Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Why Web based apps SUCK!

Yea, that was a harsh title.  I've been using Oddpost (Oddpost.com) for the last 6 months.  Probably the first web app that ever seemed to really work like a real app for me.  It's basically a DHTML clone of Outlook Express with some extra features like RSS support

Well, that sucks is they upgraded it today and the new version sucks and as it's web based I have no control over that.  As a desktop app if the new version sucked I could just not install it but as a web app I'm at the mercy of the sys admins and developers over there.

If you want to read the specifics, Oddpost used to treat RSS feeds just like an e-mail folder.  The folder appear as a normal folder just like Inbox, Sent Items, etc.  It showed the number of unread entries just like an email folder.  Selecting the folder showed the list of entries on the top right pane (just like an e-mail folder).  If you selected an entry it's except would appear in the preview pane (just line an e-mail).  The title back in the list would be bold if you had not read that item yet (just like e-mail).  You could select titles and mark them as read-unread or delete them (just like e-mail).  All that as changed today

I'm sure the developers thought they were doing a good thing but they changed how it works.  Now, each feed only has a dot solid or not solid.  Solid means there are unread headlines.  There is no count of unread messages anymore.  If this was such a good idea why didn't they do the same for e-mail?  Maybe because it's NOT a good idea.  :-(
 
Then, instead of having the upper right pane be a list of titles they changed it to a generated webpage showing each title and its excerpt.  So, where as I used to be able to see 40-50 titles and just click on the 2 or 3 that sounded interesting, now I can only see about 3 titles since the excerts take up 5 - 6 lines each.  I can no longer at a glance see the 2 or 3 items I might be interested in.  I have to scroll down the page.  :-(
 
As they are also no longer presented as a list I can no longer individually delete them.  I liked deleting them.  It made me feel like I had cleaned up, finished looking at them, etc.  It also meant I could leave some items unread.  The new way if I look at the feed it's assume I read all of it. :-(
 
Then, they automatically load up the actual page for the entry in the bottom pane.  There are all kinds of problems with that not the least of which being that some pages are unstable based on the ads they serve or the Javascript in the page which could take down the oddpost window.  But, worse, it's slow since it has to load up the page. :-(
 
Also, I don't even have the option to open them in another browser window.  So much for reading more than one article at once :-(
 
Hopefully they will change it back or at least make it an option but this shows an issue with web based apps that is less of a problem on desktop apps.

Gregg Tavares
Thursday, June 24, 2004

I felt the same when Ebay recently re-did MyEbay. But it's probably more to do with the company than web based apps in general.

Matthew Lock
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Your valid complaint is about them changing everything, but that has everything to do with how they managed the upgrade process, not the fact it's a web based app.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

Well I think the point is that web-based apps should _somehow_support the idea of multiple versions. 
After may web-based apps do multiple version already with "Basic Free Service" and "Platinum Subscription Service". 
It sounds like a nice Technical Architect challenge to allow users to use an older version and allow them to upgrade when they want.

Howard Ricketts
Thursday, June 24, 2004

"It sounds like a nice Technical Architect challenge to allow users to use an older version and allow them to upgrade when they want."

I don't see it so much as a technical challenge, but rather a political one.

SW companies are all looking for the same holy grail - making their customers upgrade on every new version. What you're describing is on their "Worst Nightmare Top 10" :)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, June 24, 2004

I work in an organisation with thousands of desktops, and the constant struggle to keep client app versions up-to-date is a nightmare, even using all the tools Microsoft give us in their Windows2000 world.  Version control issues with our web apps are sooooo much simpler!

Seems to me your problem is that your web app doesn't provide you with personal configuration options so, for example, you might be able to switch on/off new features depending on whether you like them or not.  Web apps just haven't really matured yet, but give them time...

Geoff Houlton
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Why are you telling us this instead of oddpost.com?


Thursday, June 24, 2004

Actually, what you are complaining about is not a web based app problem, but a hosted service problem.

For instance, we offer our web apps (including one with some overlap with Odd Post actually, although we don't do the news thing yet - see http://groups.demo.phibian.com and login as 'Guest', 'Guest') either as a hosted service or as a download where you install it on your own server.  In our case, if a client asks for a dedicated hosted service, or if the client purchases the web app as a product, they have control over the upgrades.  Otherwise, they don't.

From a software developer's point of view, being able to force upgrades is a major benefit of a hosted service.

It simplifies support and allows you to fix any problems you find right away.

The trouble comes when there are user interface changes or changes in available features, because inevitably some users prefer to keep everything the same.  I guess it is a trade-off, and Odd Post has decided to keep their fees low by simplifying their support at the expense of allowing upgrades.  Since people are pretty used to the concept of not having control over web apps, I'm not sure that it is going to hurt them.

Phibian
Thursday, June 24, 2004

There are stupider things for designers to do... AOL likes to move their sign-in fields around even when they are offering no new features.  Why the heck would you move the username and password fields from one side of the screen to the other?  I hate it when my user interface changes for no reason.

Steamrolla
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Paulo - for web apps you charge a service fee; there's no financial reason to require users to upgrade.

For the web app advocates, again I ask - can the internet infrastructure handle feeding every desktop in the world over the wire every time someone completes an action? Sure a lot of stuff can be handled with DHTML, but after a few major actions you're going to be refreshing the interface.

The OP's point about interface versioning is a good one. With desktop client versioning, the *user* chooses when to upgrade. Can you imagine myWordProcessor.com deciding to upgrade their client the night before you have a proposal due and you can't find the features you need?

I used EdiSim 3.3 for years - they were up to 5.2, I think, when I left the EDI world. But I stayed with 3.3 because later versions were awful.

I think web applications have their place, but I don't think they're a panacea, and I think it's a Bad Move to push for a 100% thin client architecture, especially when we don't have the network infrastructure to support it.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 24, 2004

>> I felt the same when Ebay recently re-did MyEbay. But it's probably more to do with the company than web based apps in general.

Nah.  Just ebay's phucking programmers trying to justify their jobs by constantly making useless changes.

BeamMe2
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Paul Graham's new book argues that web interfaces do suck, but they're Good Enough that users will accept the tradeoffs.

And there are workarounds. If you want to pay, you can self-host, or have some deal where you get a version separate from the mainstream. Or you can hit a link to use previous versions. This software is in infancy.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Thursday, June 24, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home