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Marc Schluper Business Intelligence for fun

Sometimes it is really, really difficult to get rid of bad habits. One of these habits in our profession is the use of pages in web applications. The World Wide Web started as a system of interlinked hypertext documents contained on the Internet. Why is it that nowadays, two decades later, we still build web applications using the document concept, putting content on pages?

The worst use of pages is when we force the user to switch between pages while doing a single task. Every page change means a short wait: the page needs to be loaded and rendered. Data needs to be retrieved. It also means the server gets hit, often needlessly (as the same data has been retrieved before). Moreover, every time a user needs to open a different page, she gets a context switch and needs to reorient herself. Eyes need to be focused. Things need to be recognized. Sometimes we even need to scroll the page! If this happens once or twice it's no big deal. But if it happens all day it becomes a headache.

Instead, an application should allow a user to put all tools needed to perform a task on one desktop. Of course we then get into the issue of screen real estate - is there enough space to display all tools (DataGrids, Forms, etc) on a single screen? This problem has been solved decades ago: we have used windows ever since. So what is holding us back from using windows instead of pages in web applications?

Sometimes it is really, really difficult to get rid of bad habits. Now that we have Silverlight we are free and could dump pages right here and now. But what is the first Silverlight Business Application template that appears in Visual Studio? One that is based on pages. Desktop applications never have pages. Why would they?

So I call upon all web application developers of the world: "Stop using pages! Put related controls in a window. Have a taskbar that contains for each window an icon that when clicked causes the corresponding window to appear on top. Allow windows to be resized, dragged, and closed."

Your customers will love it. Finally, finally they are free from pages!

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 9:41 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Get rid of Web Application pages

# re: Get rid of Web Application pages
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I completely agree! I'd be interested to see some posts on how you're implementing this in silverlight. I've probably done the same thing in my web apps (using MVC + JS). I have a separate landing page for each concept/aggregate which supports searching. From the results you can then execute commands/tasks that may open "pop in" windows for additional input or just show a notification when the command completes (using jBar & gritter style notifications).
Left by Ryan on Jan 08, 2011 10:24 PM

# re: Get rid of Web Application pages
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I started with what I got from (when we could still download a DLL from there). But soon I found myself spending more time on a windowing system than anything else.
My regular work involves 50% setting up a Data Mart (think SQL scripts to get the data in the proper format), and 50% Silverlight. The UI is only 25% so it was not justifiable to spend a lot of my time on a Windows solution.
I tried to persuade people at Microsoft to have Microsoft provide it but without success.
Left by Marc Schluper on Jan 10, 2011 8:59 PM

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