On The Shoulders of Giants

I’m in Brussels this week at EuroOSCON, and yesterday I was fortunate enough to give a tutorial session on “Building Better Ajax Applications”. The slides are online, but don’t try to view them with anything but Firefox 1.5 or later.

For the last year or so I’ve been occasionally giving a talk like this and this time I decided to overhaul the whole thing. Every time I’ve done the talk I admonish folks not to use Ajax just because they can, and if at all possible to work with interaction designers. Last week at the “Future of Web Applications” conference in SF, Jeff Veen boiled the key points of the ID problem down into the most coherent set of objectives I’ve heard. He outlined them as:

  • Discoverability
  • Recoverability
  • Context
  • Feedback

Having worked with a wonderful set of interaction designers (and now friends) at Informatica, I’ve got nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for the questioning eye that good user-centric design brings to the process of building applications. Jeff’s description of the problem instantly made sense, and I’ve tried to put the example code in section 2 of the tutorial into the framework of those points. The distillation of the problem into easily digestible terminology is one of the things that was new with “Ajax”. Hopefully Jeff’s list of the 4 goals of ID can help developers similarly start to frame the problem better.


  1. Patrick Corcoran
    Posted September 19, 2006 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Jeff Veen is awesome. Once upon a time he was my boss when we both worked at HotWired. 

    I learned many things from him, with perhaps the most important thing being the habit of trying to look at the usability of your inventions with a critical eye.  Part of this involves not taking self-criticism personally as you yourself find flaws in your own designs. 

    Inside everybody there are a whole host of voices screaming for attention, and it’s often altogether too convenient the little voice saying “that wicked cool thing you just built has serious usability challenges, bub.”

  2. Rus
    Posted September 21, 2006 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    Oh come on, surely the irony of your first paragraph isn’t lost on you?  :)

  3. Posted September 21, 2006 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rus,

    Yeah, I am. The stock slideshow widget works fine almost everywhere, but the new SVG background thing I’m trying with those slides broke on IE sometime in the last couple of weeks. Now that I’m not crashing to get the content done, I’ll give it another look soon.