What it Takes to Build Stunning Apps - an Interview with Jason Beres

Jessica Skarzynski / Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We recently had the chance to sit down with Jason Beres, Infragistics' Senior Vice President of Product Management. Read on to see what makes Jason tick - and learn about what he's excited about in 14.1!

IG: Hi Jason. Thanks for meeting with us today! So let’s get started. Tell us a little bit about your development history.

JB: Thanks for having me! I've been in the software industry since about 1990. Back in the early 90's I was writing COBOL & JCL on IBM mainframes, VAX Basic on the DEC Micro-VAX, and a variety of other languages and platforms what were driving big business back then.  But for the majority of my career, about the last 20 years, I've been focused on Microsoft platforms, tools & technologies.  When .NET was first announced in 2001, I was one of the first to dive into it. In fact, some of the first books I authored were on .NET, including the The Visual Basic .NET Bible, and the Visual C# Bible, both published back in 2002 & 2003. I followed those up with books on Visual Studio in the 2004 / 2005 timeframe and then in the last five years I did a few books on Silverlight. So I have a long history & experience in software architecture, product development, and working with software development teams.

In the last few years at Infragistics I've really focused on driving the strategy for our developer tools products, and working with customers to figure out what they need to deliver the best software with Infragistics tools.  The most important aspect of this is talking to customers. 

IG: That’s great. So to indulge your developer side, if you could go back and redesign any app, what would it be, and why?

JB: That's a great question. I've built a lot of applications in the last 20-25 years.  I can't say there is one application that I'd like to rewrite more than another, because there are so many areas that can be improved & enhanced.  Most of the benefit I would have now versus 25 years ago is the tooling.  Today, the tools are so much better to write more sophisticated apps faster, with less bugs.  Let's just look at what I can achieve using the Infragistics toolset today.  I can build an HTML5 dashboard with financial indicators, touch interactions, export to Excel with a responsive web design that can run on any device or platform.  And the amount of code to do this is minimal, because the libraries have all of the capabilities I need.  And even better, I can build a platform-native dashboard with the same features and functionality, using the Infragistics IOS controls or Android controls and deploy this app in a completely different language & platform with the same feature set but similar code. That was just not possible in the past with the ease of use we have today.  So today that we can help developers be more productive across platforms with Infragistics controls, I think that I would probably go back and build some more interesting applications.

IG: Excellent. So 14.1 is on the way. What can you tell us about it?

JB: Well 14.1 is pretty exciting. One of the big areas that we focused on in this release was developer productivity. So we created these great Starter Kits that are integrated into Visual Studio that will help a developer very quickly build an application without necessarily knowing the inner details of the controls or even the platform. So a developer can generate an app and start discovering the screens and looking at the code - and before they know it, their time to get something running for themselves will be cut by up to 50%, maybe even more.

Another area we’re improving is around touch. We've got an industry leading touch experience today in Windows Forms, ASP.NET & jQuery, and we are continuing to improve.  You're going to see some interesting features in our ASP.NET and jQuery grids where you can do swiping on grid rows to get that native app feeling for actions like Delete or Archive. We're also doing some nice theming in 14.1 so you can build great office-inspired applications, and we are previewing iOS 7 themes in jQuery. We've even got a preview very interesting tool that helps you translate Twitter Bootstrap themes to ASP.NET themes and in the future we'll bring that into our jQuery themes.  Some of the new controls in 14.1 include a Visio-like Diagramming tools in XAML, an Excel-like Spreadsheet control in XAML and a new Excel-like Pivot Grid in Windows Forms. 

There is a lot more that you'll see once you download and install 14.1, but a focus on developer productivity features, a lot of helping developers go from the beginning of an idea into something that's actually presentable to their stakeholders, faster than before.

IG: Excellent. I notice you didn't mention Indigo Studio. Is there anything interesting there to help developers – and designers?

JB: Oh that’s a great question. Indigo Studio has one of the most requested features and the product has been around a concept we call Screen Parts. So when you're designing an application there's a lot of areas that represent reusable UI patterns, and you usually are creating these over and over on every screen with multiple UI controls.  So we've added this Screen Part feature that lets you select multiple UI elements on the surface and create a new UI pattern for your toolbox that can be reused across projects for your entire team.   With this feature, your whole design language gets created over time as you build out your application. With Indigo Studio, we're looking at productivity for designers and developers to help them design those applications faster. And of course we have the code generation that will output into jQuery and HTML to help you get started with the apps faster as well.

IG: That’s great. So with that said, in closing, how would you encourage someone to break out of their coding comfort zone?

Well there's so much technology coming at us from different directions - in fact, I was just returned from a large conference in India talking to University students and developers that are new to the market, and one of the biggest challenges we discussed was deciding where to focus in the broad technology landscape today. There are so many JavaScript libraries, so many frameworks, native, mobile, hybrid, .NET. - how do I find something that's going to help me be more successful without being too scattered in my development?

So what I suggest is – point blank – jump right in and get your hands dirty! Go to YouTube, watch a how-to video, watch a webinar, and then immediately start writing code. For example, if you want to try to understand jQuery, Infragistics has a lot of great examples there. Check out our YouTube channel, watch one of our jQuery How-To videos, download one of our great samples, and start dissecting it. Don't just read about it, jump in and do it. 

Coding is no different than anything else in life, you must do in order to be successful ... it's the only way to break our of your comfort zone.  Take that first step and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.

For more on Infragistics' latest release, be on the lookout for our official 14.1 launch next week!