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RIA & Ajax: Article

AJAX Toolkits Wiki Helps Developers Evaluate UI Components for Building RIA User Experiences

The AJAX UI Toolkits Wiki

Catalyst Resources announced the public launch of the AJAX UI Toolkits wiki at http://ajax.wikia.com. The new wiki identifies a list of UI components used in business software applications to develop a Rich Internet Application user experience. Each AJAX toolkit on the wiki is displayed using the same format and same list of standardized UI components; so that at a glance, developers and technology decision makers can benchmark which toolkits meet their specific requirements at the level of user experience. Developers and toolkit vendors can fine-tune the toolkit listings, augment it with additional notes, and provide direct links to demos of that UI component.

Catalyst Resources started this wiki as an adjunct to their own quarterly survey of RIA UI toolkits. The list and organization of the UI components in the toolkit table were chosen based on a survey of over 200 web applications. The table identifies a standardized set of data handling and interaction points that are common to almost any type of business application. While most AJAX toolkits support a much broader range of UI components and features, by limiting the wiki specifically to a standardized set of UI components that are typically required in an application, developers and UI architects can begin to intelligently narrow down their toolkit choices. Once they determine which toolkits meet their basic user experience requirements, they can then look in more detail for additional UI, technology features and extensibility.

"Based on our experience, building a successful AJAX-based business application does not begin with evaluating the technology and toolkits," said Paul Giurata, managing partner for Catalyst Resources. "It begins with identifying and modeling what your users need to accomplish. Once you have identified the interaction and data handling points where rich behavior would have the greatest impact, then you want to look at the toolkits to see if their UI components provide these specific rich behaviors."

A feature matrix is of course, not the only way that a developer should evaluate a toolkit. There are many other considerations that a developer will want to balance, including extensibility, scalability, utilities, licensing, documentation, and community support. However, when a developer examines an application from a user task and interaction perspective, then it is useful to be able to easily identify AJAX Toolkits that include UI support for required behavior. For example, if the design of application requires that users have some way to interact with and manipulate tabular data, then a developer will want their candidate pool of AJAX UI Toolkits to offer a level of support for manipulable data grids.

"Too often people get focused on the coolness or the developmental richness of technology and features, and lose track of what they are really trying to accomplish -- create a user experience that engages a customers and lets them do something more efficiently or effectively." said Giurata. "Our vision is that the AJAX UI Toolkit will help developers narrow down their selection of AJAX Toolkits based on common types of user interaction. We also hope that by calling out standardized view and component types, that all toolkits will eventually add these as base-level features."

Catalyst Resources has been working with most of the toolkit vendors listed in the wiki, to confirm the accuracy of the information and add any additional notes. At this point the wiki is not focused on technical evaluations of frameworks, but the goal of the wiki is to gradually evolve to include sections devoted to technical features, additional specialized components and component details.

More Stories By RIA News Desk

Ever since Google popularized a smarter, more responsive and interactive Web experience by using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for its Google Maps & Gmail applications, SYS-CON's RIA News Desk has been covering every aspect of Rich Internet Applications and those creating and deploying them. If you have breaking RIA news, please send it to RIA@sys-con.com to share your product and company news coverage with AJAXWorld readers.

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