Monday, June 14, 2004

Rich Internet Applications = Yuck

I mean if it's for an ad, or a game or some entertainment material, flash is perfect for that.

But no offense to all my flash friends, but as a web interface, flash is highly unusable.

There is no sense of back and forth, no page identity, no bookmarkability, no right click....

You see customers have certain expectations of their experience world, that is if certain actions/behaviors get the results they are normally expecting to get.

For example,when I am searching in the developer's exchange, and I find a couple results, I expect to be able to right-click and open into a new window, or whatever it is that I want to do.

Instead of Flash or Browsers trying to dominate the user experiences they need to intermingle without intefering with reasonable experience expecations.

For me rich/animated/flash interfaces to data, may be nice, not that essentail, unless it's to some antiquated super-slow database, then it might make sense.

I certainly find there are things to learn by how flash and coldfusion or flash and databases interact, very interesting in terms of the data interaction.

But as a web architecture, it completely misses the boat.

1. Know the audience, I know clients/customers can be uninformed sometimes, or caught their eye on something fancy, but you're only going to make yourself look like a fool if you just go along with whatever catches their fancy.

Like trying to use a flash site for data interactions that will be dealing with mainly senior citizens. Does that make sense at all? It depends on knowing the end user.

That's why as unpretty as it may be, and it's certainly not my personal preference, I always stick to lowest common denominator.

Use what the customer most easily can use to get whatever specific jobs or tasks they want/need to do.

Do not EVER let interface or pretty flashy things get in the way of that objective.

However if you plan carefully, I actually am sure you can implement flash/ria that make sense for specific markets or customers.

But let's not live in the fantasy land that RIA, is applicable for everyone.

I mean I would love to learn flash, learn oo (hopefully not having to :)), learn java, play more with css and dhtml. But it's the end user that indicates what technology will get the best job done for the customer.

And so far, I've had zero to none opportunity to do so, maybe you have had different jobs than I, and that's certainly realistic.

But remember who the end user is, then determine what technology methodology you can use, not want to use.

That is why RIA is yucky, because it is not built on meeting the most common interface needs, but based on creating new ones, which are not really acceptable for most usefull applications.

Sorry, but that's my humble opinion.

22 comments:

  1. I think flash is a great technology for RIA's. Two mains reasons:

    1. Server Push
    2. Multiform

    Not to mention client side code execution (without javascript).

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  2. My point is that RIA in themselves are a bad idea for 90% of web applications.

    Irregardless of what technology you use for RIA's.

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  3. Anonymous1:25 PM

    you're right you should "Know the audience." I like the broadmoore https://reservations.ihotelier.com/onescreen.cfm?hotelid=2054&languageid=1 RIA. It takes one page instead of seven. I can see if a room is avaiable on a certain date and if it's not I don't have to hit the back button. Now grant it this is one example of RIA and I'm sure there are a bunch of bad ones out there. but if no one dreamed of "better" things there would not be an internet.
    in my humble opinion.

    not many people know about right clicking or even shift clicking to open in a new window. most of them double click on a link. but this goes back to know your customers. is it for developers or senior citizens? and most people i talk to just want it to work. so whatever you use flash or HTML 1.0, it should work.

    john ivanoff

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  4. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Macromedia has been promising us these RIA's but as yet I haven't seen any new ones? The reservation system is at least a few years old.

    I agree with Craig - I find using the Macromedia Exchange a tedious and painful process. I ALWAYS, right click on a click thinking I'm in a normal window but no. No open in new tab (Mozilla) for me.

    I would love to see links to other RIA like the reservation system but so far I haven't seen any. I would think Macromedia would be linking to these left and right? Is it simply that there are none? Maybe with Flex we'll see more (although that is way outside my budget)

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. I wouldn't say it's "yucky" but I would say, like every technology out there, it has its place.

    From personnal experience, I've always found HTML-based applications to be easier to code and maintain than flash-based counterparts. Flash front-ends require a lot of planning and forethought which equates to time. I don't know about you guys, but my clients always seem to want things yesterday. So that often means changing interface mechanics to accomodate new ideas and functionality that frankly, I'd hate to have to do in flash. Flex may help in that regard, since I can code my interfaces rather than "design" them, but like someone already mentioned, it's way out of my budget. On top of that, I haven't been able to convince clients to invest that kinda loot in a UI technology that can be done and work just fine in HTML.

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  7. My point, is that the whole push for RIA as the new stage of web development is wrong-headed.

    RIA is interesting,sure I'd like to do some, but 99% of the time I have to develop apps for who my customers are.

    For me pushing the edge has zero to do with display, it has to do with coding standards, sql standards, performance management, database management.

    Sure these do not sound as in, or as trendy or as much of a fad.

    But which one, makes sure you are doing the best job possible for your customer?

    I'll say it again and again, covering the basics as a part of a way to become a craftsmaster is what it is all about.

    OO, Java, Flash, Mach, Fusebox, are all nice but not that necessary.

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  8. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I wholeheartedly disagree. Look at the evolution of media in general - it's becoming more rich and more interactive. Flash may not be ideal, but it's pushing forward and that's what is most important. Unless you're making a site for geriatrics and retards, I say damn the lowest common denominator and move forward!

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  9. Anonymous5:59 PM

    My work's been different. I've been using Flash for the same reason I've started using Director, both for application development (non-web). No other technology that I've seen in a RAD way can make your app look good. Anyone can code the same app for our client's, but only our's look good. When your spending zillions of dollars, we got the edge.

    Move to web. Most of the web apps I build can't be built using existing technologies. Trying to build a TV Guide interface for an online video repository could be done in DHTML... sure, but it'd take way to long to profitable, and probably wouldn't work the same on multiple platforms/browsers.

    You and I are probably doing different scoped projects, though and not working with the same types of designers. Paying your bills online, bug tracking, etc. are not the types of apps I do. Yeah, you could bang those out of the park with Flash/Flex, but I agree, even losing IE's auto-complete by using a Flash text-field blows. Most projects I have build for the web are basically internet connected applications that look hot.

    Where are they? Majority are proprietary or in-house/internet based. That's RIA's biggest curse. Those who know they rock and get them can only show them to others that know they have them.

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  10. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Bloody hell... go Blogger anon post. Sorry, afore post was by me!

    --JesterXL

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  11. Anonymous7:01 PM

    I tend to agree with you. However I do think your opinion may be clouded by your preconceptions. There are a lot of bad flash applications and I am generally annoyed by the Flash RIAs I've seen. However I do believe that Flash can be done well. I've even seen Flash integrate with the browser's back button. So a lot of these hurdles can be overcome. I personally am annoyed by Flash's lack of scroll-wheel support. Or maybe it does support scroll-wheels but the RIA developers are simply lazy.

    Flash is incredibly powerful and I believe anything can be done. It's just a matter of somebody coming along and doing it right.

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  12. I do believe it can be done, but not by the current version of flash.

    I do agree, that flash has come along a long ways.

    I think my personal opinion, that displaying vector graphics should be something that could be done with dhtml/css/javascript.

    My point being, is that the above enhances html, and does not totally intefere with the browser experience.

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  13. Anonymous10:46 PM

    I think I found the difference in goals which formulate our opinions:

    You said "My point being, is that the above enhances html, and does not totally intefere with the browser experience."

    To me, HTML is a last minute hack if TextFormat ticks me off in Flash for text fields. And 2nd, it's an object tag... that's it. The browser is merely the vehicle some of my projects must use to work in. Whether Flash on the desktop, in an ActiveX wrapper, or in a browser, it's merely a vehicle for my app to run in.

    Additionally, I "feel" like I'm doing a lot more than displaying vector graphics.

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  14. Anonymous10:46 PM

    ...AND that was me again... --JesterXL

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  15. Anonymous6:43 AM

    I have made my living using ColdFusion since 1997 and very good one at that. A ColdFusion purist does NOT mean that one is bound to a HTML presentation layer. CFCs provide an excellent way of getting data into Flash. Rich Internet Apps are doing very well where I come from, specifically Boeing.

    It seems Microsoft doesn't like them either:
    http://launch3.popgram.com/Launch.aspx?BID=1023547016&CID=SC7MN22453&bhcp=1

    ESPN doesn't like RIAs:
    http://www.espn.com
    Try checking live NBA, NFL games using Gamecast

    Major League Baseball:
    http://www.mlb.com

    TimeWarner
    http://www.rr.com/flash

    There is a lot more you won't see that are not public that would blow your mind.

    Bro, do your homework! HTML, CSS, and DHTML has serious limitations for creating Windows-like web applications in the browser.

    Signed,

    Mike
    RIA Instructor
    Main Frame Purist (unemployed) j/k

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  16. Then again, I think this is more of a difference of mindset, of whether you are a designer, developer or a little of both.

    I tend to be more of a programmer, and that is a fair difference it's okay to be different.

    But when the day is done, I want ColdFusion/Flash/Macromedia, the apps to be something we can be proud of, rather than as usability jokes.

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  17. java is nice but not that necessary? geez louise, no java, no i18n work in cf. period. what you're saying is complete nonsense to me.

    i'm so-so for flash (though leaning that way for GIS work these days) but dumping RIA because of some goofy flash apps doesn't sound logical to me. i've seen some hounds that used html/tables & i couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on with these "pure" pages. bad design is just that, bad design. nothing much to do with a particular technology.

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  18. Okay in my mind there are two different types of flash-apps, one I have absolutely no problem with, and the other much more of a problem with.

    1. It's just an app put in the middle of a normal html whatever page. It does not intefere with the page, but just adds some other cool options.

    2. Totally replaces the browser/page interface with whatever the flash designer/developer came up with. I am sure there are good examples that do this right. But I am really disliking any flash or other media technology that takes over the whole page.

    I have no problem supplementing a page, as long as it doesn't take over.

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  19. Anonymous1:41 PM

    As far as the Developer Exchange on macromedia.com, it's drawn a lot of public criticism but also a lot of private praise. A lot of ColdFusion folks criticize it simply because it is Flash... You can't please everyone.

    Could it be more usable and a 'better' RIA? Sure! There's a lot of things that could be done to make it much easier to work with. At the time, there was a sense that we couldn't go too 'far out' with it so the result is actually a very conservative application that behaves very much like the application finder in Macromedia Central (there's a lot of shared code in fact).

    I've seen a lot of stunning RIAs that are excellent examples of where Flash can be much better than (D)HTML. Note: "can be", not "is". This isn't an either/or situation - Flash is good (better) for certain things and HTML is good (better) for other things so the two technologies need to co-exist. That doesn't preclude a full-screen Flash application however if the user experience is better than HTML could provide.

    Keep your eyes on Blackstone as Ben Forta demonstrates more and more of its potential capabilities. In particular, keep an eye on the Flash-based forms. Ben and others have already demo'd how to create a tabbed multi-part form rendered in Flash from very simple CF tags. That would require multiple pages in HTML with the associated page refreshes (or else one damn long page!) so the Flash user experience is very compelling in that situation...

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  20. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Oh darn, I did Jester's trick of forgetting to sign my 'anonymous' post...

    Sean A Corfield
    http://www.corfield.org/blog/

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  21. Check this RIA example its mini flash booking widget

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  22. www.surfsideretreat.co.nz

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