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  1. Web builders and PowerPoint

    June 13th, 2008 - Category: Usability, Web 2.0 | Comments Off on Web builders and PowerPoint

    Microsoft PowerPoint has been around for a few years. I’m sure that Microsoft borrowed the GUI from some other program, but I’ve always liked it. It’s super-simple and immediately intuitive. “Click here to edit title” is very difficult to get wrong. In a way, the GUI philosophy is similar to Google’s, in that users aren’t really expected to learn anything, they just click where it says “click”.

    Web building tools, though, have taken a while to get as simple and intuitive. In part, this is because drag-and-drop GUIs have been difficult to do robustly on the web. But as these problems are addressed by a number of tools and libraries, there is really no reason why editing a website could not be as simple as making a presentation. Or simpler.
    The startup hailstorm known as web 2.0 naturally includes a few dozen companies tackling the challenge of visual web building. ReadWriteWeb has an interesting rundown of some leading contenders. Weebly seems to be pulling ahead of the field. And their tool is impressive, if a little flaky. (Weebly is also the only tool on the list offering a live demo. That tells me they believe in their product. More importantly, people will actually bother to try it.)
    Now the market needs to get more clumpy. Even with the latest web 2.0 toolkits, it is a lot of work to build these GUI-intensive tools, at least if you’re aiming for desktop-app robustness in most browsers. The testing alone can keep a small development team occupied for months. As bigger companies enter the market (as Lycos appears to have done with Webon), the products will get more mature, and we’ll start to see a new level of competition. And PowerPoint-style web building will truly have arrived.
  2. Email is dead

    June 2nd, 2008 - Category: Google | Comments Off on Email is dead

    Well, not quite. But as this post at ReadWriteWeb points out, real-time is very much in the ascendant on the web. The latest evidence is Google’s launch of real-time stock quotes (also here).

    The mind boggles at all the productivity lost through inefficient use of email. The long emails that everyone hates to read. The never-arriving replies. The carefully worded requests for detailed information that are answered with “Yes that looks fine” in the subject line.

    As everyone gets more comfortable with instant messaging, its usage in the business world will explode, as it has with consumers. Already most tech-savvy companies are using them for internal communication. The next step will be to use them to talk to customers and vendors. The customer of the future won’t be willing to accept the typical email response you get from companies today: “Thank you for emailing us. We will try to answer your query within 48 hours”. Really? But you pick up the phone when a customer calls, right?

    One interesting consequence of the impending real-time revolution is that time zones will be back in fashion. They weren’t actually out of fashion, but email made them less important. Now, if you want to be available to your customers when they want to talk to you, you’ll need to think about when they’re awake. For a European company with a customer base in the US, that can mean unorthodox working hours.

    (Our own small contribution to the real-time revolution, LiveLeader, is a free, AJAX-driven embedded live chat product).

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