Becoming Comfortable with Web Applications

Joshua Porter

August 17th, 2005

The interest we’re seeing in web applications is tremendous. We’re seeing amazing new applications like, a synthesis of Google Maps and Craigslist that allows people to find out about and locate on a map apartments or houses on the market. We’re watching the success of the iTunes Music Store, a desktop application that allows people to purchase music from an online store with an amazing selection to choose from. And we’re hearing a lot of folks talking about Ajax, a new approach for creating web applications.

Something is definitely in the air. But what is it? What is the source of this huge amount of energy?

There are many factors, of course. One of the major ones, I think, is an acceptance of the Web as a viable medium, a viable place to do business, a comfort level. Ten years ago it was unheard of for people to put their credit card number into an input box. It was unheard of to do banking online. It was inconceivable to download a file even approaching 1 MB in size. People were suspicious of cookies, of providing personal information, of encryption strength.

Now that we can do all this, however, it becomes very interesting to see exactly what people are comfortable with. Are they comfortable with providing their bank account number? How about their social security number? Or medical information?

With every advance in technology, there needs to be an advance in comfort. We’ve seen in countless user tests that in order to make people comfortable with new technology, they can’t simply be told to use it. They need to have experience with it, to know the incentives, to recognize the work that’s being done to keep them safe.

So, if you’re working on new web applications, do you know the comfort level of your users?

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