Client-Side Web Architecture and Graceful Degradation
Not all browsers have the same capabilities; however, for various reasons, we want our web pages to exploit the cool new technology that modern browsers enable but still have the web pages work in old browsers. We use graceful degradation techniques so the pages work in all browsers.
Development time is limited and expensive.
Here are four case studies of main four types of web pages/sites/applications. Each case tries to identifies the target group, design tradeoffs and appropriate times to use each. Making these decisions is all in the grey area. The pros and cons have to be weighed.
The Amazon site displays products. The urls should change as the user browses the site so that each url can be emailed. Users don't spend a long time on a single page and need it to dynamically update.
37signals is profitable and famous but they didn't invent anything new. The Internet already had solutions for business like to-do lists, group chat, and file sharing. 37signals repackaged these solutions and inspired payed subscriptions. What design decisions helped lead them to such success?
37signals is largely successful for the same reason the Internet is: The World Wide Web. More or less, anyone with an Internet connection and a modern Web browser can use the 37signals solutions. That's a lot of people! It doesn't matter if you are using Windows or Mac. You don't have to download any browser plugins, or standalone chat or file-sharing client applications and learn how to install and use each. 37signals made it simple. Your new computer came with the necessary browser installed. Just plug in your connection, point your browser at a 37signals site and start sending them money.
Not everyone can be a 37signals customer but by using a relative relaxed set of requirements most Web users can (maybe 80% or more). 37signals developers are not worried about selling to people without the necessary technology or with other limitations that make the 37signals unappealing. Why would they be willing to dismiss any potential customer base? Increased profit.
37signals is optimized for profit and to a lesser degree developer enjoyment and even developer fame. 37signals is a wily startup that wants to skim the cream. By quickly developing modern, exciting, competitive applications that work for 80% of Web users, the small company can attract a large proportion of this 80%. To make their applications usable by the other 20% of Web users the development time would increase dramatically. The 20% of Web users that currently cannot use their solutions probably contains a small proportion of people interested in business solutions anyway. Business users likely have modern computers and browsers with all the bells and whistles. Instead of trying to get the last few possible users to subscribe to one of their current solutions, 37signals could instead use the time to develop another solution to a different problem that works for the 80%. This is the more profitable option.
Who said Web 2.0 had to be backwards compatible with web 1.x?
Email is a far more generic web application than the 37signals applications and the big companies with deep pockets are in the game. The Microsoft Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail email applications were in the Web 1.0 category. When Google decided to enter the email battle they had to be better. They had to crush the competition in every possible market even if it was just for pride. Google knew that whatever solution they released, the other two companies would try to match or better it...and Google had the funding to win.
Google's Gmail with it's use of Ajax definitely did out do Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. This repackaging of email in a more modern user interface that requires a modern web browser won Gmail success similar to the success of the 37signals applications. However, Google did decide to release a Web 1.0 version of Gmail so that users without a modern browser or disabled browser could still use Gmail. Google also released a Gmail version for cell phone users. And RSS. And POP. Why was it wise for Google to release multiple versions when it wasn't for 37signals?
Web 1.0 versions of the 37signals solutions might bring them 1000 more users which might not even pay for the needed development time. For Google, a Web 1.0 version for their email solution might gain more than 100 000 Gmail users. That is a lot of people for the time necessary to develop a simple, static email application. Remember that Gmail scan's all your emails and advertises down the right side based on your content. They want access to every last user they can get.
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