22.50, Sunday 20 Jan 2008

Movement. I'll be speaking at Web Directions North at the end of the month, and taking the opportunity to expand on some of notes in last year's wrap-up.

Today I met up with Tom Armitage to see what he's created for a prototype we've been working on together. It shows off a simple pattern I think should (and will be) part of every web app. But before Tom made the proof of concept, I didn't know if it'd work. It does, it's better than I imagined, and I'm totally psyched. There'll be a demo in my talk.

The abstract, for Movement:

We've always had metaphors to understand and design for the Web.

The original conception of the Web was as a library of documents. Our building blocks were derived from spatial ideas: "breadcrumbs," "visits" and "homepages" were used to understand the medium.

Website-as-application was a new and novel metaphor in the late 1990s. The spatial concept of navigation was replaced by concepts derived from tools: buttons performed actions on data.

These metaphors inspire separate but complementary models of the Web. But the Web in 2008 has some entirely new qualities: more than ever it's an ecology of separate but highly interconnected services. Its fiercely competitive, rapid development means differentiating innovations are quickly copied and spread. Attention from users is scarce. The fittest websites survive. In this world, what metaphors can be most successfully wielded?

Matt takes as a starting point interaction and product design, with ideas from cybernetics and Getting Things Done. He offers as a metaphor the concept of the Web as experience. That is, treating a website as a dynamic entity - a flowchart of motivations that both provides a continuously satisfying experience for the user... and helps the website grow.

From seeing what kind of websites this model provokes, we'll see whether it also helps illuminate some of the Web's coming design challenges: the blending of the Web with desktop software and physical devices; the particular concerns of small groups; and what the next movement might bring.