John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) write The Location Field is the New Command Line, talking about the success of web applications.
The persnickety little UI details I obsess over -- these are nothing compared to the massive deficiencies of even the best web app. But most people don't care, because web apps are just so damned easy to use. What's interesting is that web apps are "easy" despite their glaring user experience limitations.
What they've got going for them in the ease-of-use department is that they don't need to be installed, and they free you from worrying about where and how your data is stored.
I would go further -- the web UI certainly has deficiencies, but it also has features that have been unappreciated by traditional UI developers. Some of these:
The problem is that there's a lot of stuff that can be done on the Web which no-one designing a Web application should realistically consider, since it could destroy the accessibility of the application, but which managers seem to want anyway. Fuelled by ignorance in the "design" phase, bad user interfaces actually get implemented without the developers getting a decent opportunity to use the excuse that "it can't be done".
Perhaps I'm just too honest and should deny all knowledge of bizarre DHTML tricks to copy things between frames, use CSS to make things invisible, just to pander to clueless managers who think that the Web is just a Windows application in a little box. And don't get me started on ActiveX...# The Badger
Love it!! Web is the good bad thing.
Pretty standard and everyone has to support it even if they don't support it well. (M$)
I am thinking we are in a transistion to more flash type interfaces. What ever we get after DHTML should be pretty cool for solving some of the widget control and helping with statelessness.
# Lateef Jackson
I certainly hope that we don't move to flash-type interfaces. Though the SVG people seem to be interested in that -- I can only hope WHAT can provide an alternative. There are certainly some applications that really can't be done without a richer client (e.g., build-your-own applications where you get to preview the composition of several attributes in a product). But that doesn't describe most of the web.# Ian Bicking
The only problem I have seen with web applications is that everyone wants EVERYTHING on the web.
Unlike the rest of the world I take the position that even though the web is great, there are some applications that do not ever need to be "on the web."
This is vague, but there are LOTS of applications that have high UI requirements that will never be successful on the web.
Most web applications are consistent because of lack of controls to choose from. If you want to run everywhere you are limited to the most basic controls and as you said no menus. Lack of choice in this case is a good thing.
If you ignore flash as a web development platform there really are no choices. There are choice in the plumbing... how you get the textbox to the browser but in the end it is at best still a textbox.
My point is that in the end, you really still have a textbox. And for the most part a textbox that you cannot really do anything with, other than read values once a submit button is pressed.
Are web apps really just an alternate reality where we are all working in a really bad version of VB?
Actually I would not say it is about resources and tasks, it is about process. Process is what is interesting. Companies have plenty of resources in their warehouses, and workers know how to do tasks, but unless an order comes from the customer, the shipping process never starts.
A large part of UI problems arise when people focus on the tasks instead of the process. Simplistically, if you want to provide ETDBW, you must re-engineer the process, not the resources and the tasks.
I think web apps are complete and distinct programs. Use Java Servlets you will see that web based enterprise applications are much more challenging than you think, add security issues and you can easily turn your web app into a critical system (i.e. Online Banking).
As for the UI, there is nothing you can't do in html and flash. You can even implement the drag and drop if you want.# Roger