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Tthe UI is the application

With his postings, Bob Krygowski highlighted many important aspects of Software as a Service, as in his The Other “S” in SaaS - Service Complementing Bob’s blogs, with this posting I will start discussing about the first “S” in SasS – Software.

I am seeing that frequently the terms SaaS, Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and AJAX are used interchangeably, as if they were the same thing.   They are not.   SaaS applications should have as rich a user interface as possible of course, however not all RIA are AJAX and SaaS is not the exclusive business and deployment model of RIA.   Comprehensiveness, agility, flexibility, modularity, intuitiveness, ease of use, maintenance and administration are all very important requirements for business applications.   Many of these attributes are invisible to the end-users of business applications.   They --- rightfully, I think --- don’t care or just take these characteristics for granted.   To them, the first order priority is to perform their jobs as effectively and productively as possible and one of the most important means they have to do so is by using the application’s functionality through its user interface.   Ditto: For the end-users, the UI is the application.

So, what is the best user interface for SaaS applications?   Business applications must have the user interface(s) that fit the needs of the end-users.   It is common for power users to require very rich desktop-like user interfaces with Windows look and feel (L&F), highly responsive and with desktop integration (ie. Outlook’s metaphor has gained tremendous acceptance and more often than not end-users demand it as their L&F of choice).   On the other hand, a traditional web-style (block-oriented) user interface with some Ajax may be more appropriate for occasional end-users.   Quite frequently any given application must meet the needs of these two types of end-users!

How to address this dilemma?   With robust, field proven SOA-based development and deployment products and tools that include support for a broad range of user interfaces, reusability of a single code-base, abstraction from basic technologies to facilitate maintenance, and one development language for data management, business and most user interface logic to keep the costs low and the developer’s productivity high.

OpenEdge addresses these requirements with flying colors.   And proof of OpenEdge’s versatility and comprehensiveness, is its leadership position in the SaaS marketplace with a vast catalog of actual commercial SaaS business applications in production, as discussed in Progress-ing Towards ERP On-Demand.

The SaaS business model makes it easy for businesses to rapidly subscribe and use business applications, and makes it easy as well to switch away from those offerings that don’t suit the needs of the end-users!

Therefore, regarding the user interface of SaaS applications do not get carried away with market hype and choose the UI to meet the needs of the end-users.   Architect the applications using SOA/OERA principles and OpenEdge will give you unmatched flexibility to use any or multiple UIs at once: (D)HTML, Ajax, Windows desktop GUI, .NET, Java, Adobe Flex, --- to name just a few ---  and using one business logic code-base operating in OpenEdge application servers running on UNIX, Linux or Microsoft.   Choice is good and OpenEdge gives you the power to choose.   Do not settle for less.

In future postings I am planning to discuss pros and cons of user interface options.   I'd love to hear from you:  What user interface(s) are you using, or planning to use with your SaaS applications?


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