Talking about specific technologies is fun and covering the news is good, but in the end, why the hell do we care about Rich Internet Applications? What's the point? Why does having a better designer-developer workflow matter? Because if we focus on experience, we're going to make software better and in the process usher in the next generation of applications. Rich Internet Applications are a huge step forward in that progression because they set new rules for what both web applications and browser applications can be.
Sanjay Parthasarathy, the vice president of the Developer and Platform Evangelism group at Microsoft had a great keynote for the Developer Launch Event and talked about talking software to the point where users are emotionally connected to it. It sounds kind of silly to think about software in that light, but that's exactly what we need to do. Think about the evolution of the car. When it was new, people were consumed with just getting it to work. They tinkered, tried new things, and some of those stuck. As it progressed, we commoditized it. Henry Ford told the world they could have any color Model-T in the world as long as it was black. People weren't supposed to care what their car looked like, just that it worked. I think that's where we were with software as recently as a year ago. Software did it's job and that's all there was to it. Efficient user interfaces were good user interfaces and software was basically a commodity. But with the car, people realized that it was as much art as it was machine. They thought about ways to make the car technologically better but also more comfortable and user friendly. Technological evolution is important in software, but while we're evolving technically, we also need to be evolving on the design front. With a good "devigner" workflow, you can make your software a Mercedes. Make the experience one that invokes a lot of emotion and makes the end user passionate. Build the kind of interfaces that people want to set as their desktop backgrounds. Just as Mercedes can charge a fortune for a car, sophisticated, pixel perfect applications can command a premium.
So how do we justify that to the people who make the decisions? Well the most important thing to figure out is who makes the decision. Matt Voerman has a great post that talks about getting buy in for great user interface technologies. You still have to sell good design to people, but it's becoming easier. Start talking about putting the user interface first. The technology crowd is inclined to focus on the back end or the developer side of things, but the user is ultimate what makes an application succeed and fail. Help raise expectations in your organization by talking about user experience and how it provides value. If your application is easier to use, the people who actually work with it will be more productive and can spend their time valuably. It starts with the user experience and we finally have the tools and processes at our disposal to make UX a big part of the process.