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An Anecdote: Is the Web Clunky?

I was at dinner with a friend who was considering enrolling in a survey class on client side web technologies. The course would cover things like JavaScript, Silverlight, HTML5, Adobe flash and the like. As she was talking, I was playing with my new Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which if you are not familiar, is somewhere between a traditional smartphone and a tablet. As a side note, that phone is pretty awesome in my book.

As she was talking about the course I gave her the phone and told her to look up the definition of a word, any word, first using the Internet and then next using an “App.” This is a simple task of course, but the experience of doing this using the web versus an app has an extremely high ‘clunkiness’ factor to it.

For the web experience, you press “Internet”, go to Google, search for “dictionary”, find one or two of the top ranked dictionary sites, wait for it to load, type in your word and find the answer amongst a panoply of side-rail ads. If you are a Google power user you can use the”definition” keyword, but not all users know about that.

For the the app experience, you open the dictionary app, put in the word and get the answer. Simple, smooth and fast. This experience is fueled by APIs, specifically an API call from the native app to the Internet or other back-end system providing the answer.

I told her, “Well, in that class you are considering, you are learning all of the technologies that enable the first experience.”

“Why would I do that?” She responded. “The first way seems so clunky.”

I considered responding with various arguments about how the web has fueled tremendous growth and the value of open standards for mark-up and a common syntax for universal resources – but then I thought of the cash-value the task at hand – getting the definition of a word, and while the web experience gets you the answer, the app experience gets the answer faster and with a better experience. When the task is well defined to a single purpose, the app shines.

The big question now is, will that native experience be restricted to devices or will it it spread to ultra-books and desktops? How much of that native app experience will spill to the larger computing devices?


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