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Should There be Enterprise RIA Style Guidelines?

This is my first JavaLobby post without JavaFX in the title, so please bear with me :-)  Anyway, I have a simple question to which I suspect there is no simple answer.  Nevertheless, I'm going to ask the question:

As Rich Internet Applications become more prevalent in the enterprise, should there be UI style guidelines for them?

One could argue that Web 2.0 has a fairly well defined and documented style (for example Web 2.0 how-to design guide), so we should just use the Web 2.0 guidelines.  Someone else could argue that because RIA technologies such as Flex, Silverlight and JavaFX offer richer UI capabilities, enterprise RIAs should have their own style guidelines.

I suppose that it would be good to make a distinction between:

  • browser-based applications that have embedded RIA technologies (e.g. a Flash or JavaFX applet that exists on a page), and
  • applications whose entire UI is enabled by an RIA technology, regardless of whether it runs outside of a browser, or fills an entire browser page

The question that I posed above assumes the latter scenario, and also assumes that the application is an n-tier enterprise application.  What should one of those look like?  Should the navigation include traditional drop-down menus in a bar at the top?  How should the iPhone style guidelines factor in, if at all?  Because Flex has a more mature set of tools, components, and styles, should JavaFX and Silverlight RIAs tend to use Flex apps as a guide?

Another answer, of course, is to not seek enterprise RIA style guidelines, but rather just let them evolve.  I don't care for that answer, as I think that the software development industry and its users have much to gain from common style guidelines, not the least of which are consistency in UI design and usability.

Please post a reply with your thoughts.

Learn JavaFX in Stockholm, Sweden in January 2009

I'll be speaking on JavaFX at the Jfokus 2009 conference in January. While in the area, I will also be conducting a two day public JavaFX class in Stockholm on January 29 & 30, 2009 entitled "Rich Internet Application Development with JavaFX".


Jim Weaver

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