One of the most frequent comments we get after we introduce our new GreenHouse by ICS solution to a customer is “this sounds a lot like Qt Design Studio.” And it’s no wonder. At ICS, we often talk about integrating user experience (UX) designers into the device development process in a way that allows them greater control over generating a “pixel-perfect” user interface — one that engineering can extend into the actual application.
If you’ve ever seen a demo of Qt Design Studio, you might recall that it starts off with someone designing a user interface while explaining that this software gives UX designers greater control.
And if you’ve seen a demo of GreenHouse, you know the first half talks about UX designers and how we want to afford them greater control.
Sounds the same, right? So I understand the confusion.
But in reality they could not be more different. Qt Design Studio is used to design UIs and create QML code that implements that design. GreenHouse is an application builder. GreenHouse uses a UX design — whether created with traditional UX tools like Figma and Axure or new tools like Qt Design Studio — and creates an application with an architecture that allows software developers to plugin and test business logic.
In other words, GreenHouse doesn’t replace or even compete with Qt Design Studio. It complements it.
Qt Design Studio and GreenHouse Work in Sync
Let me reiterate that these are complementary tools. Qt Design Studio is a UX builder while GreenHouse is an application builder that needs a UX builder. We created GreenHouse to improve the productivity of the device development team by supporting and integrating tools that are used by each member of the team. Certainly, some of these tools will be created by ICS — but we expect the vast majority of the tools will actually be either commercial or open source tools developed by others.
Qt Design Studio is one such tool that provides an approach for integrating UX design into a project. The bridge software that we wrote for Figma provides an alternative mechanism for companies that have selected Figma as their UX design tool. We fully expect that over time we’ll either write or work with others to design similar tools for other UX-focused tools such as Sketch and AdobeXD.
Integrating Qt Design Studio into GreenHouse
You have two options for creating a workflow that combines Qt Design Studio and GreenHouse.
In the case where Qt Design Studio is being used to create standalone components, you can import those components into GreenHouse today by following the instructions provided in the documentation. Namely, there is a feature that allows direct import of QML components into a GreenHouse application.
If Qt Design Studio was used to design the whole UX, a bridge is available in GreenHouse V1.3.
Once you’ve integrated these technologies — established a bridge between your UX design and GreenHouse — you can leverage its application builder functions to further accelerate your development. These are among the most interesting benefits of the current version of the GreenHouse application builder:
GreenHouse generates a rules-driven application architecture. This architecture is based on ICS’ experience in developing more than 50 new devices every year for more than a decade.
GreenHouse provides a plugin mechanism to implement business logic that keeps your code clean.
GreenHouse includes a built-in device simulator that allows you to test your device before the hardware is finalized and available in the quantity needed by your team. It provides useful features, such as fully scripting the backend, and record/playback.
GreenHouse prioritizes large-grain, reusable modules that eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel for complex subsystems like WiFi, Bluetooth and cloud connectivity.
GreenHouse clearly amplifies the strength of Qt Design Studio. When using Qt Design Studio alone, even after it generates the code for the UX you still have to create the application architecture, design in testability, write a hardware simulator, and address many of the other development functions. Adding GreenHouse eases this process. And using Figma together with the GreenHouse bridge provides an alternative path for bringing UX designers into the project.
Our goal is to help our customers rapidly develop intuitive and successful products. For that reason, we’re proud to be able to offer multiple choices on how to take this important step. Either approach allows you to move to GreenHouse and gain the significant benefits of an application builder for a touchscreen device project.
For more on GreenHouse, listen to our on-demand webinar.