Iterative UI design with Storyboard Suite’s Photoshop Re-import feature

April 23rd, 2014

“We nailed the UI design in one take!”
Said no design team. Ever. Nor should they. Design takes time.

UI design process isn’t linear, and design and graphics aren’t finalized and locked down after the initial creation. Initial embedded UI designs can be a bit of a stab in the dark. At best, they are an intelligent guess based on what we know about the customer requirements in the early stages of development. It’s possible that the hardware hasn’t even been selected for the final product when the design process starts. With Crank’s Storyboard Suite, that’s ok.

Storyboard provides a change-friendly solution to modifying an application with the Photoshop re-import feature, allowing designers and developers to continually improve prototypes in parallel, without negatively impacting existing functionality.

Photoshop Re-import Design Iteration

Following the principles of Lean UX, teams iterate through assumptions and designs. What we think we know at the beginning of a project evolves into something entirely different by the time a product goes to market. Storyboard allows teams to follow agile processes to quickly create UI iterations to test assumptions. After creating your prototype in Storyboard, you can simulate the application on your desktop to immediately see the changes that were made. Taking hands-on testing a step further–because you never really know how a product feels until you get to interact with it–you can export the application and run it on an Android tablet to get a real feel of the UX and verify that the workflow makes sense. When refinements are required, you can easily update the project in Storyboard using the Photoshop re-import feature, and re-export the application. Ultimately, this testing and refinement leads to a beautiful final design that meets customer needs.

So how simple is it to import design changes into a Crank Storyboard application that’s already in the midst of development? Check out the video to see for yourself.


Crank Interview from Day 1 at Freescale Technology Forum

April 9th, 2014

Day 1 at FTF2014 was busy. Busy, but great.

Crank at Freescale Technology Forum

We had the opportunity to talk with a number of enthusiastic developers about exciting embedded projects they are working on–everything from wearable technology (for humans AND pets) to consumer electronics to automotive infotainment systems. A lot of folks were interested in checking out Storyboard Designer in action and were intrigued by how fast we are able to get a functioning application prototype built with it. “You were able to build that user interface in Storyboard using your Photoshop file? Cool!”

Of course, we’d also brought along medical, automotive, 3D, and animation demo applications that we’ve built using Freescale i.MX-series high performance processors with Crank Storyboard Suite. Those generated a lot of great discussions.

Perhaps the highlight of Day 1 however, was getting a chance to interview with Andy Frame, from ARM, to chat about Crank Storyboard and its impact on improving user interface development for embedded applications. Check us out!

And that’s just Day 1. The rest of the show promises to bring a lot more interesting discussions and technology revelations.


Crank Software off to Freescale Technology Forum 2014 – April 8-11

April 1st, 2014

While Spring is working hard to make a comeback here in Canada, Winter is still trying her best to keep us in her grips for another couple of weeks. It’s 4 degrees Celsius here today. 39F for our American friends. It’s approaching 30 degrees Celsius in Dallas, so we are pretty pumped to be headed to Freescale Technology Forum 2014 next week! Beautiful weather aside, we are excited to take Crank Software on the road and share some cool i.MX-series demos and Storyboard Suite walkthroughs with Embedded Engineers and Designers.

FTF 2014 promises to deliver many opportunities to learn about Freescale’s embedded ecosystem and collaborate with engineers to help shape the future of the embedded space.

If you are at FTF 2014, come find the Crank Software team. We’d love to show you how to quickly design and develop stunning User Interfaces for embedded applications. See examples of demo applications we’ve built using Freescale i.MX-series high performance processors with Crank Storyboard Suite. We love doing live demos to showcase how we can take designs created in Photoshop, import them into Storyboard Designer, and simulate or export a functioning prototype to a target device within minutes. Don’t take us at our word though, come and see for yourself!

We hope to be blogging, tweeting, and posting photos from the event, so stay tuned for updates from the show floor in Dallas. If you’re attending FTF 2014, we are looking forward to seeing you!

If you don’t plan to be in Dallas next week, take a moment to download a 30-day evaluation and try out the Storyboard Suite first hand. For inspiration, check out this sweet Competition Dashboard built by Auto Meter using Crank Storyboard and a Freescale i.MX53 processor running QNX.





Speeding Time to Market for GUI Designs

March 17th, 2014

Delays in getting an embedded UI to market are costly in terms of development resources as well as competitive advantage. The process is often lengthy and tedious, setting back launch dates and driving up development expenses. This can be improved using some best-practice approaches to speeding time-to-market.

In traditional GUI design, a user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) team creates a prototype on desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML or Flash, submits it for approval, and then transfers it—for most of the remainder of the development process—to the engineering team. This design process presents the first major obstacle in time-to-market and is also what often results in a less-than-desirable UI. Once that critical UI design hand-off occurs, embedded system developers proceed to re-implement the prototype for the embedded system. The result is that the original prototype, in essence, becomes a throwaway, since the performance observed in the desktop application bears no resemblance to the performance of the target platform. As embedded system developers go about the process of re-implementing the prototype—and attempting to replicate the UI—they inevitably make changes and sacrifice features in order to fulfill their mandate, which is to make it run on the target. Read More >>>

Hitting up Embedded World 2014 – Crank Style

February 18th, 2014

It’s that time of year again. The folks here at Crank are getting geared up to head to Embedded World 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany, next week from February 25 – 27.

Getting the opportunity to showcase Storyboard Suite to a receptive audience always gets us pumped, and this year we have even more to get excited about. We released Storyboard Suite 3.2 this past November, and can’t wait to show off the latest features in our booth. Whether you are involved in designing or developing user interfaces for embedded systems, we’ve been innovating and adding features with you in mind. Did you know that 3.2 allows you to re-import Photoshop files as you make revisions? We don’t mind if you need to tweak your graphics 10 times. Storyboard can handle that. Working with 3D elements in your design? 3D edit mode can help make editing them simple and quick. Want to hear about more new features geared toward making it easier to integrate designers into the development process? Come chat with us in our booth– Hall 4, Booth 539. We’re super friendly and look forward to meeting new attendees and reacquainting with familiar faces.

Check out some of the 3.2 features you can expect to see in our booth:

Demos? We’ve got ‘em! Sure, we could go on and on about how great we think Storyboard is, but we know you’d rather see it in action and check out some awesome interfaces that have been built using it.

Some of the demos and target platforms showcasing Storyboard that we’ll be showing include:

While you’re cruising the exhibit floor, don’t forget to check out some of our partners showcasing Storyboard technology in their booths:

We hope to be blogging, tweeting, and posting photos, so stay tuned for updates from the show floor in Germany. If you are attending Embedded World, we are looking forward to seeing you! Perhaps we will be giving away free stuff!*

If you don’t find yourself in Germany at Embedded World next week, take a moment to download a 30-day evaluation and try out the Storyboard Suite first hand.

*No guarantee of free stuff

Storyboard and Qt integration

January 24th, 2014

Storyboard was created to be a portable and platform agnostic solution.  This allows us to give the same experience across Linux, QNX, Green Hills and so on.  We often get asked how we deal with or compete with Qt.  We see Qt as a platform abstraction layer like all of our other systems, it just happens to have an optional graphics component.


Recently we have been looking into how Storyboard could integrate into or communicate with a Qt based application.  Storyboard gives UI developers and designers an extremely fast and efficient way to build modern HMI solutions (you can see an example here of how Storyboard differs from QML for UI Development).  This solution is cross platform and extremely small and efficient.  Users of Qt are also generally building cross platform applications and using QtGui may not be an option due to memory and performance concerns.  Storyboard can be used in conjunction with Qt in order to solve these problems and still give the developer a cross platform solution.

One option to integrate Storyboard and Qt is to run Storyboard as a Qt widget.  This allows Storyboard content to be displayed and interacted with onscreen with any other Qt based widget elements.

Another option allows users to remove the QtGui component and use Storyboard for the entire UI.  This will also have the benefit of saving memory and increased performance.  In this option Storyboard is run as the user interface and a non-GUI Qt application is written to preform backend logic.  The Qt application can then communicate with Storyboard using a Qt/Storyboard IO bridge allowing data and events to seamlessly be transfered between the 2 environments.

As can be seen Storyboard and Qt are not a mutually exclusive solution, they can work together.  I think Qt users will find that Storyboard gives them a rich visual design tool and will help speed their designs to market while still maintaining a cross platform application.

Storyboard Suite @ CES 2014

January 7th, 2014

Happy New Year!

There is nothing like starting off the new year with a massive show like CES, in Las Vegas!

Crank Software’s Storyboard Suite will be well represented at CES this year. Storyboard 3.2 will be showcased in the Texas Instruments Technology Village (N115 in the North Hall) as well as in the Green Hills Software Hospitality Suite located at the Venetian Hotel.

In-Car and Medical

Expect to see Storyboard Suite 3.2 running on a Jacinto 6 powering an automotive cluster unit as well as on a Beagle Bone Black displaying a rich medical device user interface.

Advanced 3D Cluster

Green Hills is demonstrating Storyboard Embedded Engine with advanced 3D cluster graphics on INTEGRITY RTOS and the Texas Instruments Jacinto 6 platform.

Our president Brian Edmond will be at the show so please send us an email if you’d like to set up a meeting to discuss how Storyboard Suite can be a part of your next UI project.

Read More >>>

Storyboard supports Green Hills INTEGRITY

January 3rd, 2014

Crank is always improving and expanding its support for platforms and operating systems. The most recent of these is support for Green Hills INTEGRITY. We recently had the chance to work on this port for the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas. You can check out our cluster demo in the Green Hills suite.

Crank Software Named Freescale Proven Partner for Making Graphical UI Development Easy with Storyboard Suite

December 19th, 2013

Crank Software announced today that it has been named a Proven Partner in the Freescale® Semiconductor Connect partner program. Crank Software develops Storyboard Suite, a turnkey UI development software that makes it easy for i.MX users to build graphical UIs and ultimately get their products to market faster.

“Creating an embedded device with a successful, graphical UI is a priority for many of our i.MX customers,” said Michael Norman, Software and Tools Technical Marketing Manager, Microcontroller business at Freescale. “We chose to partner with Crank Software because we are confident that with Storyboard Suite, our customers can get the best UIs possible for their devices, taking advantage of a collaborative process and short development time.”

Read More>>

Crank Software Releases Storyboard Suite 3.2

November 20th, 2013

Crank Software is excited to announce the release of Storyboard Suite 3.2 today!

Storyboard Suite 3.2 brings increased functionality to UI designers and embedded developers continuing to make it easy for your teams to develop, prototype, and refine a UI until it’s perfect for a customer – both in function and in design.

Additionally, we’ve improved the overall usability of Storyboard so you now benefit from simpler tools for off-screen content editing, reference anchor points for more precise alignment, and control property functions for inline math. And, Lua can now be used to create animations and directly set table attributes.

Read more about Storyboard Suite 3.2 features >>