Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Web 3.0: A critique of the hype

Category: Editorial

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Ajax has it’s critics, and that is healthy. Jeffrey Zeldman wrote a critique on Web 2.0 in general, and it discussed Ajax as part of that world:

We pause but a moment to consider two AJAX-related headaches.

The first afflicts people who make websites. Wireframing AJAX is a bitch. The best our agency has come up with is the Chuck Jones approach: draw the key frames. Chuck Jones had an advantage: he knew what Bugs Bunny was going to do. We have to determine all the things a user might do, and wireframe the blessed moments of each possibility.

The second problem affects all who use an AJAX-powered site. If web signifiers and conventions are still in their infancy, then AJAX-related signifiers and conventions are in utero. I am still discovering features of Flickr. Not new features—old ones. You find some by clicking in empty white space. This is like reading the news by pouring ACME Invisible Ink Detector on all pieces of paper that cross your path until you find one that has words on it.

I am not knocking Flickr. I love Flickr. I wish I were as gifted as the people who created it. I’m merely pointing out complex design problems that will not be solved overnight or by a single group. In Ma.gnolia, which is now in beta, we used small icons to indicate that additional actions could be taken and to hint at what those actions might be. We succeeded to the extent that 16px by 16px drawings can communicate such concepts as “you may edit these words by clicking on them.�

These problems and others will be solved, most likely by someone reading this page. One points to these issues mainly to dent a swelling of unthinking euphoria. We have been down this road before.

NOTE: illustration above provided by Kevin Cornell

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