Selling Rich Internet Applications to a wider audience with user experience

I gave a talk at Ignite Seattle tonight and it got me wondering about the best way to show people the benefits of Rich Internet Applications. When we have a more general audience, how do you get them interested in RIAs? What should RIA evangelists focus on to get the message across to less-tech minded groups?
Written by Ryan Stewart, Contributor

I gave a talk about Rich Internet Applications at Ignite Seattle tonight and while I didn't fall flat on my face, I'm not sure I tailored the talk correctly. The presentation and the video will be up on the Ignite Seattle website and I'll probably talk a little bit more about it over on Digital Backcountry. I think John Musser had the best quote when he said I "won the award for the most words". I talked very fast and crammed everything from mobile Open Laszlo to Ajax in a 5 minute presentation.

But it got me thinking. Ignite Seattle is a techie audience, but it's also a more broad audience. Some of the best presentations were about traveling the world, food and the electricity consumption of computers. Interesting, but non-geeky (Windows Presentation Foundation had a moment in the spotlight thanks to the team at Identity Mine). But my talk (in addition to being a bit of information overload) didn't really appeal to a more general audience. So how do we do that? What parts of Rich Internet Applications can resonate with a group of people that have diverse interests? I think it comes down to experience.

Experience has always been important for applications, but in the past, it's been tough to do. As a result, it's been a bit of an afterthought. Where RIAs really shine is that for the first time, we can build applications that are creative, full of design, and fun to use. I talked briefly about an "emotional connection" to applications, and while I realize that's a bit hokey, the things we can create with RIA technologies really do evoke some emotions. Applications are more fun to use, they allow us to do our jobs more quickly, or maybe they just engage us by making it easy to explore. 

The confluence of design and development has really made all of this possible, and we're still in the very early stages of that. User experience remains a buzz word, but with things like Flex and Apollo or the 3D interfaces of WPF, we're changing how people interact with applications. It can be on the web. It can be on the desktop. We can bring in video and sounds to make the application come alive for the user. Making applications better and more fun is something that can engage a wider range of users and get them thinking in a new direction. That's why RIAs are so much fun. We now have the tools to create rich, fantastic experiences so that our users almost forget they're using a piece of software. Technology moves to the background and experience flows to the front. That's a good thing in my mind.

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