Stay single, get rich, Web developers told

Multi-screen applications and clunky data entry hamper users' online experiences, according to a speaker at the first MXDU (Macromedia MX Down Under) developer conference in Sydney last week.

Single-screen, rich Internet applications instead of today's simple multi-screen applications, will improve online visits for users, Macromedia's senior product evangelist Ben Forta said.

According to Macromedia there is a 34.9 million strong ‘information convenience' market with 80 per cent of the content of these non-technical users in static form, according to Macromedia.

"This market is huge [for developers]," Forta said.

"These are business users that just want to publish content."

In his keynote speech, Forta used the example of the common shopping trolley Web application to build his argument.

"On those sites where you put items in a shopping cart -- first, you have to find what you're looking for through all the items," he said.

"You can be there for half an hour [before you] get to the checkout, then they ask for more information. [You find] you've made a mistake and you have to go back and fix it. When you go back, depending on what browser you're using you might have to go back through it all again, right?"

The online dreamkit of drum manufacturer Pearl was evidence of "thinking outside the square", according to Forta. The dreamkit lets users with Macromedia's Flash installed compose short instrumentals with a range of Pearl products.

"We need to think about the user experience," Forta said. "We still use clunky ways to enter data."

Developers were also shown a "great example" of a single-screen Flash application for buying a digital camera. Created using ColdFusion for the back-end, users choose their desired price and specification range from drop-down menus while photos of the relevant cameras appear and disappear dynamically.

In December 2002, about 497 million users had Flash on their desktops, Macromedia officials said.

However, Forta said the business world's adoption of Flash for online communication has been "slow", but it is beginning to be seen as a business platform.

"For Flash specifically, there's been the problem of being associated with animation and what it was initially used for," he said.

"Yahoo for instance has been using Flash for about a year and a half now, and that's helped [its perception].

"There's also the problem for developers of needing several skill sets, although the MX versions of products have been designed to solve a lot of these issues."

He said Macromedia's plans to have all its developer tools Web services-enabled will also be helpful to business.

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