I was talking with a friend yesterday about a good metaphor for why I think experience is so important for Rich Internet Applications. He stopped me and said that it was just a no brainer. "That's why people buy Macs. They do exactly what you think they should." I agreed, but there still aren't that many people buying a Mac. We've seen an uptick recently because with the Intel Macs, people no longer have to chose between Windows or Mac, they can have both. Apple has built a very good niche in the PC market because of the experience, but widespread adoption has been slow in coming. One could argue that the iPod shows that you can monetize experience, but I want to go for something a little more traditional - like cars.
Just as an application allows you to complete a task, a car gets you from one point to the other. There are people who will tell you that the simple task is all that matters. Those people have never ridden in a nice car. There are some cars that are just more fun to drive than others. A trip to the grocery store in a Honda Civic is going to be fine, but a trip to the grocery store in a Porsche Cayenne is going to be an experience. Everything from the way the car accelerates to how the interior is meticulously designed to provide ultimate comfort makes going to the grocery store fun. Just like we sometimes take our cars out for joyrides, our applications should give us the freedom to simply play.
Now imagine if we could brand our applications in the same way we brand cars. Check out the list of the top global brands. There are four car companies in the top 20 - the most representation in the top 20 for any sector. Mercedes and BMW clock in higher than brand heavyweights like Google, Pepsi, Nike, and yes, even Apple. Branding is big business in the automotive world, and part of the reason for that is that cars provide an experience and a lifestyle. As our online world becomes more and more a part of our "regular world" the applications that people are drawn to are going to have the same traits of providing an experience and a lifestyle. With Rich Internet Applications, we can finally, for the first time, bring that kind of experience to the web and to our devices. As we get better at branding them and fine tuning them the user will no longer be trying to get from point a to point b on the web, but taking your RIA out for a joyride.
With a great experience built into your RIA, you can build brand loyalty, keep the ever-precious "eyeballs" and empower your users to take your application with them wherever they go. It all starts with experience. No one sets a picture of a Mercedes as their desktop background because it gets them where they want to go. They do it because it makes going places fun. RIAs should be no different.