usability web

RIA Apps Hindering Usability?

Phi blogs about WPF and consistency in RIA UIs:

“There is also a fundamental design problem that has never before occured in the past, but will completely free and open-ended interface designs hinder the end-user at all?”. “With the advent of these two new technologies (Adobe Flex/AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight and WPF), has come the first wave of experimental applications. I’ve been testing a few Adobe AIR demos and I’ve noticed one very significant thing.

Never before has any programming API allowed such flexibility and ease and above all, creative freedom when designing user interfaces.”

My reply: this thing about consistency in Nielsen’s 10 user interface heuristics is probably a good thing. We now find UI consistency in websites more than ever before – you expect top-level navigation to be at top of screen, then sub-nav somewhere along the side and content in the middle column. We also tend to ignore adverts on the edge and extreme top of the page, because that’s where we expect them to be. Web users have learned this model of presentation, and as a result spend a little bit of time working their way around sites that don’t abide by these “urban standards”. But the time taken is probably no more than a “consistent” client application.

Kuler WPF

WPF style apps will allow UI designers to flexibly present their UI together with the context-sensitive help we see in websites next to everything – so that we don’t need to remember where things are, just know how to read labels. So if the push goes towards the web paradigm–consistency like how the web turned from the geocities era to the present web 2.0-style sites–then I think all this won’t be a problem.

Additionally, consistent UIs for the web would be boring! For client apps, yeh, that’s good. WPF apps strive to present information in a more dynamic and visual way (what people want), and wouldn’t all this be made a bit boring for the user with a consistent UI, using exactly the same widgets everywhere?

Apart from a select few, the life-cycle of “applications” are changing. Widgets and apps exchanging data from the web are the new. Interoperability of data is now so important because of this. We now have the choice to choose the UI we use to access the same data! (Think Netvibes, Google Maps/Flickr mashups and OSX’s Dashboard.) Semantic web people are loving all of this change…

Thanks Phi

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