When you’re building a website you most definitely want applications to enhance the user experience. However, there are definite differences between traditional applications and rich internet applications. The main difference is that rich internet applications will provide users with a much friendlier interface and a faster, cleaner response. The user interacting with the interface will be able to have more relevant experiences in a faster and more complete way.
This happens because the information is sent differently. Traditional interfaces are able to send large, unnecessary chunks of data all at once. This creates problems for the user in either time or relevance. A central server plucks out the block of information and sends it along, creating a gap in the interaction and the feedback, thereby limiting what the user can actually accomplish with the application.
Alternatively, rich internet applications are faster and, in a sense, lighter. This is because the information is pieced together in simultaneous impulses creating a much friendlier interface. This allows the user to react, interact, and respond to the application with ease.
The continuous updating by traditional interfaces take time, while the internet rich applications only update the smaller, more critical changes in information, making the speed of reaction much faster. This makes users happier and more likely to engage with the application for a much longer period of time. With today’s rate of internet transactions, users don’t want to be slowed down or have applications that are clumsy or bulky and incomplete.
There are a variety of rich internet applications that can be used for creating interfaces that are user friendly. The most popular of these is Adobe Flex, which can hold a host of information that is not sent from a central location but actually is hosted on the user’s browser, making it easier for the user to access. On top of that, the design was based on the flash technology that is vital for the use of the various media available through online interaction. That means more users already have the plug in and the ease of use is simple.
The greatest difficulty that Microsoft Silverlight rich internet applications run into is that the user must stop what they are doing in order to download the plug in. Unlike the flash technology, the user is unlikely to already have the proper plug-in and, thus, Microsoft is having some difficulty catching up in the popularity race.
Because users like the interaction to be quick, sweet, and ready to roll, it would be difficult for Microsoft to counter this problem with any solution other than revamping their technology and holding the Silverlight to the same standard of interactivity. Could it happen? Naturally, it could. Yet, the chance of a complete overhaul of the interactive application software just isn’t likely. Thus, most websites are hitting rich internet applications with Flex.
There is a third contender on the market, and it is not yet clear how the market is going to respond at this time. Because of its use with the giants of the internet (including Google) AJAX is headed for the secondary position. A developer that is using AJAX is going to be likely to create applications that are akin to “thick client applications” straight from the web page, meaning that the entire process can happen from the user’s end rather than hosting online.
There are several prospects that are making rich internet applications look like they are fast becoming a necessity in the world of internet interaction. Whether you are in the business of entertaining, educating, or marketing, the applications that are faster and leaner tend to receive a great deal more attention from the users than those that require additional plug-ins and need to be hosted online. The trend is heading heavily toward improving applications for all websites and thus the users will be able to manage their desire for interfaces that make sense with a simple mouse click.
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