Appian UI capabilities?

I am an Enterprise Architect, coming in halfway through a project, and I'm working with an Appian platform for the first time.  I have most recently worked extensively with Mendix, and I am an expert developer on that low-code platform.

I am trying to establish how 'rich' the Appian UI can be, but I find very few resources, either in terms of Appian material, or references to 'widgets' that might use richer interface solutions.  For example, it would appear to be impossible to use drag-and-drop, resizing of elements to change data dynamically in the background, copy-paste, right-click, etc., due to the lack of javascript integration.

Is this correct?  

Having asked my very experienced lead developer a few questions, his response:

  • Q:  Thanks  ... it helps me in terms of knowing that the Appian interface is quite dry and flat. :-)  To be clear; Appian can NOT use JavaScript?
  • A:  Exactly. And true. NO JS.  We do not implement any HTML or CSS stuff directly and no JavaScript. We have the graphical widgets provided by Appian.

If this is truly the case, then it would appear that Appian is unable to fulfil the UX requirements of the customer, which would be a shame to discover in the second Sprint!

Any help or information would be very appreciated.

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  • To clarify Appian's support here..

    Appian provides a rich set of UI components that can be assembled into an interface. See more info here on SAIL Components

    Next, Appian allows you to deploy interfaces in a pre-built knowledge worker UI called Tempo, in dedicated UIs called Sites or you may override font and color styling of our UI templates through use of Embedded SAIL.

    To create dynamic logic, as you would using JavaScript, you may use Appian's rules engine. This gives a powerful framework for creating dynamic user experiences and can easily tap into Appian Expression, Decision and Integration rules.

    Allowing developers to directly write JavaScript can create a number of development challenges.. such as maintaining JS security and not allowing XSS attacks on your site or ensuring your JS is compliant with all browsers and devices.

    By using Appian SAIL, developers are able to reliably build highly secure UIs that work on all web browsers and in a native mobile app while still providing a rich user experience. I gave a presentation on this a few years ago at an industry conference that might help you understand the benefits of Appian SAIL.

    We have rich documentation. Your search for the word "Widget" is applying Mendix vocabulary to Appian docs. We use the term Interface or SAIL Components.
  • Hi Malcolm,

    Thank you for your response!  I realise that I come at this problem with experience from a 'competitor's' PoV!  That is why I made the disclaimer early on ...

    I was already aware of the resources to which you link.  Our lead developer, who is probably the most experienced Appian developer in Germany, gave me quite a clear indication of the characteristics of the Appian UI, and I was looking for 'independent' confirmation.  I am aware of the security implications of JS; I am also aware that other platforms (such as Mendix) are able to offer UI functionality through use of JS, that Appian has effectively 'closed off'.  From a neutral PoV, (and I am tech neutral in this case because I'm in the role of architect / analyst working for the client, not developer), I simply want to satisfy the clients UX requirements.  It would appear that the Appian platform is currently not able to satisfy those requirements according to the information I currently have.  

    What I do find hard to believe is that a high-quality low-code platform in 2017 is unable to support basic UI techniques such as 'drag-and-drop' and 'copy-paste', where we successfully implemented this, using Mendix, in a very high security medical environment early in 2017, and passed the subsequent audit.  As stated, my objective is to find a way to achieve this using Appian, because the process is already invested in the Appian platform. 

    Possible workarounds would be to use the same kind of 'keystroke' functionality as the Jira web application:

    ... this would provide very rapid workflows for our client, but I haven't been able to establish a way to make this functionality available through the Appian interface.  I would be delighted to know how this could be achieved!

    Again - thanks for your response - I do appreciate it.

  • 0
    Appian Employee
    in reply to guyh0001
    As mentioned, Appian SAIL is a powerful architecture for building applications and our platform has prioritized security, reliability, and cross-platform operation above UI flexibility. There will always be capabilities you can implement in HTML, JS, and CSS that are not possible in Appian SAIL because those are full development platforms. I'm sure nothing previously implemented in JS for drag-and-drop in a UI can remotely qualify as "low-code" as it requires deep knowledge of web development to implement.

    If you are working with an existing client, then I would recommend contacting the Appian Account Executive who can point you to appropriate local resources to assist. A direct conversation with some of our local experts would be best to understand your client requirements and how best to fulfill them. To understand the skills of any Appian implementer you are currently working with, the client can request the A Score of the implementer to understand their exact background working with Appian.

    As far as competitor positioning, we appreciate you keeping your posts towards inquiries about the Appian platform and not marketing for other vendors.
  • Again, thanks Malcolm.

    I completely understand your point about "JS for drag-and-drop" not being standard 'out of the box' low-code functionality.  But it would be nice to be able to add this functionality to our Appian project, and I am now of the opinion that it's not possible, which is a shame.  I don't think it's unfair to say that I'm not the only one to see this as an opportunity for the Appian platform! :-)

    As far as our current development resources are concerned, I have no doubt of their overall competence and experience.  At the generic level, everything works perfectly in terms of Agile development, understanding of requirements etc.

    Finally: there is no such thing as a 'perfect platform'; all have strengths and weaknesses.  I found it interesting, as a developer, to compare Appian to my other experiences, and to look at it from a UML / BPMN PoV.  I very much liked the fact that the development environment is fully web-enabled, which is not always the case! :-)  I am looking forward to seeing how the Appian platform works in the full DTAP environment as we move into Acceptance testing.