Friday, May 15th, 2009

Ajax Frameworks Decision Center

Category: Ajax

<>p>Why choose which Ajax framework you can use, when you can let The Machine tell you! Jim Briggs of Athenz has pointed his decision machine at the age old problem of choosing which darn library to script src!

Here is what Jim told us about the new service:

There has been some discussion lately on Ajaxian about “What is the best framework?” As Dion said in another post, “It is agonizing. It is hard. It isn’t pretty.” Both newbies and gurus have weighed in on the subject. As a Ajax programmer, the issue is personally important to me, but rather than cast out another opinion, I’ve created a web site, The Ajax Frameworks Decision Center, that allows anybody to evaluate and select the Ajax or RIA framework that best meets their particular needs. The Decision Center includes a 100-plus requirements model, tools to prioritize, compare, and evaluate frameworks, and a 35 page guide that elaborates on the requirements and the features that you find in frameworks.

In addition, anyone can publish an evaluation of any framework and vendors can publish product information inside the Decision Center. All of this is free.

Objectively, the choice of a framework can be difficult. Subjectively, the choice can be agonizing. The Decision Center doesn’t eliminate all the difficulty, but it provides a way to make a good and justifiable decision and feel confident about it in the end.

This is a brand new service and I’ll respond quickly to any feedback so I can make the site better and so I can help you make better technology decisions now and in the future.

Or see it at work:

You have to signup to check it out, and it may feel like you are filling out a TPS form ;)

Related Content:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:50 am
13 Comments

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2.6 rating from 69 votes

13 Comments »

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Its missing some libraries

Comment by V1 — May 15, 2009

http://www.athenz.com/app/decision/center/ajax

Comment by torloneg — May 15, 2009

To torloneg, I’d be happy to add js-lib to the catalog. I need the name associated with the organization or person who owns the library, links to the site and the organzization and a description of the library. You can send this to me through the contact mechanism of athenz.com. Also provide your contact email as well.

Comment by JimBriggs — May 15, 2009

Looks like the tool itself uses Ext.

I myself am bewildered by this. This is a generic website to help people make decisions on things?

Seems like this is something that will be incredibly brittle and difficult to maintain. No worse (in terms of timeliness) than a blog on the subject, I suppose.

Comment by zachleat — May 15, 2009

Easy decision making in 100+ steps … could not watch the whole video.

If this tool is so generic, why would you limit the available frameworks to a fixed set (and not let users extend it during creating their evaluation). And why would you add Flex and Silverlight to a list of Ajax Frameworks.

Probably because buzzwords get the ball rolling and some news on ajax magazines … even on fridays …

Comment by digitarald — May 15, 2009

uhm … it starts with “AJAX IS AN IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGY” and we all know that Ajax itself is not a technology … interesting work though

Comment by WebReflection — May 15, 2009

To digitarald, in fact, you can add your own products to your evaluation. Based upon the comments so far, I should allow people to request additions to the public catalog. This is a beta product, a work in progress, and I’m going change the site based on your feedback. My goal is to help people like me, like you, developers, technology professionals, to make better decisions.

Re the 100+ steps, really it’s only 5 steps, but using the tool does require some work and some thinking, but work and thinking that can produce insight. My most recent work has been with very large companies with complex decision processes. I’m trying to find a balance between a tool for people who need to make quick decisions and a tool for big, team decisions. Agility to scale up and down.

Comment by JimBriggs — May 15, 2009

Hey Jim, the product looks really nice, but from watching the video, for me there would be some sticking points. It doesn’t seem like it would really save very much time being as there appear to be so many steps and as you have to enter and rate each framework yourself, in addition to setting each of your 78 criteria. Testing each framework itself is a huge task. This is really something that I could do almost as quickly in Excel, so there would have to be some huge time savers for me to want to sign up and use it. Some suggestions: an option to import the composite ratings that others have given each framework, the ability to set only your top level criteria and have the settings cascade to sub-criteria, and the ability to export in formats like CSV or XML.

Also, the sign up form is a huge deterrent in its current form and may be a little overkill for the perceived benefit. No sign-up form or lazy registration would be best, but even just an OpenID sign-in or a simpler form that just asks for username, email and password would be better.

These are just my thoughts and suggestions, so take them for what they’re worth. Good luck!

Comment by VirtuosiMedia — May 15, 2009

Those would be helpful data sets and the ability to mix and match between them would be useful. I think to see the highest adoption, you may want to consider not requiring a user to enter their own ratings. Consider the use case of a user who doesn’t want spend time entering ratings, but still wants to see a composite of the ratings of others. Or a user familiar with one or two frameworks who wants to compare their ratings on those frameworks to other frameworks ranked by other people. I personally would fall into the later case as I’m fairly comfortable (and happy) with MooTools, but don’t know too much about other frameworks and would be curious to see them evaluated even though it would probably take a lot to convince me to switch.

It may help if you view your users as a spectrum: beginner -> advanced or little time commitment -> major time commitment. Right now, it seems as if you’re on the advanced/major time commitment side of the spectrum, which is great if you need or want that, but I suspect you may find more users at the lower end of the spectrum. That’s just a guess, however; you’ll have to get feedback from your users and run tests. It’s important to note, however, that your UI should contain enough options to target your primary user segment and no more, otherwise it will feel too complicated to that user group. Any more advanced features should be placed in something like an advanced options tab- accessible if needed, but not in the main interface so as to be confusing for novice users. Just some food for thought.

You may want to include priority templates that can be applied with a single click. I’d suspect that you could summarize a large majority of project priorities in only a few templates: web app, high/medium/low traffic websites, Adobe Air app, intranet app, etc. Of course, these would only be base templates which you could further customize as needed, but they could save a lot of time.

If you incorporate those two suggestions, not requiring a user to rate the frameworks and being able to choose a priority template, you would be able to minimize the most simple use of your decision center to two steps: choose a ratings input and choose a priority template.

As for the registration, I really like the StackOverflow model. They don’t require you to sign up and they keep track of you with a cookie. If the cookie gets erased, your work on the site no longer is associated with you. However, if you want your account to be permanent, then you sign up. Picnik, the online photo editor does something similar. Personally, I love this type of model, from the perspective of both a user and a website owner. As a user, I’m not required to make a commitment while still being able to use the product. As a website owner, any users that do sign up are higher quality users and more likely to be potential customers for other similar services. I know they like the product and they use it, so they’re pre-qualified. The casual users aren’t ready yet, so my relationship with them is more long term until they take the next step in commitment.

When you separate your users like that, you can focus on trying to get casual users to make more of a commitment by adding additional value if they sign up. Your copy could read something like, “more features are available when you sign up.” You can also focus on making your committed users repeat customers with other offers or services, for which the copy could read, “If you liked ___, you should also try ___. Here’s why…”

I’d highly recommend letting users try out at least a subset of features before requiring sign up, but that’s entirely up to you.

As a final thought, this is a really good idea and I think it could be very useful, especially as you expand beyond just Ajax frameworks. I see a ton of questions about PHP and other types of frameworks, but you could also add database types, programming languages (ROR vs PHP vs .NET, etc.), server software; the list goes on and it isn’t just limited to software/computer related entities. You could do it for electronics, automobiles, music- anything that could be rated. Once you get all the kinks worked out, you could really expand into some interesting markets. Have fun!

Comment by VirtuosiMedia — May 15, 2009

VirtuosiMedia, How insightful! I’m going to have to digest this after I get a good night’s sleep. I think your comments on the user spectrum are dead-on. I have optimized for a higher level of commitment. I’ll review and determine whether both ends of the spectrum can be served or whether a choice needs to be made. Like the neurotic who became a psychologist, I hate choices. Why else would I create a decision-making web site. ;)

Comment by JimBriggs — May 15, 2009

I think I’ll need deciding how to use this site.

No seriously, the interface is horrible and incredibly unintuitive.

Comment by Darkimmortal — May 15, 2009

Just when I thought the content on this site couldn’t get any more absurd.

GIGO. After watching the video, who thinks this guy can recommend a script? Take it a step further; who thinks his program can recommend a script?

Comment by DavidMark — May 16, 2009

Can someone create a robot to tell me what kind of sandwhich I like best?

Comment by SubtleGradient — May 19, 2009

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