My name is Mark. And I like rich clients.

There, I said it. I don’t like web applications. I never got Gmail as an interface. It never quite worked the way I wanted it to. I like eBay as a service, but not as an experience.

Over the last year I have found myself using NetNewsWire, not Google Reader.  I use OmniFocus, not RememberTheMilk.  I like having my data available everywhere, I just don’t want to use a browser to see or manipulate it.

I get that the interweb has allowed us to explore, connect and transact. Awesome. But now that we have the data and services the focus must shift to how we use it. The usability of most web applications is still well behind that of rich clients.  We need to get better.

So, we are faced with two alternatives. Try to make web applications better, or move to web enabled rich applications.

I favour the latter. Here’s why:

Rich clients work faster. Rich clients have tighter integration with the keyboard. You don’t need to be connected to the Internet all the time. Enough?

No! They also have tighter integration with the device they are running on. An iPhone application knows it has GPS and an accelerometer. It can do things you can’t do through a browser.

So let’s use the device well. Let’s optimise the experience for the device we are on. If we are on a mac I want Growl support. If we are on Windows then save data frequently.

But that is expensive to develop I hear you say. Yes. I didn’t say this would be cheap. However, in recent years we have gotten much better at building services faster (Spring: thank you.  Rails: thank you. SOAP: are you still here?).  So now that we have saved all that time on the back end, let’s spend a little more time on the front end.  


Written by Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is one of the Directors of Shine Solutions Group, a Technology Consultancy in Melbourne, Australia.

One comment

  1. It wasn’t until the fourth paragraph that I worked out you were talking about rich client applications rather than cash rich clients🙂

    I’d tend to agree with rich client apps giving users a better experience but I’ve personally found that so much of my work now is based on integration across multiple ‘apps’, be they thin or thick. What I do find difficult is when an app locks me out from crossing it’s boundary and letting the IP I’m developing move elsewhere. Call it syncing, exporting, publishing or whatever you like but the most important thing an app needs to be is ‘socially aware’ of how I might like to integrate it with my business or personal needs.

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