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Rich Internet #$%?!2* — Mistakes to Avoid
Posted By Jodi Mardesich On August 1, 2008 @ 12:00 am In Online Marketing | No Comments
Rich Internet applications are the cornerstone of Web 2.0, the next generation, truly interactive Internet. They go beyond first wave HTML applications to offer better interactivity, speedier and more satisfying user experiences that keep customers around longer, as well as a way to differentiate your brand on the Web.
If your company’s core interaction with customers is online, rich Internet applications can prove worth the effort and expense. “Being able to differentiate the experience online is a huge win,” says Ron Rogowski, principal analyst with Forrester.
Improving user experiences
A better online experience means fewer abandoned shopping carts, more sales, and more business. Rugsale.com  has a “shop together” function that replicates the experience of two people shopping in a store, where they can separately look at items and then show them to each other and talk about them later — albeit through browsers. Companies like Rugsale.com want to increase sales and minimize returns, so allowing people who will share a purchase to collaborate on that purchase online is a plus, Rogowski says.
Companies don’t need to worry about the bandwidth needs of rich Internet applications: The majority of homes have broadband connections. According to Gartner, 60 percent of U.S. homes have broadband, and by 2012, it will be even more common, as 77 percent of households adopt it. And even those people who don’t have broadband at home likely have it at work, Rogowski says, so connection speed becomes less of a hurdle to the implementation of rich Internet applications.
However, along with the flexibility of these new tools to improve user experience on your business website comes the chance of making design mistakes that end up frustrating your customers. “The root of the problem with building rich Internet applications is that designers try to do too much, making them more complex than they need to be,” Rogowski says. These design mistakes include hiding content and navigation, going overboard with animation motion, not offering helpful interactive cues, and making the applications too complex.
What not to do with rich Internet
How to use rich Internet effectively
Rich Internet applications can be designed effectively by creating a “persona” that takes into account what the user will be doing on the site. Rich Internet applications don’t provide a lot of benefit if people can’t figure out how to use them. In addition, to get the most out of an investment in rich Internet applications, test the application with people who are actually going to use it. Don’t wait until the application is finished. Test it throughout the design process. For a small company that doesn’t have the budget for extensive usability testing, an option is to find a guinea pig at your local Starbucks.
“Rather than exposing the complicated process, make it simple for your customers,” Rogowski says. By not giving good interactive cues, you defeat the purpose. “The simpler the interface, the more powerful the tool,” he says.
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