7 Mar 2006 prla   » (Apprentice)

This and... That

As you probably already know from reading previous entries here on this website, I’ve been putting some effort into building a, shall we say, buzzword-compliant web application. Unfortunately this hasn’t left me much time to write here, not as much as I would want to anyway, and even my daily news browsing has suffered a massive blow.

No matter. Not that I want to make a big deal about it (because it isn’t), but soon we’ll unveil what we’ve been working on. We think it’s a cute little app that has the potential of enhancing people’s lives in some way or another. Also, we have a lot of ideas to build upon it but we’ll let the users speak their mind about that. One of the things that makes web apps truly beautiful is how you can just expand, improve or fix them at will and the users get the enhancements instantly. We believe that the so-called Web 2.0 has provided the tools to build really interesting and rich user experiences and despite our own inexperience (no pun intended), we’re taking the plunge and contribute our own bit from our own neck of the woods.

Bionic Software

Speaking of web apps, from reading O'Reilly Radar earlier on, there’s a cool little post from Tim on what he calls Bionic Software:

one of the things that distinguishes web applications from PC-era applications is the fact that web applications actually have people inside them, working daily as part of the application. Without the programmers running the crawl at Google, filtering out the spam, and tuning the algorithms, the application stops working. Without the users feeding the spiders by continuously linking to new sites, the crawl turns up nothing new. In a profound way, the users are part of the application. This turns out to be true in one form or another for almost every breakthrough web application.

This, I believe, is a definite departure from the way desktop apps work not only technically but organically aswell. Without the web, apps end up feeling like islands and you have trouble trying to contact whoever lives in the island - the software makers. In an interconnected world such as the web, things are much more personal. The web is a crowded place everywhere you go and in a web application that kind of feedback translates into comfort for the end user. In a sense, it’s much easier to let the developers know what bothers you as a user and in fact many problems with the app can be deduced in real time from its usage and user base behavior.

Fresh Looks

One thing we’ve been paying a lot of attention (or at least trying) to while developing this application is the way it looks. There’s certainly a trend of slick, uncluttered, light designs and we intended to stick with it. If we succeed or not, that’s something our users will have to tell us but while it’s obvious that if the subject matter sucks no one will pick the app up, I do believe a particularly good UI design and interface is a very big slice of the success pie. DropSend, Beagle and many other websites embody this quite well.

In the meantime, it seems both Google and Yahoo! are testing new designs:

I’m partial to the latter. I think it looks really cool. Google designs, on the other hand, have always striked me as too simplistic and this one is no exception. But hey, there’s a reason why it loads so darn fast, right? I don’t know how credible these screenshots are anyway.

Do Features Really Matter?

Reading one of Pedro Figueiredo’s latest posts, I wonder why audiophiles (like me, mind you) expect quality acessories for the iPod when the parent product doesn’t sound that good to begin with. And hey, I splashed a truck load of money on a Nano, by the way. But this reminded me of an article I got hinted at a couple of days ago, which argues that nowadays, features don't matter anymore:

The iPod was never sold on the grounds of its technical merits: Apple hit a gold-mine by marketing a cool new way of integrating music in your life. Even when Apple announced the iPod with video, it presented it not as the best multi-media player in the universe, but as a cool new way of watching “Desperate Housewives” and other TV shows.

As much as it saddens me that the world at large is increasingly driven by trends and flavors of the month, I wholeheartedly agree.

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