Web 2.0: The Next Generation is Starting (2005)


Maps. Adrian Holovaty was interested in crime in his home city, so he embarked on a similar project. He created " Chicagocrime.org" that leverages Google Maps and publicly available Chicago crime data as his service to the public. Online personality "Pud" wanted data on how books sell over time, so he created Junglescan.com that leverages Amazon's open application programming interface (API), which is the way developers write code that talks directly to other code.

Years ago these types of applications wouldn't have existed-they'd have taken teams of developers a significant amount of time to build and a businessperson willing to fund the effort. Now not only does information on the Web come from people like you, but mixing and leveraging other applications, creating a "mashup," has raised the quality of the information to unimagined levels.

Out with the Old Interface-In with the New Designs
Web applications that force users to sit through irrelevant popup ads, boring flash animations, and that bombard users with eye- and mind-numbing, busy, user interfaces are quickly becoming passé. The fad of forcing users to sign up and log in is on its way out. So is aggressively selling to users and not giving them a voice to collaborate with the Web site owner and other users.

Web sites that offer more perks, and solve problems well are the sites now gaining popularity. Simple screen designs that support the activities of users are in, so are long pages that integrate more of what users want to see near the top. This design prevents users from having to navigate too deeply into a site just to get a certain piece of information. Small, relevant, easy-to-link URLs are now commonplace.

Translating Fads into Function
How does all this affect you? Web site designers need to know the user better than before. You can't push information at them. They'll pull what they want, and knowing what they want will help your site become more effective. Don't get too confident that you do know them; plan for unpredictable behavior. If your Web software gives them flexibility, you'll have to watch how they leverage that flexibility. If it allows them to collaborate, you'll have to see how they do it. That will give you insight about what they really want.

If you're a programmer, your site designers need you now more than ever. You'll need to collaborate more closely with them to understand your users, and then use your technical expertise to build innovative solutions that leverage your technical savvy. Combine what's valuable to users with what's technically possible. Today's Ajax techniques came about that way.

Designers, developers, and architects will have to work together to open up the application, to provide an easy-to-use API. How can you expose the functionality of the application in a way others can extend it? A good layered architecture that separates logic from presentation is critical. Doing so might make your application more popular, and more successful than you anticipate.

By exposing its API, Flickr allowed Fraser Speirs to write "FlickrExport," a plug-in that allows iPhoto users to directly upload photos to Flickr. This gives Flickr access to a customer base they wouldn't have otherwise had, and they didn't have to write the software themselves.

Getting into the User's Frame of mind
Testers need to be integrated more tightly with developers and designers. Applications that don't direct the user let him pursue a number of paths through the application. Simple, scripted test plans won't work. You'll have to use exploratory testing , assuming the role and goals of the user to stand a chance

About the author

AgileConnection is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.