development and not having to go out and learn HTML 5, jQuery/JavaScript, PHP, MySQL to the extent you would need to to make a web app just work, it's an amazing platform that is only going to get better.  Plus, telling users they'll be able to see updated information in real time is a great boon.  So, again I've hitched my wagon to a new FileMaker platform, WebDirect.  *Fingers crossed*

                                   

                                  Hope this helps you with your decision.

                                   

                                  - Jason

                                  • 14. Re: WebDirect: Disappointing
                                    mdiehr

                                    Jason, thanks for the coments.

                                     

                                    My current thinking is along these lines:

                                    1. If I need a lightweight web form that's maximally copmatible with older browsers, doesn't involve a ton of user interaction, and needs to be fast and cheap and available to the general public :  PHP is the solution
                                    2. If I need a more robust, deep user interface for a "captive audience" (e.g. clients & relations) where I have some control over what browser they use, and they are willing to live with the current imperfections, then WebDirect may be a good solution.
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