One is responsiveness. Web applications generally suck when it comes to rapid response to user’s actions. Just today my friend told me how fast a time tracking app has become when he installed recently released Google Chrome add-on for Internet Explorer. If it wasn’t a web app he wouldn’t touch the application with that level of responsiveness. Not even with a stick.
What else? My call is usability. Web is still mouse-focused while most of old school thick clients are, or at least should be, keyboard-focused. The early web was all about navigating with mouse but that’s the old truth: keyboard is faster. The web should just mimic keyboard-driven navigation from thick clients, shouldn’t it?
Well, no. Not so fast. The problem is every web page works within some thick client – a web browser. Now, you can’t just use all these Alt+something or Ctrl+something since you don’t know which version of which browser your user launched.
Yes, Ctrl+O opens a file and Ctrl+S saves a file pretty much everywhere. But you don’t really know what Alt+N does in my Firefox and in my Internet Explorer. And as far as shortcut isn’t intercepted by the browser it will be passed to a web application. Unfortunately you can’t know when it is and when it isn’t.
The answer? I wish I had one which works every time but that’s not true. One great approach is the one used by Google Reader. They use characters and Shift+characters as their shortcuts. This doesn’t interfere with Alt+something or Ctrl+something used by browsers. Unfortunately this doesn’t work whenever you have a lot of text to be filled by the user since then you use letters and big letters to fill the text.
Another option? Leave shortcuts alone but make standard tab-pedaling as intuitive as possible.
Any other ideas how to solve the problem?
On a side note: a little hiatus here was connected with deployment of my private project. In other words: finally we have moved. There are glitches all over the place but the first service pack (term copyrighted by Szymon) is scheduled for the next year.