My brother was in town a few weeks ago. We went to a Brooklyn Nets game on the subway and got lost and had to take a cab to Barclays in the snow and cold. It may not sound like fun but it was.
We talked about how various software projects turned out. I had a memory of a product we did that never shipped, it was called Broadway, or Boxes & Arrows, or PowWow, it had a lot of names over the years. The idea was this — if you wanted to do layout right, presentation-type layout, you have to have graphics that have relationships to each other that persist, even as the objects are moved and resized.
So I could say that box A and box B are always centered relative to each other. When I move one the other would also move to maintain the relationship.
This was meant to be a tool people would use to create designs for PowerPoint-like presentations, designs that other people would use, and that would look good even if they had just a little text here and a lot of text there, or the other way around. Designers would set it up so there were rules that made it look great either way.
It followed the usual formula for software platforms. The authoring tool trades off ease-of-learning for power. The runtime must be trivially simple to use. Ways for people who invest to pack knowledge into their designs, and have it blossom to delight the neophyte.
(Sounds like something Walt Frazier might say.)
Whenever I have to do tedious layout of web pages, and find in the end the result is unsatisfactory and fragile I think of how it really should be done, and hope someday we make a popular platform that has these recalculating graphics in all their glory.
And I think it’s also the way we’ll ultimately solve the “responsive design” question.