Webelements - a suggestion

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Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Gil Fleming » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:23 am

We've just got to the stage where we want to add some web functionality to our application, namely:
1. Ability of a customer to access their own custom price list
2. Check stock of an item
3. Place an order for one or more items.

These are simple requirements and something that should be easily available via the Webelements interface. However, setting up Webelements is an absolute nightmare. Checking the forum just confirms that it is tricky, extremely sensitive to the platform used for deployment and, above all, very very poorly documented.

Taking this into consideration, how is a purchase price of just under a thousand pounds justified? I imagine that, at this price, uptake is negligible. This might be a case where, if the product was much more cost-effectively accessible, the user base might, in a quasi-open-source fashion, develop a set of viable installation instructions so that Webelements became a useful tool rather than just an expensive and poorly supported add-on.

Competitors have already recognised the importance of web functionality, have placed it front and centre in their offering, and promote their products heavily based on this property. Those users of a certain age will recall that DFD lost its way when, as the fastest and best DOS RDBMS tool, it made an appalling transition to Windows. We are now in a closely analogous situation where the upcoming transition is from desktop to web.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Pete Tabord » Thu Aug 08, 2013 1:35 pm

That purchase price is for (effectively) unlimited simultaneous users.

You can get up and running for free. The complete software is supplied with every full Ffenics copy.

Agreed the setup should be easier, but there are so many minor variations of Windows server software out there now that it is almost impossible to create a simple set of instructions. Most of the set-up is nothing to do with Web Elements as such, it is configuring IIS to give the appropriate permissions.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Gil Fleming » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:36 am

Pete, I fully understand that configuration of IIS is a variable, but that is something that your team should be onto in order to support your product. I am more concerned that the whole set of factors I mentioned will conspire to keep web elements as a niche, curiosity product. You only have to look at the frequency of posting to this section of the forum to know that very little web elements work is going on. I was a big DFD fan and saw how the transition to windows was horribly mismanaged. Ffenics is potentially a great product but it is now at risk of being left behind as the rest of the DBMS community transitions to web. The price point of web elements is a real issue; if you aren't going to develop it, then you need the user community to do it with you / for you. They aren't going to pay £1000 for the privilege. There are parallel situations in all business sectors where companies make a huge margin on tiny sales. Web elements needs momentum and, at the moment, it has none.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Pete Tabord » Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:20 pm

But it is _free_. You only need to pay money when you have it up and running and even then only if your usage exceeds certain levels?
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Gil Fleming » Sun Aug 11, 2013 2:06 pm

Pete, I'm just an observer. Looking from the outside, it is apparent that Webelements has not been positioned within the ffenics product range - it just sits there alone. When web connectivity becomes de rigeur, it will be too late to begin reactive, knee jerk Webelements development. If you're not getting good revenues from Webelements, I believe that you should rethink its positioning and pricing. It needs stimulation. At present, I only see stagnation, which is a shame. If Ffenics came with a 3 or 5 user web license, it might induce developers to incorporate web functionality.

On the subject of being 'free' - free things are often perceived as having no value. After all, if you don't value it, why should we?
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Pete Tabord » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:18 pm

You seem to have shifted your ground. First it was too expensive, now it is not expensive enough!

My experience is that people will not pay for things - and I am talking about the FF/DE customer base here, not the world at large - unless they see it working. Hence free eval copies and free Web Elements.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Adrian Jones » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:40 pm

I don't think the price thing is the relevant bit here. Neither is the number of users (which is a red herring really).

WebElements is not being used.

If Ffenics is to have a web component to it, and if W/E is to be that component, something needs to be addressed.

(My opinion is that the product needs a considerable overhaul as well as some demo websites and decent documentation/how-tos/discussion.)

If there are other plans afoot, any chance we could hear about them?

In fact, things are pretty quiet all round in Ffenicsland.

Seems like a variation on that old newspaper line: "what happens when you don't advertise? ... Nothing".
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Gil Fleming » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:43 pm

Pete, I haven't shifted ground. If you are to sell it separately, then set a realistic pricing structure. You are driven to say that it's free because, in its current state, you'd be hard pressed to charge anything for it. When people first buy ffenics, the price may be a factor. However, if you develop in ffenics, the purchase price of the software becomes less and less significant as the software develops in scale and complexity. Our own application has taken many hundreds of man hours to develop and we have beta-tested for over 6 months, eliminating bugs. Now, however, we have a piece of robust software with a user manual that works on all versions* of Windows and generates electronic documents far superior to any that we receive from suppliers (including Database Software - I still haven't had an invoice for my last purchase!).
People don't touch Webelements because it's difficult to even get it working. When you say, "yes, but it's free", that doesn't really help.

Adrian mentioned the lack of information coming from ffenics. I have to agree. The forum seems much less active than it used to. Requests are made to ffenics and never responded to. It's an informational black hole. Personnel, including yourself, seem very defensive whenever improvements are suggested (this thread started as a suggestion but became an argument). Ffenics is not fully functional in Windows 8, as I have pointed out previously, yet I have seen no move to correct the situation. Ffenics is never evaluated in the computer press or magazines. A good review in a computer mag could give you a massive boost in sales, but you need to make sure that you are confident in advance of the review result.


*(except Windows 8, because of the loss of pdf functionality).
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Graham Smith » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:16 pm

I really hate to be a wet blanket here but as possibly the only person here who actually does use Web Elements for a customer, I have a different point of view about what it would take to make it sell better. It needs to work completely differently than it does now.

What people ask me for and what they expect is a web enabled version of Ffenics. Complete with all the functionality they currently have. What they get is something that can basically be used to run a really simple report, without the ability to input data to use as a filter. The list of what you can't do is about 5 times longer than what you can do with it.

The one site where I have this installed uses it on an interweb for employees to check one their information. To get it to work so that an employee can only see their own information, it means loading every employee's ID number into the user form so that they can log in as themselves so that user name can be used as a report filter.

And, to do much in the way of customization you need to have a working knowledge of HTML and XML and bewildering mix of different ways of doing styles and tags which shifts back and forth depending on which programmer did that part of the code. I've managed to figure out just enough to make things do what I basically want if I don't ask for too much.

So, let's forget all about price for now and just face the fact that there are such severe limitations on what WebElements can do that it's basically crippled from the start.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby webplusplus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:27 am

Graham Smith wrote:... it's basically crippled from the start.


Its core was developed a dozen years ago, in neolithic period of web apps.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Graham Smith » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:15 pm

webplusplus wrote:Its core was developed a dozen years ago, in neolithic period of web apps.

I know, but that doesn't make it any more usable. As I said, I am using it for one customer and I have probably explained to the customer a dozen times what it can and cannot do and they still keep asking for things that can't be done.

I think that there might be some other things that I can coax out of it if I just knew a bit more about how it worked inside. And I know that there are some more things I could do if I were willing to spend a few weeks learning more HTML, XML, and EIEIO, but I just can't justify the time.
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby andyclinton59 » Thu Aug 22, 2013 5:23 pm

Web is the future ( actually it is the current!) so if WebElements isn't it how should one go about web enabling a Ffenics app?

Is there anything else/better in the pipeline?

It is not much news/info on the website so would Ffenics use this occasion to enlighten us on what we can expect?

When the new website was launched we were hopeful, but the info is very much the same as the old one so then it is really just a fresh coat of paint.

In this day and age, no news can only be interpreted as no/bad news.

Keep us in the loop!
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby webplusplus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:37 pm

Technically, the easiest way to web-enable Ff is to develop a CDF (or what's the right name for this technology now?) that will provide RFB (VNC) access to the Ff instance it is running in and not to the whole user session, then run enough number of Ff instances in the same user session on a server and then access Ff using browser-based VNC client like noVNC. Of course, there is a number of techical problems that have to be solved, but this approach will surely provide a better user experience that currently used one.
But then, there will be a number of licensing issues/questions...
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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby Fred Kingston » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:48 pm

I thought people that posted here had to use a real name?

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Re: Webelements - a suggestion

Postby webplusplus » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:35 pm

Fred Kingston wrote:I thought people that posted here had to use a real name?


"Sue me." (C) Fred Kingston, circa 2003 :D

How is your question related to Ff WE? BTW, this site provides PM functionality...
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