Interactive Web Trends

June 13, 2013

By Web Programmer Brandon Edmark

At the birth of the World Wide Web, webpages were just that – static, unchanging pages of text connected to one another through “hyperlinks.” Eventually webpages came to include images, sounds, and video, but their nature remained the same. When truly interactive features were necessary, website developers often created them for proprietary browser plug-ins like Java and Adobe Flash. This meant confining the most interesting interactive elements to a small box within the webpage. Otherwise, interacting with a website meant navigating with links and buttons from page to page, often with slow load times and an experience that never felt as natural as interacting with traditional computer programs.  

Over the last several years, this has changed dramatically. Many popular websites are now more properly referred to as web applications; they are often as interactive, powerful, and complex as traditional desktop applications. In many ways, Google has been on the forefront of this trend. For example, their Gmail service became popular in the mid-2000s because its capabilities and overall polish rivaled desktop email programs, without requiring the user to install certain plug-ins. Google Docs is a web-based replacement for Microsoft Office. It allows users to create letters, spreadsheets, presentations, and more, collaborating with other users in real time. At Image Management, we have created our own real time web applications to design our web-based presentations, share resources with our colleagues, and manage our vast library of images.

Popular social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr now notify users of new information as it is posted, without requiring them to refresh the entire webpage. As users scroll down the page, older content loads automatically. This feels more convenient and natural than the old method of clicking through archives and manually reloading pages that was established by blogs and message board systems in the previous decade. The change may seem subtle, but for websites with regularly updated information, these innovations are crucial in keeping users happy and engaged with the site.

For many websites, the old model of static interconnected pages is adequate. However, it is worth considering how one’s business could benefit from the new opportunities created by real time web interactivity. Websites that need to keep their users engaged on a frequent basis or that enable them to edit complex information are perfect candidates for these trends toward seamlessly interactive web application development.