Web 2.0 changing the process in WebApp-Development

The cool thing in web application has always been (and will always be) that IT meets communications. Every Web-App is considered a communication platform, not a technical artifact that just needs to work. Nobody accepts the need for trainings or manuals for web apps. They need to be "intuitive". This is where the designers come in. And concept people. And the word "emotional".

During the past 15 years of web history, certain processes of development have been defined that tried to align both, communication and technical aspects of the game. I have worked through at least 10 different approaches to this and they all failed. But eventually, tech-guys and creative guys have arranged and found a way to co-exist in a project without too many battles. Fortunately, the interaction patterns in the web used to be very limited: Click, load page, click again, load another page, fill in form data (wow, very complicated alreday), submit, see response (only positive response, error response was never considered by the graphics people :-) ).

Why was that? Most of the designers think in pictures. Static pages. They want to design advertising campaigns and feel generally handycapped when they are forced into tiny web design. You cannot even use the font you want to have...

The developers are only interested in the general solution to a problem. They generally don't care about the look and feel and about all the thousands of tiny details that make their elegant base solution a mess of code in the end...

Already during this time there was one area of work that was very complicated to tackle: Flash! No static images, but dynamic interaction. Only really good if mixed with actionscript coding. Up to now, there are only a few people who do this really good. Fortunately the use of flash is limited to a nice intro with some sound and flying characters, and there always is a SKIP button...

And now: Another dimension! Web 2.0, Ajax, Javascript. All the processes and the split of responsibility needs to be thought over again. Suddenly, the whole web application is a big monster of unrestrained user interaction. Drag&Drop, animations, widgets, server communication, asynchronous processing, events.

Not even the best programmers can really predict at the beginning of a project what will be possible and what cool feature might shipwreck due to browser shortcommings or other technical difficulties. On the other side, designers have a very hard time imagining all the user interaction that can be made possible and to consider all system behaviour and make designs for them.

The graphic design suddenly already contains half of the techical design process also. Assumptions are being made, designs need to change in long ping-pong games between design department and developers.

In short words: The arrangements need to be changed. The process of making designs first, then coding the application does not work anymore. Design and coding must go hand-in-hand, otherwise a modern application design ist not possible. This is going to be a challenge for all established customer/vendor relationships out there and for all full-service agencies that will need to build compelling web 2.0 apps in the future...

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