09 February 2007

Interface 2.0 - The new web interface

With all this talk of AJAX, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript and XML, is Web 2.0 just the catch phrase of the day, or is their something elearning visual designers can gleen from all the hype?

So the definition is debateable, but for many it's the idea that the web will gradually converge into a platform for web applications. If you develop your own interfaces, the technology side of Web 2.0 is probably something worth sinking your teeth into. But, even if you're sticking with Flash, all the new technology has had a delightful side effect - an ever expanding treasure of interface innovations that are challenging standard functionalities and giving a long-awaited facelift to the way we interact on the web.

The beauty of it is that these new ways to design interactivity aren't just new, or wildly experimental, they're simple, better, cleaner and even intuitive. There's always a balance between "Sticking to what people know" in Neilsonian determination, and trying new things for the sake of evolution and improvement. A few sites are striking this balance and can thus be inspiration and idea farms to us all.

So if you're looking for marvelous little interface ideas, sooner, rather than later have a look at the following sites. They may not all be perfect, but at their best they demonstrate aesthetic, clean, simple and innovative approaches that are sometimes remakably intuitive...

Take a tour of Basecamp, this clean and intuitive project management software, and pay special attention to the interface details.
Basecamp - web-based project management.

It's not always intuitive, sometimes downright stubborn, but it is a global site pushing the bounderies and spawning new ways of simplifying a wide variety of complex tasks. It's the very popular Flickr. Check out the member tools if you haven't already.

Not too secret anymore, this groundbreaking (slightly confronting when you find your backyard) public view of the earth is a classic example of Web 2.0 in action, and it's changing all the time as Google adds new features that demand novel apparaches to interactivity and interface design.
Google Maps

It's pretty rare we find new approaches to designing interface elements and user tasks that are a real step forward. The kind of thing that makes you go "Hell yah! - how come I haven't seen that before?" And "This'll clearly be standard in a year or two." Well these are things elearning designers take to like a hungry dog to a bone. They're enticingly valuable as we look for ever new and better ways to help our users interact more easily and effectively with our designs, no matter what technology we use. Let your creativity be your guide and post us a comment if you uncover any other great examples out there in the great digital yonder.