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product experience strategy and design

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May 31, 2005

Adaptive Path/O'Reilly Ajax Summit

When we published my Ajax essay on the Adaptive Path site back in February, nobody was more surprised than I was at the volume and enthusiasm of the response. Particularly surprising was the range of different audiences the essay reached. The Adaptive Path site has historically reached (and been written for) the user experience community, but this essay provoked reactions from developers and business people as well. So many people were talking about so many different aspects of Ajax, staying on top of the conversation practically became a full-time job.

That's when we got the idea to try to bring the discussion into the real world -- to bring people who had been active voices in the public conversation together with people we knew had been working with Ajax, and see what developed in a small-scale, discussion-oriented setting. We knew O'Reilly had found some success with events like this in the past, and we asked them to help us make this one happen.

To build on the forward momentum of the public conversation, we decided to arrange the event on very short notice. As a result, we weren't able to get all the people we'd have liked -- many of those invited couldn't fit us into their schedules, and a few people didn't cross our radar until after all our seats had been filled. I was especially disappointed by the number of women we were able to bring in.

Still, I think everyone who attended would agree that the event was tremendously productive. We heard from a lot of people doing interesting work; for me, some of the most valuable perspectives came from experienced hands like Brent Ashley and Douglas Crockford and Brendan Eich (the guy who invented JavaScript!).

What we saw at the Summit reaffirmed the assertion that I made at the end of my Ajax essay: that although there are significant challenges for Ajax developers to overcome, the big problems in Ajax applications are design problems. There will be a lot of great design work done in Ajax, but for every great solution to an Ajax design problem there will be a dozen terrible ones.

It became clear that for Ajax to move forward, the kind of cross-pollination we saw at the Summit -- designers talking with developers, open-source advocates talking with platform vendors -- has to continue. The problems and possibilties raised by Ajax are too complex for any individual group to try to resolve on its own.

All of us came out of the Summit with a shared sense of manifest destiny. Ajax may not be the end of the story for web applications, but it's clearly the next chapter, and it's a chapter all of us look forward to helping to write.

<=> | May 31, 2005

Comments

I like this clear and balanced approach to AJAX rather than the over hype AP had given it. You would not believe (or actually I think you would) all the people with horrible Flash sites that were clamoring to have their site redone with AJAX. All the reasons their site did not work for users are the same problems they are going to have with AJAX.

A well reasoned approach to Rich Web Applications is what is needed, picking what tools to use and when, and the down sides of Rich Web Applications. The web development community has been needing something along these lines for many years. More over hype about rich interface with out understanding is not the direction.

Posted by: vanderwal | Jun 2, 2005 5:10:59 AM

We set up our first "Ajax-like" on line catalog in sept. 2000 ... probably too early in time.

Please check out our demo : http://www.abaqueinside.com/prodIntuiCat.shtm

Our technology is VERY SIMPLE, based on a Windows form of which the web page is a slave.
Most programming, including transposition to web, is made in an OO Windows language.

Please contact us for more information ... (I hope my french-flavored english could be understood)

Thierry Nivelet

Posted by: Thierry Nivelet | Jun 7, 2005 8:04:08 AM

I liked your response on your company site as to why call it Ajax. Its easier than calling it "DHTML + Javascript + XML + ...", as I have found as well. Makes it hard to write up a job req as most developers have never worked with this before. We never came up with a great term like Ajax; I like it.

We shipped our web based query tool, Noetix WebQuery, back in 2001 totally based on this "Ajax" approach. At first, the back end was an ISAPI extension, but we moved to a .NET Web Service in 2002. It now has over 100 customers and 1000s of users.

I love the environment in most ways, but we have struggled on the tool side. We ended up creating our own testing tool that can script test cases and have started to use tools like jslint, etc. Current test tools on the market just can't deal with dynamic pages and changing IDs.

Thanks for pushing this technology forward!

Posted by: Craig Lee | Jun 17, 2005 3:25:57 PM

New version of our demo on line.
Sucessfully tested with :
- PowerBook Mac OS X version 10.3.7 : Safari 1.2.4 (v125.12) et FireFox 1.0
- Windows : IE5+, Firefox 1.0.x, Netscape 8

To see the demo, please click on my name link.

Posted by: Thierry Nivelet | Aug 5, 2005 1:12:30 AM

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