Things have been a little vague lately. At the end of last week and Monday, I finally got clean Ajax communication twixt hither and yon. JSON.NET, it turns out, does a fine job of sending the object. I haven't taken the time to understand the algorithm exactly but it contains data deeply enough to support my current requirement. As I get past the demo phase, I'm sure I will revisit the topic. I actually made the old demo, category list that clicks to reveal a list of details, work. It made for a good boundary.
So, I turn my mind to user interface. I have an incumbent application with a particularly old-school user interface. It works surprisingly well but it's looks stodgy. I figure I need to find an approach that does two main things: organize a lot of complexity into some sort of workspaces or toolsets or something, and have some snap so that this thing sells once it's complete.
I actually spent a couple of days reading about user interface. I am amazed at how little real discussion there is. There's Jacob Nielsen, of course. He's really the main game if you are interested in learning things about user interface. In two days, the only practical advice was his. His 2008 best apps on the web list included the observation that toolbars has won. He had been reluctant before, but a number of the best apps had made good use of them.
I looked around for some info on that idea and found that the world is surprisingly short of straightforward user interface frameworks. Seems like imagination in the jquery world ended at with tabs and widgets. Eventually though, I found two toolbar packages. Both were pretty nice. One, however, was abandoned. The other had a nice thing it calls a backstage. A menu in the upper left that opens an overlay page structured into a two level heirarchical menu and an information pane (though I haven't been able to get the info pane to work yet). You can check it out HERE.
Actually, that's V2.0. The guy has something else he wants to do with it but hasn't gotten around to it. He says, no repository, just grab the code.
That's cool with me and I did.