In this new Development Spotlight series, Jeremy Penner, our Vice President of Product Development, will keep you informed on what’s new and important in RenWeb. 

Our top development priority right now is rewriting Silverlight pages within RenWeb 1 using HTML5. To that end, we have recently released the first of many newly-designed screens. Throughout the summer, we will release additional new pages exclusively to the Chrome browser.

Why did we decide to release first to the Chrome browser?

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Our older version of the RenWeb 1 Students screen.

We know the end of the school year is perhaps your busiest time and the last thing we want to do is disrupt your workflow. But we also want to give you early access to our new screens so that you can see what’s coming up. Additionally, we’re very interested in your feedback so that we can design a product that—first and foremost—is usable, intuitive, and makes your job easier.

Because the Chrome browser does not support the Silverlight plugin, administrator-related functionality is limited. That makes the Chrome browser a perfect beta-test platform for us. All enhancements are additive and, to be frank, anything we add is an immediate improvement. On Friday, May 6th, we released the first features of the Student area to the Chrome browser. The new experience opened up demographic edits and, among other enhancements, provided a complete overhaul of the look and feel.

Google Material Design in RenWeb 1

The design itself follows the Google Material Design methodology and mirrors what we have built in the My Classroom area of RenWeb 1. We chose this design approach for two reasons.

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Our new HTML5 version of the Students area.

First, it is familiar. Material Design is being adopted more and more each day by both websites and apps. This helps us make RenWeb intuitive to use. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find what you’re looking for. This is a major challenge when redesigning a data-dense layout like RenWeb Desktop (where you can see a lot of information in one view). In today’s world, devices are king and we have to design with many of them in mind. In the K-12 education market, Chromebooks and smaller, low-cost devices are growing in popularity. This means that we cannot have views with fixed labels and data fields. What renders well on a 21” monitor does not render well on a 12” laptop. Thus, our design must be responsive so that your device choices are not limited by our application.

The second reason we chose Google’s material design methodology was the popularity of Google Apps for Education. More and more schools are taking advantage of Google’s free suite of applications. This, again, speaks to familiarity. With the increase of Google products in schools, it makes sense for RenWeb to reflect that popular user experience.

Above all, we want to develop a product that is both functional and enjoyable to use.

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The new Gradebook grid with autosave.

Transitions and updates are always hard. Our commitment to you is that we are working as quickly as possible to give you a product that is not limiting, but enabling. You should make device choices based on your school’s needs, not the limitations of your software. I hope that during this transition you have seen that we are eager to hear what you have to say. For example, based on user feedback following the release of RenWeb 1, we quickly made improvements to the Gradebook area including a new grid and, more recently, autosaving (as of the May 6th release). We are constantly striving to create the best experience possible.

We’ll send you communications with release details as we update screens with our new design. Be sure to check your email to get the latest information. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact Customer Support at 866-800-6593.