When it comes to the way apps of all kinds are designed, most of the ?interface design is driven by two things: handheld devices and the Web. The former folds nicely into FileMaker’s way of doing things, because FileMaker Go makes good use of iOS devices. It could be argued that the latter is also a logical driver of FMP design, because FileMaker also has a web publishing component. That argument would be wrong.

FileMaker Pro is not a Web platform, at least not in its main role as a database environment with integrated interface tools. The two come from very different places. More importantly, FileMaker does not serve the same type of user. Think about it: A web user could be anyone searching for a camera, a tractor, or some snuggies; information on municipal building codes, tornadoes, ?or stock picks; performing online banking or viewing lolcats. At any given time, a web user may be entering a site for the first time, and in a matter of a few seconds, evaluating whether to stick around or click that ubiquitous “back” button.

A typical FileMaker user, on the other hand, performs specifically targeted tasks in a narrow, company-based environment, having been trained in the system’s use. This person could be a camera salesperson, a tornado researcher, or a stock trader; a banker or… well, you get the idea. ?The point is that while this user has a short orientation period in which he might struggle with the interface, resist some of the paradigms, and generally compare the solution against his favorite Web page, there is a much longer period in which that user becomes an expert at using the tools that you, the database designer, have put into place to get a specific set of tasks done in an efficient manner.

All of this to raise the point that, while the Web can provide us with some interesting and useful ideas for FileMaker interface design, we should carefully question some of the choices we make. A giant “click here” button might be a great idea for first time web page visitors. Not so much for someone who has to stare at that bright green button day after day, year after year. “Wizard” type forms are useful tools for a new web page visitor, but an annoyance for an expert who would be better served by a well laid-out single-page form. Other things that can be lifted from the Web might still be valid; one thing that comes to mind is “bread crumbs,” those nice, innocuous little strings of navigational history that let us know how far we have tunneled, and how to get back.

I myself have advocated lifting ideas from favorite web pages, and it is a valid way to learn design. But remember, when you are designing your next FileMaker interface: it’s not a web page.