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I am currently designing a solution about IVR's (Interactive Voice Solution) system that should enable user design their own flows according to their needs. In this solution, user should need to arrange questions, answers, messages and their relationship with keypad or with voice commands according to their business flow.

After taking some time about researching about options, we conclude that visual programming interfaces can be a good option. According to my research, I found some libraries related to show flows:

NoFlo- http://noflojs.org/

Meemoo- http://meemoo.org/

jsPlumb- http://jsplumbtoolkit.com/home/jquery.html



mxGraph- http://www.jgraph.com/mxgraph.html

Node-RED- http://nodered.org/

GoJS- http://gojs.net/latest/index.html (paid)

My own experience with MAX MSP,Grasshoper (generative modelling plug-in works for Rhino), Visual programming interfaces can be really complicated while building complex structures. On the other hand, it is easier since it creates a better feedback loop compared to text based programming.

There are also some visual programming tools like, a popular example at these days, Scratch, http://scratch.mit.edu/ developed for learning how to code.

A favourite subject for Ph.D. dissertations in software engineering is graphical, or visual programming. […] Nothing even convincing, much less exciting, has yet emerged from such efforts. I am persuaded that nothing will. (Frederick Brooks The Mythical Man Mont)

There are games that are also using visual programming elements like (Drag-drop, rubber connections, clustering several elements into one, input and output parts - ex: jigsaw)

After collecting these all information, instead of being more clear about the way, I feel that I am lost in many different views and could not find solid information about whether they are working good for non-tech users. Can you please your knowledge or experience if you already worked on such a project?

Thank you,

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1 Answer 1

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I've worked on visual programming systems/languages and I agree with Frederick Brooks. Graphical or diagrammatic or any kind of non-text based languages do not make good general purpose programming languages. Text is very efficient at describing complex things, especially behaviors and actions, usually much better than non-text. A picture is worth 1000 words only in special cases.

But special purpose graphical languages can be good applied to limited, domain specific problems. For instance LabVIEW has been successfully applied to many problems within it's target niche.

These domain specific graphical languages sometimes are quite usable by non-technical people, but they're no silver bullet. They (usually) still require a significant investment in learning the language and system, and even then the problem must be clearly understood to attempt to express it within the graphical language/system.

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Interested in how you formed your opinion and what visual programming systems/languages you worked on as I am running around with an idea for a visual interface for a couple of programming related tasks. W/Could you share links to some systems (instead of libraries) for me to analyse? –  Marjan Venema Jan 5 at 11:36
I agree based on my experience with visual languages in a few domains. They work OK but there are other representations of process logic that work equally well. @Abektes, one point of confusion in a visual/diagrammatic language is the meaning of nodes and connections between nodes. You need to decide (1) whether nodes are objects, processes, or the result of a process (a system state) and (2) what the connection between two nodes means. Not surprisingly, people interpret diagrams differently and the meaning of nodes and connections is, often, at the root of the differences. –  user1757436 Jan 6 at 19:26
@MarjanVenema - I haven't worked on this stuff in years (but I do keep an eye on it out of interest). In 90s I helped make something called PARTS Workbench. The main problem was as complexity increased you get a mass of wiring which is harder to understand than comparable code. As long as the problem is fairly simple I think visual programming is feasible. –  obelia Jan 6 at 19:35
Thanks obelia. Googling for that brought up some interesting links. –  Marjan Venema Jan 7 at 7:37
Hey @user1757436 thanks for giving some insights.Sorry for late reply, i was mobilized. I was thinking using connection for showing the flow. We are trying to create dialog concept for IVR's.I ll keep all u guys updated if i find something valuable... Thanks again –  Abektes Jan 10 at 8:50

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