Banking

Where do RIAs fit into your development toolbox?

Many developers are giving Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) such as Flash and Silverlight a second look. Are you using RIAs? If so, how do you use these systems in your work? Let us know by taking the poll.

Over the last few years (and "over my dead body" as a lot of developers I know have said), Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) such as Flash and Silverlight have taken hold to do more than show funny cartoons. It seems like between Adobe AIR and Silverlight, many developers who formerly forsook these systems are now taking a second look and even signing on board.

I admit that Silverlight is attractive to me in a "you know you shouldn't, but you want to anyways" kind of way. It uses XAML (which I should learn for WPF), it embraces IronPython, and I already have the tools and a lot of the API knowledge to work with it. But at the same time, I am not a fan of the principle.

I'm curious to know if and how other developers are using these systems. Take this quick poll to let us know.

J.Ja

Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Get weekly development tips in your inbox Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic's free Web Developer newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically subscribe today!

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

28 comments
hanker.for.a.hunk.of.cheese
hanker.for.a.hunk.of.cheese

I'm pretty impressed with Adobe's Flex platform for the web not to mention the coming of Air. To me, it's perfect for Intranet or specialized applications with dedicated clientele. I used to be a firm believer in Java, but Adobe has penetrated the market for more than Sun. I have over 10+ years in web development and am about to make the plunge. However, any advice would be appreciated.

.Sherwood
.Sherwood

My development is driven by business need. At the moment I don't have any business cases showing their value. When we get a business case for them we will implement them. In the mean time they are just bells and whistles.

jos
jos

I use Flash regularly for fancy site headers, with a menu structure linked to a content management system, but also for font embedded captions and fancy result graphs, also linked to a CMS. The main reason is that whenever I try to do similar things in javascript, I have to spend TONS of my time in cross browser checking and recoding. I have had no chance to look into silverlight yet

Kim SJ
Kim SJ

A great way to force the user to behave in the prescribed way, in my experience (having been thus forced on numerous occasions). OK if you want to protect IPR etc, but a royal pain for users if you are trying to communicate openly. Annoying that Flash is the best way to play video on the Internet at the moment, though.

Jaqui
Jaqui

and websites using those technologies do not get my visit. companies using them do not get my money.

Justin James
Justin James

What are your thoughts on RIAs? Good? Bad? Indifferent? J.Ja

mklarson
mklarson

when the public is paying the bill, we have to be careful the tool fits. Honestly, I can't wait to implement a silverlight app, our little 4 man team would pumped up to move out of old school .net and give our audience something to come back to!

zefficace
zefficace

The problem is not the use of the technology, it's the overuse. It's alright to have flash on your site, it's a whole other thing to build the entire site out of flash, and I have seen such sites. Flash abuse is awful and mind numbing usually resulting in a site that is little more than a visual fiasco. Like alcohol, to use with moderation.

chris
chris

it's when it's the interface that it's a pain. not for you, but i need to say this... hey, everyone, "the entire world does not use MS Window and IE"

Duke E Love
Duke E Love

Not Google analytics or Google Finance? No youtube? You just flat out boycott all RIA?

techrepreader
techrepreader

We are programmers rather than designers so the Flex environment has suited us for Intranet deployments. These are extremely complicated applications for ICU, Pharmacy, etc., we give users, in an area the size of England a desktop experience on the web. Once people really start to see the power of RIA not just as an extension for animated gifs, but for genuine applications we really will see a revolution in the WEB.

jvansanten
jvansanten

Don't use it if you don't need it. But, if a rich desktop is needed -- CMS system, heavy data-driven applications, lot's of interactivity with the users, RIAs with asynchronous communication provide a richer experience for the user, a more consistent development environement for the developer, and a more scalable application server-side.

chris
chris

i look at template sites to get ideas and i am amazed at how many are using so much flash. anyone ever read a usability study?

Realvdude
Realvdude

Even beyond the flash abuse, is the lack of understanding in deploying a flash website. Since I have a cable access at both work and home, when I hit a website that has to tell me it is at x% loading or will complete loading in x seconds, I know that they've overdone the flash especially for their hosting resources. I like your alcohol metaphor, as there are some places you should not be drinking and there are people such as myself who should never drink.

Americium
Americium

It reminds me of years ago when people were first using electronic slide shows. They added fancy animations and annoying sounds that really detracted from the presentation. The word was that the fancier the presentation, the less content it had. What REALLY bugs me and causes me to simply click away from a web site in disgust is when it seems that every time I go to the site, it prompts me for a flash update - I don't want to update flash every 30 seconds (or even every other week for that matter). It's really, really, really, annoying.

chris
chris

youtube hosts flash movies, but i don't think it's classified as ria is it?

Justin James
Justin James

... for a long time, I've been saying that I wish that instead of HTML + HTTP, we had something with a richer, more desktop-app development and work model. And it's been sitting here the whole time. What really turned me away from RIAs for a while was more the way Flash itself worked than the concept. I think Silverlight is a very slick system, particularly since it leverages existing knowledge. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

Jakob Neilsen did some research a few years back on just this topic. Here's one in particular: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20021125.html There are a few other articles in his archives on the topic too (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/). While the studies may be from 2002, the results are still perfectly valid. Something like 78% of the usability guidelines from the 1970's era still apply to the Web today! J.Ja

chris
chris

you'd hope they'd add some code that would recognize that and not force the flash on you a second time

Duke E Love
Duke E Love

It talks to the server, it contains dynamic content and brings desk top functionality to a web page. A site does not have to be entirely done in flash (or done in flash/JavaFX/SilverLight at all) for it to be an RIA. There are plenty of sites with desktop type functionality (RIA) that are done entirely with JavaScript. A perfect example would be the Eclipse distro builder at yoxos.com. It works better than its desktop competitor, Pulse. http://ondemand.yoxos.com/geteclipse/start

Justin James
Justin James

... I would most likely go with Flash.Flex, simply due to market penetration, and the fact that I already have some (outdated) experience with Flash from ages ago. :) J.Ja

eNietoM
eNietoM

Yes, if you have a MSDN subscription, it may be a good choice for you to try Silverlight. But what happens when you have no MSDN subscription, or .NET background? Take me for example, I only had an Java background(few years working with JSP's, Servlet, HTML-Javascript, etc) before I started a proyect in Flex, and I was really amazed by this framework. Flex is easy to learn, Flex Builder is built on top of Eclipse so it felt like home for me, and there is lots of information over the web and also cool opensource components you can try. I believe that this is just the beginning of the RIA frameworks competition and Flex has a good chance of being the winner.

chris
chris

but it is the means of producing the result. when you build with the result in mind, everything comes out better

chris
chris

for me, i want me web based stuff to just be fast and streamlined. That's why i hate IE applications. don't kid yourself, they aren't web apps if IE is required. i guess i don't mind other things as long as they are fully cross browswer/platform compatible.

Duke E Love
Duke E Love

Here is a perfect example. I am looking for an information/architect/builder concerning building a container home and I have stumbled into this bazaar-o world of crappy flash sites. I am looking for information and I could care less on how hip/edgy/cool you are. Let your work speak for itself and don't turn your site into a vehicle for personal expression. All I want is information. It is so frustrating. And a lot of times it is not the designers fault, it is the client that most often turns a good site/design/concept and turns it into a steaming pile. The fastest way to ruin a site is form a committee. The second problem with Flash/Flex is that designers are thrown into the role being developers and the results are evident. However, when you put Flash/Flex/AJAX in the hands of companies like Google and Adobe and the results can be stunning in terms of a usability, Functionality and being esthetically pleasing. Take Google maps, Google Finance stock tracker and Adobe's Photoshop Express for instance.

Justin James
Justin James

... is simply "resources". I have X amount of time and Y amount of budget to spend exploring new technologies. Regardless of how good Flex may or may not be (I can't say, because I know very little about it), Silverlight leverages a good deal of existing knowledge from what I can tell (alternatively, learning it will give me understanding into things that will be useful elsewhere). More importantly, the tools the develop Silverlight are all included in my MSDN subscription. I know, it's an incredibly non-technical reason to make a decision that we always chide our bosses for making on non-technical grounds! But it's a reality, too. I can't go to my boss and say, "hey, I want you to drop $500 (or whatever a Flex license costs) and let me flake off for two weeks seeing if it works for us." It's a lot easier for me to load the Silverlight add-ons to Visual Studio and install Blend from MSDN, play around with it here and there, and then go to the boss and say, "this tech is good" or "this tech stinks." I have a suspicion that if you compared Flex/Flash/AIR usage for "desktop-like apps" (as opposed to something that a non-developer such as a graphics designer could put together) to Silverlight, you will see Silverlight gaining ground quickly. Developers that were previously shut out of the RIA space simply because Adobe/Macromedia owned it and they were stuck in the Microsoft ecosystem, are now all over the place with stuff. MSDN really is the critical item. Even if Adobe offered something similar, I couldn't justify it unless it was only a few hundred dollars. No matter what, I am going to need an MSDN subscription. And most developers I know are in the same boat. Most developers I know have an MSDN subscription, and maybe one or two other low cost tools, usually ReSharper (or Code Rush) and possibly Top Style. It's a shame, but that's the economics of IT departments. :( J.Ja

Meredith.Jones
Meredith.Jones

I use Flex extensively in my work environment. It provides a stable environment for both the developer and the user. Its development environment is more 'developer' oriented than that of flash and it too leverages on existing development experience with other languages.

Editor's Picks