Oracle APEX Design Suggestions

No, I don’t need any help designing a database, or the Oracle Application Express screens. And I’m not even after ideas for a new application, thank you. What I’m after is some suggestions on how to create design specs for APEX applications and any standards that could be followed. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I work for a fairly large software house where traditionally we’ve only worked with Oracle Forms. We’ve just finished developing our first commercial APEX application and we’re about to start on our next one, which will be considerably bigger.

We’ve been really lucky with our first commercial APEX application (I’ve been developing internal applications for years, which is why this isn’t our first APEX application). It was developed for one customer’s requirements, although we’ll sell it to many more, and was small in size with about 20 pages and a handful of new database objects (it will sit on our existing large database, hence the lack of new objects). It’s been developed to schedule and to estimate, which for the first project on a new technology that only I knew anything about is a small miracle. I’m very proud of this achievement, but I have had to be heavily involved with the project as the design wasn’t detailed enough.

On our Forms projects our designers have produced mock-ups of the forms using PowerPoint, which they’ve put into a word document with details of the table(s) behind the form and any processing required. As you might know, APEX is not the same as forms. It’s quicker to develop the page in APEX than it is to fiddle around in PowerPoint. With Forms we have one big application which we add new forms to, all using the same templates, so looking very similar. With APEX this isn’t the case and there are so many more options to consider. In our first application we’ve used a number of HideShow regions; how could you illustrate that in a design spec without doing two screen shots of the page?

Our new APEX project will be developed for a user group of 25+ customers, each with 10+ users. There will also be considerably more pages and database objects. So not thousands of users, but enough to make it more complex. We need to write design specs that have enough information for our customers to understand what will be developed and sign them off. We can then build a technical spec into this with enough additional information to satisfy our developers.

There are two elements to this; 1) how do we educate our designers to think APEX rather than Forms? and 2) how do we get the design down on paper? For the first, this is something for us to consider. Luckily this time I’m doing all the design and I’ll be thinking creatively. I’ll also have the opportunity to put in place design standards. But what should these standards be?

I know everyone will do this differently and have different ideas on what makes a good spec, but if you have any suggestions on how to produce good APEX design documents, or what you’ve tried that didn’t work, please let me know. Once this project is underway I’ll post about this again to let you know what I’ve learned.


Sara Blair is a freelance Oracle developer with over 10 years Oracle experience. She has been working with Oracle APEX for nearly 4 years since htmldb 1.5, and is available to hire through Silvercore Solutions.

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