Designing the Room

The plan for the room is to make it as basic as possible to enable the participants to focus on the discussion, not the technology. This idea arose out of discussions with representatives from the Oakbridge Community Center. They want to provide their members with a forum for the various organizations and clubs associated with the center. This would be anything from the local baseball league's teams to the seniors' club. It was also obvious that such a broad range of members would require an interface that appealed to a broad group with a minimal learning curve. In addition, we discovered that the members use everything from dial-up to broadband, so we had to accommodate inevitable bandwidth issues.

Based on that information, we quickly realized the Flash MX 2004 Communications components provide the solution.

The Chat UI component provides three of the requirements:

  • A message input area.

  • A Send button.

  • A message display window.

The SimpleConnect component enables the participants to log in. When they log in, the People List component permits us to show the names of the people who are in the room. To deal with the bandwidth issues, we can use the SetBandwidth component, and to add a little "life" to the interface, each user can select a color for their messages through the UserColor component.

With the technical issues addressed, the next question is, "How will it look?" The first idea, shown in Figure 16.1, is quickly rejected. It just doesn't meet the requirements, and the dark gray background makes the whole area look rather foreboding.

Figure 16.1. The first design idea is quickly rejected for being foreboding.


The final design, shown in Figure 16.2, meets all the needs. The best part is that we are able to maintain the brand identity of the community center by using a "stripped down" version of the home page. In addition, the placement of the components opens up the page and makes the whole look more inviting.

Figure 16.2. The final design comprehensive is a lot more inviting and open through the use of white space.