REVIEWER: Aaron Newman, president, Techrigy, Inc.

BACKGROUND: Techrigy’s SM2 (Social Media Monitor) is an application that allows companies to monitor and measure the buzz in social media around their brands, companies, executives, products and even competitors. Brand managers, as well as PR agencies, have come to understand that the ability to view what people are saying in the blogosphere, social networks, message boards, forums and opinion sites can give them clear visibility into their customers’ likes and dislikes about their products. They can also gather perceptions of their company and even insight into the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. In addition, SM2 allows for the finding and engagement of influencers in the marketplace to help create more buzz around their product.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft Windows 2003, ASP .NET 2.0, IIS 6.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The key to building a killer application is the user interface, which can either block end users from doing their jobs or enable them. SM2 required powerful and flexible graphing and charting to provide our clients with visibility into social media. The problem was finding a charting control with the power to meet all our requirements.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Dundas Charts provided a complete set of charting features, including a full range of chart types, complete programmatic control and robust visual capabilities.

STRENGTHS: We’ve identified two key strengths: the visual impact of the charts and the component’s flexibility. As a developer of user interfaces for the past 15 years, I have learned that eye candy can make or break the user’s first impression of a product. That first impression is typically the most important. When you choose a charting control, you need one with the visual wow factor: when the end user opens the chart for the first time, you want them to say, “Wow.” Dundas Chart provided the wow factor by giving shadowing, shading, 3D capabilities and a comprehensive set of chart types from which to pick. In addition, the Enterprise Edition provided a toolbar with which our end users could change these setting as they saw fit. For application designers to get the look they want, charts need the ability to be manipulated. Every designer has a different perspective, so to accommodate the designer, a chart must give complete control over the rendering of various chart components. This means access and programmatic control over everything from placement of legends, series and points to the color, width and length of lines. Dundas really stood out by providing granular control as well as giving the developer custom paint events, control over the order of different items, plus many other unique capabilities.

WEAKNESSES: Employing Dundas Chart was not without issue. For another project, we planned to release a software solution as part of a virtual appliance for sale to multiple clients. Unfortunately, the Enterprise Edition of Dundas Chart does not have an option for a run-time free distribution license. As a consequence, we would be required to purchase a Dundas Chart license for each customer to which we sold. The economics of the software simply didn’t support this, so we will likely have to find a different solution for this new software package.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The user interface team at Techrigy spent several weeks evaluating the most popular charting tools available. The decision was made to go with Dundas Chart, despite the fact that their feature-rich Enterprise Edition was more expensive than competing products.

DELIVERABLES: More than 15 charts were used, and we’re planning the implementation of Dundas Map for phase two.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Dundas provides full support during the software’s evaluation period and gives a thorough set of fully documented sample applications. This was more than enough to get our team through all of the proof-of-concept tests for the charts.

DOCUMENTATION: An abundance of cool features look and work fine in a demo. But if you don’t have copious amounts of documentation and samples - and a first-class knowledge base - then the developers building the application will end up frustrated trying to use the control. The wasted time and effort could easily outweigh the cost of the software. Fortunately, Dundas’s documentation was complete and easy to understand.

Dundas Chart
Dundas Data Visualization, Inc.
250 Ferrand Drive, Suite 500
Toronto, ON Canada M3C 3G8
(416) 467-9100
http://www.dundas.com/

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