Author archives of

Kirk Fretwell

At KBMax, Kirk leads our training program to ensure our customers and partners can easily learn our platform and maintain it moving forward.

NEW FEATURES: Taking Things to the Third Dimension

Welcome to the third and final article about our newly-released features. Our previous entries described our enhanced UI that your users will love and improvements to our rules engine that make your administrators happy.  This third entry pops into the third dimension: we’ll talk about the 3D scene, and how it’s even more powerful than before.

A reminder: the 3D scene helps your customers visualize their configuration they’re making in real-time. From storage sheds at home to lighting structures in offices, many of our customers choose to implement a 3D scene alongside their configurator: the visual feedback is proven to reduce errors, minimize costly returns, and build a level of engagement that helps complete the sale.

Here are the improvements and new features we’ve made to our 3D scenes.

Faster scene performance. 

When moving around in the scene, we’ve made the movement much more fluid.  Scene rules have been optimized, so the changes to the scene based on user selections appear more quickly.  The faster speed can be seen on all platforms — from laptops to mobile devices.

Deeper “drag and drop” functionality with the new “Draggable” Snap block. 

Your product may have components that change in position along a plane or surface, like placing a shelf on a wall, or furniture in a room.  The new “Draggable” block gives your users a new way to adjust their configuration. Now, they can drag your window on a wall to position it intuitively.  Or drag a lawn mower into your shed to see if the shed is big enough. Your imagination (and your business rules) are the limit!

Specifically, this Snap block allows you to take any object in your scene, and define if — and how — your user can use their mouse or finger to drag it around in the scene. For example, to make a chair or sofa draggable, define a drag surface for each as the rug beneath it. The furniture will stay on the rug.

Dragging can be along any surface, not just a flat plane. Your users can drag an antenna on the surface of your remote-control car to find the best position.  They can upload an image and drag it to an attractive position on an article of clothing.

Highlight and Ghost Objects.

As you see in the draggable example above, an object now can have a “highlight” (a color border).  Also available is the opposite: a “ghost” (a level of transparency). You can highlight or ghost any object in the scene.  For example, call attention to the door of your car by highlighting it. When it’s clicked, “ghost” the door so it fades from view, revealing the car interior.

Make any Model Clickable

With the new “When model is clicked” snap block, you can define events based on the user’s clicks in the scene.  Start animations, add product options, release or apply logical constraints.

Automatically Frame the Scene

As your product changes size, or elements are added and removed from the scene, you can now ensure that elements in your scene always remain visible, no matter how the scene changes.  The “Frame Scene” block also allows for extra space around the scene, which helps if you want to include an image of the scene in an output document, like a PDF.

New 3D Scene Object: Billboard.

You’ve always been able to add text to your 3D scene, by either applying the text to a plane within the scene or by creating a hotspot which always floats above the scene.  Now the new Billboard object gives you the best of both worlds: a text area within the scene, which can be obscured by other objects, but it always faces the camera (like a hotspot).

The Billboard is another way you can include text information within the scene.  Like other scene objects, billboards are dynamic: they can change depending on user action or business rules.  Change the text or color to show an important dimension or part number. Create a collection of billboards your new users will find useful, but experienced users can turn off with a click.

We hope you enjoy these new enhancements to our 3D experience!  Visit our online documentation for details on these features at any time by clicking the help bubble always shown in the lower-left corner of your Administration Interface.

Improvements To Our Admin Experience Have Arrived!

Welcome to the second article about our new features that we just released. Last time we detailed the UI enhancements that we rolled out and this installment will focus on the improvements that we made to our back-end rules engine called Snap.

Here are a few of our favorite under-the-hood programming updates that will make your Snap code even more scalable and easier to maintain.


Enhanced Administrative Interface

We want to deliver the most user-friendly interface for writing and maintaining rules for our KBMax Administrators.  Here are the main updates we’ve made to the admin interface.

Admins now have a preview pane.

While working with all of these new element types, wouldn’t it be nice to have a preview of what your configurator is going to look like while you’re building it? Well, we took care of that for you.  When designing a form by creating elements in the configurator tree (the left pane) and editing those elements in the center pane, you now get immediate feedback from an example form shown in the new right pane.  The preview highlights the element you have selected, and can also be used to set default values of your fields.This pane is adjustable: resizing it is an easy way to learn how your responsive form will respond to different screen sizes.

 

The configurator tree is easier to use.

The menus for adding UI components are re-organized, with elements, buttons, and layout controls grouped into sections for easy scanning.

Snap errors are easier to find, more clearly defined, and some can fix themselves.

As a KBMax administrator, you know you write your business logic by dragging blocks of code that “snap” together. Previously, if your Snap code block had an error with one of its slots, that entire block was highlighted with a red color.  For blocks with many slots, it could be hard to find which slot was the source of the problem.

In version 3.3, the specific troublesome slot in the block is highlighted in red.  Furthermore, details on the error appear when the red slot is clicked. And, in some cases, intelligent assistance appears next to the error if Snap can predict the most likely ways to resolve the error.  It’s like the “fix me” feature your users enjoy… only now it’s for administrators, too.


New configurator rule type: the Field Rule.

A new rule type, called a field rule, will run its code only when a specific field was changed by the user in the UI. Furthermore, field rules run before any other code, even option filters. For example, these rules can help you strip whitespace, reformat, or otherwise manipulate the input before it’s used to drive logic elsewhere.


New Configurator Snap Blocks

Regex Snap blocks for matching string patterns

Now, matching user input with important keywords is even easier.  Regular Expressions can now be used for matching strings. You can ensure input text contains certain data, or conforms to a certain structure.

New rule triggers

Now, you can trigger a rule when an expander changes state, or when a tab changes state.  For example, you may have media in the viewer change depending on which tab or expander is on display.

Arrays now support more query blocks 

Query blocks are Snap’s SQL-like way to gather results from a source of data rows like a table, database, function, or array.  Previously, query blocks could not insert or delete elements of an array the same way you could entries in a table or database. Now, query blocks can manipulate arrays the same way you do tables or databases.

We hope you enjoy these new enhancements to our back-end experience!  Visit our online documentation for details on these features at any time by clicking the help bubble always shown in the lower-left corner of your Administration Interface.

Just In: New Features Just For You

In this blog post, we’d like to introduce you to the new UI updates available in KBMax version 3.3.  In future blog posts, we’ll cover the other enhancements: the enhanced Snap programming language and back-end infrastructure, as well as the new features in our 3D scenes.

So, what’s new with our User Interface?

Our New Skins Feature

KBMax Cloud is no stranger to modern web design. Since the beginning, our user interface has been based on Responsive Design, which lets you create one design for both desktop and mobile screens. In this release, we’ve taken our commitment to deliver the best possible user experience even deeper: we’ve implemented Material Design.

What is Material Design? In a nutshell, Material Design is a new standard for presenting data that makes it easier to use. From mobile devices to touch screens, Material Design gets you the information you need, and then gets out of the way.

Starting now, our customers have the choice to remain in our “classic” skin, or change to the new material design.  All the features listed here work in both skins. And you can always change from one to the other and back.

Our New UI Layout Controls

Previously, the flow of your configurator fields was simple: fields were always read from the top to the bottom, one field at a time, in a tall strip.  This is ideal for smaller screens and simple questions, but you asked for more: the ability to build complex forms. You now have a broad set of tools to create your user interface.

Thanks to the new GridRow and GridColumn controls, you can now display fields side-by-side.  FirstName and LastName? City, State and Zip? What your user expects together can now be shown together, on the same line:

You can also arrange many fields into a visual structure that’s easy to understand:

The new Tab control helps you group your fields so your users see them as equal options.  You can even have nested tabs (as seen in the “Windows” tab in the example below).

If the new Tab control expands and collapses information horizontally, the new Expander and Accordion controls do the same vertically.  The Expander and Accordion are both great tools for mobile-device audiences, as it gives those small-screen visitors easy control with large tap targets.

 

The Expander can express hierarchical information: users can “drill down” into a specific group of details in a single expander with just a click, and click again to collapse that section.Group a number of expanders together into an Accordion: only one expander can be open at any time in an accordion group, with the others closing automatically.
 
Expander exampleAccordion Example

 

Buttons have also been improved.  Our standard button now comes in a total of 3 different flavors:

  1. A single Button, ideal for use on its own.  This is the same button you’ve worked with before.
  2. A new Dropdown Button, which can offer many different options in a small space
  3. A new Toolbar of buttons, which can present buttons side-by-side into a menu.

Regardless of type, any of these buttons can include a custom icon.  You can also now set the color of any button, to guide your user’s attention.

Even More UI Enhancements!

There are even more UI components to work with, including the new HTML Element (which allow you to display web assets stored elsewhere on the web in your configurator) and Text element (which gives you fine-grained control over how text is displayed). Check out the full list of our UI enhancements here.

We hope you enjoy these new additions to our configurators, scenes, logic, and infrastructure!  Visit our online documentation for details on these features at any time by clicking the help bubble always shown in the lower-left corner of your Administration Interface.