Dear Doctor Usability,
I am a consultant, and I am hearing more and more about the interactive Web, about smart clients, rich clients (I have one right now by the way), etc. Anyway, I am being asked to develop a Web application, and I no longer know what to assume. Should I design with just HTML in mind, or should I be assuming that more and more companies will be using smart- or rich-client technologies? I find this difficult because each uses their own definitions for these terms. What do you advise?
Confused in Bangalore
My advice is to wait it out, and apply my forthcoming standard, Web 3.1btm (that's right, it's trademarked; in fact, it's my own!). Web 3.1btm offers a matrix of mix and match interactions and you can make a cocktail of interaction designs with it. Until that day, you need to verify technological assumptions and targets with each and every client. The day has indeed come when you can no longer rely on the Web being just HTML (especially now since HTML is no longer just HTML). The technologies and what they will allow: single click, double click, drag and drop, varying save models, etc. The possibilities are thicker than a South Indian curryeven with a dosa or two.
Web applications are now getting much more complex than ever before. In fact we are performing a sort of u-turn in design all in the name of advancement: We are leaving the 21st-century nouveau-terminal style applications of html clients, and going back to the previous century for point, click, drag things around type interactions. The only problem is whether people will remember how to drag and drop and use thumb dials. The other problem is how to let the user know that your Web application has some new nifty interaction in it that they are not expecting. The last problem is of course making sure that you understand your clients' underlying architecture so you know what interactivity can be achieved on the client side versus the server side. The more that can be handled by the client, the richer the interaction is...generally speaking.
The Web is indeed becoming a brave new world.
Dear Dr. Usability,
I am working on setting up a usability test and I need to know how many users I should employ. Some people say I should use only three, while others instead say I need way more, like five. Once and for all I would like to know how many users to include? Just give me the answer, so I can get on with it and not debate this subject anymore; it's frustrating.
Testing it out in Philadelphia
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