In episode two of our RIA Weekly podcast we talked with James Ward about some of the enterprise Flex out there. (I'm hoping to get someone from Microsoft to talk about Silverlight 2.0 after the break) One of the things that James talked about really got my attention. He noted that a lot of the new user interface paradigms come from real life. Translucent windows, rounded corners, and depth. Having that more natural experience makes the software feel more friendly and adds to the emotional attachment that I talk a lot about.
What's great about rich Internet applications is that the natural experience is baked into the platform. The entire family of RIAs worked hard to differentiate themselves from what the rest of the web was doing. Standing out through more natural interactions and UIs was an easy way to do that and it's moved the entire industry forward. In some ways it fits very well with what's on the minds of society. More natural software seems to go hand in hand with things like environmentalism and being more green. And look at how drawn you are to applications like Picnik and Yahoo Vista Messenger, two applications that make great use of natural UI features.
Ultimately I think that's the kind of differentiator that the more powerful RIA platforms provide. Ajax is great but it still feels kind of flat compared to more expressive technologies. There can obviously be some very badly done expressive user interfaces, but using natural features makes the application stand out. With great power comes responsibility, but I think James made some great points about how and why natural interfaces in RIAs make a lot of good sense. Even in the enterprise.