@media – Beyond Ajax

@media has rolled around super-quick this year. It kicked off with Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path talking about the future of web beyond Ajax.

He started by asking us “what is the web good for (at)? It’s still quite a young medium – as TV and Radio started out emulating theatre, before finding their own feet, a new medium needs about 10 years for us to find out what it’s good for – so we should be getting some good clues very soon!

[Be careful not to get confused by the many faces of Ajax!]

Web apps such as Flickr are part of a much larger ecosystem, but benefit it by having an open API that other applications can hook into. The web is now moving away from static pages of documents towards applications and interaction. The kayak.co.uk interface (airline ticket price comparison) was cited as one where Ajax enables users to dynamically filter the search results almost instantaneously. And these products get better with use.

Value can come from the users themselves – YouTube’s a good example. The OK GO Treadmill video was home made, posted on YouTube, has been watched more than 18.5million times, eventually got onto MTV and won a Grammy! Then Google buys YouTube for $1bn – it obviously recognises the value in the userbase.

Websites are now delivering a rich user experience via Ajax and other native browser technologies – ideal as no plugins are required. Bruce Sterling coined the phrase that Ajax is “roller skates for the web”. It’s like the way that gmail and google maps have revolutionised the way we think about interfaces, and now we want everything to be drag and drop.

What’s the highest form of praise? Not “makes loads of money” or “never crashes” but “I can’t live without it!”. Making systems work is all about the balance between technology, features and the user experience. The Diamond Rio was the first ever mp3 player, but it pretty much bombed. Three years later, along comes the iPod – costs more, does less, but it’s all about the way users buy into the experience.

Dealing with interactive products stimulates the same part of the brain as when we are dealing with other people. “People are products too”. So, products who “know who they are” also seem to pique our attention and become successful. It’s why we like things like the iGuy and TiVo logo:

[Anthropomorphic Personification aka “oh look, isn’t that cuuuuuute!!!”]

[Developers look at technology but the users think it’s all just magic underneath]

Successful web2.0 applications are designed from the “outside in” and focus on the user experience strategy. This was the way Google Calendar was built, and within 9 months it had overtaken the second most popular competitor on the market.

With photography, no-one owns the endo to end solution, but Flickr takes the same philosophy. The About Flickr page states the site’s two main goals:

  • We want to help people make their photos available to the people who matter to them.
  • We want to enable new ways of organizing photos.

The longer explanation on the page sets out the goals, but puts no limits on the technology. “The experience is the product”

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