Web applications are all the rage these days as cloud computing becomes the standard way of doing things. Whether it’s Facebook apps, Web clients, Flash, Adobe Air Apps or anything else that’s becoming ubiquitous, a huge part of the development of these applications is design and what you an learn from the design of quality web applications is priceless. In this series of posts, I’ll spotlight five well known web applications and share the design aspects that I think make each unique.
Leah Culver is the designer and lead developer of Pownce, a microblogging and file sharing service backed by Kevin Rose and designer Daniel Burka. It began as a project while she was hosting Wink!, a webcast produced by Webshots.
Pownce has since become one of the hottest, most highly scrutinized web applications on the market. Will it go big? Or will it sputter out and die before the masses really find a place for it? Regardless, here are a few things that I note when I see an start-up application like Pownce start to take off…
Choose The Right Framework/Language
When developing Web Apps the biggest thing you can do to save yourself a lot of time and money later on is to choose the right language to build in. Should you use Ruby on Rails, Django, Flash or something else? The decision making process can be tireless, each language has it’s pros and each has it’s cons. Django is very well renown for being built to scale, one of the reasons Leah Culver and Daniel Burka built it, loosely based on the LAMP standard (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) with Django/Python thrown in for good measure. This will not only affect your choices as a designer, but it will also affect your business model, your content choices and your ability to meet demand. A great example of how not to do this is Twitter, who deployed Ruby on Rails without fully being prepared to scale to meet the demand they received.
Pownce was probably the 100th social network to debut in 2007, a time when social networks were springing up all over the place to take advantage of eager VC’s and investors who were salivating over a second boom in web based business models. What made Pownce different from Twitter and Jaiku (it’s nearest competitors) was not just in function, but in design. Pownce simply looks good. In fact, when I first began using it I was convinced it was a useless application (at the time you could only send messages to your other friends on Pownce) but it looked so damn good I wanted to find a way to use it every day. Did I really need another blogging application? No, but Pownce was around and it was so strikingly good looking I would work it into my activities online. This might sound superficial but in world of a thousand “Me too’s!” sometimes looks might be all you have to stand out from the herd.
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Keep it Practical
The other thing that set Pownce out from the crowd was the fact that because its features were minimal, it’s design matched perfectly. There is no excess, no flash, no bling. Pownce seems to pride itself on doing what it does (sharing content) and not being pretentious (del.icio.us) or ugly (yousendit.com) while doing it.