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SYS-CON MEDIA: News Item

Visual WebGui Saves FindItByMe.com Two Years

"VWG has allowed me to come to market anywhere from 24-30 months ahead of anything I could have remotely dreamed of."

"Visual WebGui came to the rescue and allowed us to create interfaces that provided the best of the asp.net experience and the best of the WinForms experience. It was the only viable alternative I had to put this website into production," says FindItByMe's John Graffio

Overview
The web site www.finditbyme.com is a multi-lingual local community search engine which showcases local businesses and attractions. It was launched in beta mode in late 2008 as the flagship product of the company after six years of part-time development and one year of full time development.

The company FindItByMe.com, Inc. was formally created in February of 2008, even though research and development began in late 2002. The company's founder believes the local search market has incredible growth potential, and at the same is tragically underserved. So the long process of gathering raw GIS data and building the massive database was started in 2002.

Business needs
The project was to create a multi-lingual search engine that runs as a website accessible to the public from any standard web browser. This means that any internet user should be able to surf the site with no need for any specific installations or browser plug-ins.

In addition to, and as a result of, this requirement, the search engine needed a technology that provides a secure environment. A simple deployment process of the unique interface was also important for the project's success.

Another important aspect in choosing the right solution for this project was the need to be able to leverage staff’s existing WinForms skills. Avoiding the steep learning curve of aspx and web development in general was a crucial prerequisite in executing this project, as time and resources were limited.

The function of the site had to support modular programming methods and this was best served by .NET technologies, as the developers had more experience in this toolset. Internally, the product had to support the full range of technologies that the .NET platform has to offer, like reflection, LINQ and good support for SQL Server 2008.

The design of the UI had to be able to support something that WinForms applications have enjoyed from the outset- being able to refresh just a part of the display surface based on user interaction.

The Solution
Management looked for a solution that would allow the delivery of the FindItByMe.com search engine under all those requirements as a website, while at the same time allowing developers to leverage existing WinForms skills.

The team came across Visual WebGui and found that its framework/platform solution perfectly fit their needs as it allows the creation of web applications using WinForms methodologies. This meant that there was absolutely no need to spend valuable time and resources on learning new languages and getting used to a new development environment.

"Visual WebGui came to the rescue and allowed us to create interfaces that provided the best of the asp.net experience and the best of the WinForms experience. Being able to display mixed content and control is something I have never expected to find in a product as technically accessible as Visual WebGui," said FindItByMe's John Graffio.

In addition, the Visual WebGui solution provided a simple and familiar development process which greatly contributed to getting the product to market quicker than expected.

"The Visual WebGui solution was the only viable alternative I had to put this website into production," Graffio said. "If this product did not exist, I would not be where I am today in terms of development and stage of the project. I found Visual WebGui by accident and although it was a beta product, it was easy to use and work with. By and large the site has been in production since July 2007 with very little interruption due to product anomalies."

Benefits
It would not be wrong to say that Visual WebGui was the only choice FindItByMe.com, Inc. had for executing this project. Visual WebGui, however, is far from being a compromise and it provided the best of the asp.net experience and the best of the WinForms experience which contribute to both design time and runtime benefits to the search engine.

The design time benefits focus on the fact that Visual WebGui which is based on WinForms API and provides a WinForms identical designer saved FinditByMe.com valuable time since they could leverage their entire WinForms skill set. The FindItByMe.com website was revised seven different times. With Visual WebGui's WinForms environment, each revision took between one to five days, while using classic asp.net would have taken one to three weeks each. This significant reduction in time was possible since Visual WebGui enables to work in standardized methods while with asp.net "there is no good way to standardize... and the revisions I have made are equivalent of twelve different screens in asp.net which would have entailed extensive changes to the html markup."

Visual WebGui provided a simple deployment process that requires only a single dll file in order to update the site. An asp.net site, on the other hand, requires tracking all individual pages and performing change management when updating the site. This process is not necessary while maintaining Visual WebGui applications so there is a significant time and change management savings on deployment as well.

Visual WebGui's architecture is secure by design and presents an impenetrable pipeline with no need for security countermeasures which again saved FindItbyMe.com time and resources. In addition, this 'empty client' architecture leaves very small footprints on the client since all processing is done on the server and only little data is transferred via the optimized pipeline between the server and the client. This contributes to the impressive responsiveness and the performance of the website.

The UI benefits are centered mainly on one property: page refreshes are transparent with Visual WebGui. Conventional web sites, force users into the paradigm of the back and forward button, as well as the screen reload. "Now that everyone is used to this, this backwards functionality is expected even though it serves no useful purpose. I should be able to select content based on what the screen offers me, move around the site in an orderly fashion or in a disorderly fashion if I so choose." Said John Graffio. With a little forethought and using some of the latest controls, Visual WebGui can be used to create sites that allow users to browse haphazardly or in a more structured fashion.

In terms of cost savings, Visual WebGui allowed to complete the project with only a single developer in a year. According to Graffio, the company saved at least $250,000 this year since with any other solution, there would have been the costs of additional developers and equipment. Furthermore, Graffio stated that Visual WebGui saved the company a remarkable amount of time.

"VWG has allowed me to come to market anywhere from 24-30 months ahead of anything I could have remotely dreamed of."

More Stories By Marissa Levy

Marissa is a technology writer based in Jerusalem, Israel covering the local software, wireless, and start-up markets. Prior to her coverage of Israeli hi-tech, Marissa worked as a reporter in several English language news outlets. Her writing has been featured in prominent publications such as USA TODAY, FOXNews.com, and the Jerusalem Post. She holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. She can be reached at [email protected]

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