[thelist] The Trouble with Web Applications (was Is Target dead)

RUST Randal RRust at COVANSYS.com
Fri Jun 18 07:53:10 CDT 2004

Sarah Sweeney said:

> I'm also not quite sure what is "wrong" with web-based applications - 
> but perhaps that's a subject for another thread.

Yes, it is, so let's do just that, because I'd like to hear some
opinions on this topic.

I manage the User Interface design for all of our Web applications, all
of which are for public sector clients (government). This means that
there are accessibility guidelines that have to be followed, which gives
me free reign to adhere strictly to using XHTML for structure and CSS
for presentation.

The problem is that most of our clients are converting from
client/server apps. In a c/s app, information is transferred differently
than on the Web, there is no HTTP request, so you can do things more

For example, let's say you have two <select>s on a page. The second one
is populated by a choice in the first. In c/s, you can do this without a
refresh, but on the Web, unless you are using some remote scripting
mumbo-jumbo, you have to send a request to the server and refresh the
page. Clients don't like this, and can't understand why it isn't easy to
make it work the same way (if it is, someone please tell me

And then there are the insanely long forms. Clients want to cram as much
info as possible into a Web page, because they could in their c/s
application. This is because no one cared about the UI in the c/s app. A
gray screen is a gray screen. But expectations change when it becomes a
Web app. The Client suddenly wants to cram all of the same information
into the page, but still make it look nice.

And, finally, when you design c/s, you are designing a piece of
software. You have total control over display. So it's no big deal to
have a table with 12-15 columns in it, but this becomes extremely
troublesome in a Web page. And the Client always wants to display as
many columns as they can cram into a page. Always.

There are workarounds for all of these problems, but rarely is there
time for us to implement those solutions due to deadlines and lack of
experience in the development team.

Over the last four years, I have learned that the people who come from
c/s development to Web development (at least in our company) tend to
think it is a one-to-one relationship. That they can just pick up where
they left off, but it is not the case. Most c/s apps are written in one
language -- be it Java, C++, VB or Oracle Forms. But when is the last
time you wrote a Web app with just HTML?

Web apps are inherently more complex than desktop apps, or Rich Internet
Apps. And therefore they are much more cumbersome. Therein lies what is
/wrong/ with Web apps.

Randal Rust
Covansys Corp.
Columbus, OH 

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