Nine years ago, when Oracle started down the path of turning Application Express (nee HTML DB) into a real, supported product that was shipped with the Oracle database, we had the good fortune of being mentored and led by Bill Dwight. Bill was a hands-on Vice President in the Oracle Tools division and he led the development of JDeveloper, Developer, Forms, Designer, and iLearning. Bill had a lot of experience and success at Oracle, but also he had the right kind of savvy to guide us from a "project" to a product. He imparted a lot of sound advice that still helps us today.
Fast forward to today, and Bill Dwight is the founder and CEO of FamZoo, Inc. In a nutshell, FamZoo is "a family-friendly web site that helps parents teach their children the practical skills they’ll need to thrive in the real world." FamZoo the company, and FamZoo the Web site have been under development and in private beta for a few years, but as of January 21, 2010, FamZoo is now open for business to the public. As you navigate around the FamZoo site, you'll see the tell-tale signature of Application Express in the URL. There is an extensive FamZoo tour also available.
FamZoo has been an interesting case-study for Oracle Application Express, in that:
- The internal administration and dashboard pages of FamZoo were written using the traditional wizards and declarative APEX infrastructure.
- Even with the very custom customer-facing UI, they still capitalize on other benefits of the Application Express framework, including security, session state, page templates, etc.
- With the exception of one local APEX instance for upgrade testing, the development and deployment of FamZoo has been done on commercial, hosted instances of Application Express from two different hosting providers. Not only was this extraordinarily cost effective, but it let the FamZoo team focus on building their business and their brand, and not have to worry about database and Web site administration, backups, power, etc.
The user interface of FamZoo is really superb and the overall flow and navigation of the site is elegant. To develop this kind of site takes a lot of time and effort and careful planning, regardless of the development framework that is chosen. I'm just happy they chose to go the Application Express route.