As I was reading through my feeds, this sentence over at Something Witty Goes Here caught my eye:One of the interesting things about web applications is that they can change from one visit to the next. Depending on your point of view, this can be either incredibly frustrating or delightfully surprising.
It's one of the things that makes RIAs so great and also so dangerous. The developers can instantly respond to feedback. In some cases, this could be great. When a feature doesn't work right, or there is such a glaring omission that the application feels broken without it. This kind of agile development is something that all web applications provide, and is a big draw for developers. Rich Internet Applications however, give a much greater level of control over the UI and as a result, means more traps when it comes to changing on the fly.
When it comes to rolling out features, the agile model can be great, but when you're making subtle changes to UI, there is the potential to alienate a lot of users quickly. The same goes for incorporating branding and advertising into RIAs. The "web model" for advertising is pretty standard - Google ads between content or on the sides. But RIAs are a little trickier, and there is more advertising and branding that can potentially be "built into" the application. As the advertising model is more refined, there will be some temptation to drastically change the user experience around the branding. It will be interesting to see how Pandora meets this challenge.
This is something that RIA developers really need to focus on. I've preached many times about how the experience of RIAs is one of the things that separates them from regular web applications. The open discourse that occurs on the web is something that RIA developers can take advantage of, and make their applications better. But a big part of experience is elegant simplicity, and while the tools will let you do a lot of seemingly cool things, sometimes a more moderate approach is called for. Especially with advertising.