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In this seminar, the author conducted a research on a topic regarding about the use of Rich Internet Application (RIA) enhancing user experiences and business services. The RIA has become the preferred platform for conducting business as quickly and effectively. Based on information from the research, author will also present about features of RIA technology and why the business should implement this technology.
The seminar is divided into six chapters. Firstly, the main objectives of doing research of this topic are to identify the knowledge that may be applied to business web application. By having knowledge on how to apply RIA technologies into business application, company can build a great user experience web application. By this, the business services of the company will be enhanced.
Secondly, chapter two will discuss about overview of RIA concept, which is difference with traditional web application. However, the RIA not will totally replace traditional web application. The chapter will compare the difference between RIA and traditional web application. The RIA architecture also will be discussed in the chapter.
Thirdly, the fundamental knowledge of RIA technologies will be discussed in the chapter three. The features and functions offered by RIA technologies look convincing and worth to implement. However, RIA technology may not a right solution for every organization. The best suited website will be cover in chapter three.
The RIA brings a lot of advantages to the company. However, if company plan to implement RIA technologies and integrate with their business, there are some challenges need to overcome by the company. The chapter four will discuss about the challenges in developing and implementing RIA in real life organization.
After gone through all the chapters that covered in this seminar, the author believe reader might be able to gain knowledge regarding the RIAs and had a better understanding on how the RIA enhancing business services and user experiences.
1.1 The Evolution of Web Page
The evolution of the web page started with HTML, which was originally designed to deliver static documents in synchronizing with information through a browser. Web 1.0 would be the first generation of Web technologies such as basic text and image web sites. Nowadays, the rapid grow of web technology turn the web page into Web 2.0. It is a concept being introduced in a conference barnstorming session by O'Reily Inc. and MediaLive International (O'Reily, 2005). The Web 2.0 is closely connected to idea of RIA. With RIA, the web application allows the end user to integrate with rich content, such as complex graphics, audio, video and multimedia. It provides dynamic features which the early website lacking of and it expands the usage of web application.
1.2 Application Success Factor - Usability and User Experience
A success application must focus on usability and user experience. Usability is defined as the simplicity of goals achievement for individual user using any tools. User experience is the way of user interacts with a system (RJ Owen, 2010).
A useful, usable and demandable product can be known as a well-designed product. Applications become useful when they balance technical and marketing aspect to produce application that can achieve the goals in the hands of a user.
User Experience is important because there are a lot of non-technical users, who have lack of experience with software application to consume the software application. Therefore, better user experience is important because it can bring a simpler, easier, functional user interface and also look nice (Dax Pandhi, 2006).
What make RIA user experience great?
If the RIAs are not providing some useful functionality, the RIA will be rejected by end user because it is useless. The usability of RIA is how well the users are able to perform the required tasks supported by RIA. The best way is provide the simple and natural user interface for end user. The user experiences of using RIA will not interference the user experience of doing the tasks. Mullet (2003) suggest that to build a great interactive experience RIA must be including 4 essential qualities, which are
Seamless experience. User can get immediate feedback from RIA and responsive interaction between application and users.
Focused Experiences. A good user experience RIA should be focused and does not try to solve everything in one user interface.
Connected Experience. The RIA should not disrupting user's productivity when the periodic disconnections from the network. RIA can work locally until the network connection is re-established.
Experiencing awareness. A good user experience RIA should include some auto complete function in order to get an adaptive user interface.
2.0 Overview of Rich Internet Application
The following chapter will present about the concept of RIA. The concept of RIA is different with the traditional HTML website. Furthermore, comparison between RIA with traditional HTML website will be discussed in this chapter. Furthermore, in the chapter also will discuss about the architecture of RIA, which different with previous generation website.
2.1 Introduction to Rich Internet Application concept
Figure 1.0 shows Venn diagram of RIA. (Whatley, 2007)
The term Rich Internet Application was first introduced in Macromedia Flash MX - A next-generation rich client by Jeremy Allaire in 2002 (Allaire, 2002). There are several definitions for RIA, it is commonly refered as web 2.0 and used to describe dynamic web application that different with traditional HTML-based web page. RIA has a strong emphasis on graphical interface and interactive capabilities to bring a great user experience to end user. Unlike the previous generation web, RIA plans the leverage of the user experience with more powerful GUI including chart, drag and drop and etc.
Besides, RIA aims to combine the strengths and user experience of desktop application to web application. According to Preciado et al. (2007), RIAs consist of many desktop application characteristics and delivers the information through a web browser, allowing end users to experience a more natural user experience. The difference between RIAs and desktop applications are the way of handle and perform the task. Nowadays, processing of desktop applications rely on client side. When a task is started, the desktop application will rely on local computer resources to perform the task. On the other hand, RIA will perform the task on client side -computer's browser and server of the web application.
2.2 Comparison between Rich Internet Application and Traditional HTML Website
From the previous section, RIA is known to be a great web application concept. However, RIAs do not try to replace traditional HTML website. It still remain ideal for representing simple data without high interaction levels. (Morales-Chalarro, 2008)
The traditional web application performed using simple software architectures, designed using a very limited set of development options. However, it is easy to manage, design and test compare to RIA.
RIA plug-in such as Flash or Silverlight, end user is not allowed to bookmark certain favorite page due to the dynamically change of content. Other than that, the application has been updated without any page refresh. Therefore, the user cannot typically use 'Back' button of the browser. It will bring inconvenient for end user. Moreover, The RIA plug-in will not keep a lot of page history in the browser. The users feel difficult to refer page history for review purpose (Bryan, 2009).
Besides, some RIA plug-in such as Flash and Silverlight is able to run independently in the browser, meaning that the change of content needs no changes on URL and HTML coding. It will cause the web application difficult to get a good ranking in search engine website. In contrast, traditional HTML web page provide stronger SEO because most search engines are text driven, search engine will based on the static text content to determine ranking of the website. Therefore static html website have higher search ranking (Bryan, 2009).
2.3 Rich Internet Application Architecture
According to Preciado et al (2007), RIA consists of four important foundations. There are Business Logic Foundations, Presentation foundation and communication foundation.
Business Logic Foundation
In traditional web applications, most of processes are executed only on the server. The client just performs a request and the server will build a new page and sent to the client as a response. In RIA, there are different structure compare to traditional web application.
The business logic can divide into three ways, which is
Client-Side - The business logic for particular task is performed only on the client.
Server-Side - The business logic for particular task is performed only on the server.
Mixed - It is one of the ways to complete a complex task; one part is carried out the client and another on the server.
Presentation layer in traditional html web application is limited. It is not able to provide multimedia support and require plug-ins in order to show video and audio at the client-side. RIA offers improved the presentation layer and better interactions between users, such as drag and drop features, strong multimedia support and so on. Presentation layer in RIA focuses on the layout and styles, and on the capturing the behavior between user and application. The RIA normally will operate as single page application, and avoid unnecessary page refresh and show the progress of loading page when needed.
Traditional Web application allows synchronous connections and the communications which are originated at the client-side. However, both synchronous and asynchronous communications are able to achieve in Rich Internet Applications. Communication is a cross-cutting concern related to data synchronization, business logic distribution and presentation experience.
Data Foundation in traditional web applications is quite limited. The persistent storage and volatile content on the server is possible, while the storage of content on the client is quite difficult. In RIA, the content can be commonly stored at client side at persistent and volatile. For instance, the item of shopping cart in an e-commerce application can be stored at client side, user also can manipulate item. All content will be sent to server once the operation has been completed.
3.0 Fundamental Knowledge of Rich Internet Application Technologies
There are many different RIA technologies in the market currently. The RIA technologies play an important role to develop a great user experience RIA. The features and functions offered by RIA technologies look convincing and worth to implement. Furthermore, RIA technology seems to have exploded throughout multiple industries globally. Some of companies in different industries had implemented RIA to help them in their business process, in this chapter will discuss about RIA suitable for which area of industries.
3.1 Technologies to Build Rich Internet Applications
RIA can be developed by different type of technology. Not every applications that developed by using RIA technologies are RIA, only those that able to facilitate user experience are considered as RIA. The developer and designer can use those RIA technologies to develop a Rich Internet Application. The following is a list of RIA technologies in current market.
JavaFx are designed to provide a consistent experience across variety platform desktop, mobile devices and Blue-Ray players. Rich 2D interfaces can be developed by using JavaFX; syntax of JavaFx is quite similar with XAML. The development tools of JavaFX is not user friendly compare with Flash and Silverlight. It makes developer prefer to use Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight to develop their RIA. However, JavaFX is open-source RIA platform. Therefore, it can help organization save development and license fee.
Java applets are developed by Sun, and currently own by oracle. It executed using Java Virtual Machine and written in Java Language. There are a lot of free libraries for this platform. Java applets can run in standard HTML web page when the web page is opened in a supported web browser. It will access the devices, such as client screen, speakers, keyboard and mouse. Through the features, developer can build a highly interactive web application.
Adobe Flash, Adobe Flex and Adobe Air
Adobe Flash technology is the most widely used developing platform which developed by Macromedia and currently owned by Adobe, It is executed by using Flash browser plug-in and written by Action Script. The Flash browser is very widespread over the world; 95% of browser installed this plug-in (Lammarsh, 2008). Adobe Flex is developed in Action Script and core of Flex is the developer-centric Flex framework, a library of Action Script objects that provide a great foundation for building Rich Internet Applications. Developed a Flex application is similar to develop .NET or Java Application (Mertens, 2008).
Silverlight is a new entrant from Microsoft that rapidly emerging in the RIA platform. Formerly code-names as Avalon or WPF/E (Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere). Currently, Microsoft Silverlight also support mobile devices embedded with Windows mobile phone 7. Other than that, Microsoft currently releases Silverlight 4 able to supports Deep Zoom, Webcam interaction, Pivot Viewer, multiple touch and 3D perspective Graphics. Those features bring great web user experience to user. (Microsoft Silverlight, 2010) Silverlight Developers is allows to construct their applications by writing in XML based code call as Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML). Developer also can construct the business logic of the program by writing programming language that support by .NET framework, such as C# and VB .NET. It can run at windows platform as well as browsers.
3.2 Features of Rich Internet Application
This concept is getting popular because the powerful facilities that provide capabilities to develop application with following features at the client side. Today, there are a lot of RIA technologies in the market. There are some common features which have been normally included in RIA:
Refresh part of a page.
The RIA commonly applied asynchronous communication method to integrate with server. It allows RIA retrieve information from server without page refresh. Therefore, a full page refresh and post back to server are not necessary for the every action that performed by user. With RIA technologies, the results can be displayed on the page immediately without any page refresh where the web application only updates certain part of page.
Rich charting and other rich UI controls.
The RIA technology is packed with high quality, customizable control such as charting, autocomplete, tree-view and data grid. Those professional design UI controls bring better user experience and make the task become easier. The RIA chart will make user easier to understand the data and make better decision.
Rich media support.
Developers are allowed to embed rich media into RIA. RIA plug-in such as Flash and Silverlight support online video streaming. Besides, both plug-in are also excellent platform to game development environment because it can support audio, video and animation. With the powerful IDE provide by Microsoft or Adobe, developer can easily build the game with rich animation and media support.
Drag and drop utility.
It is a very unique feature for RIA. It is defined as clicking on some object and moving it to imply a transformation (Cooper, 2003). There are two directness of drag and drop, which is take the objects and put them at somewhere, and second type is putting an object at somewhere to perform certain function. User can directly drag and drop the item to complete task, it makes the web application become more user friendly and improve user experience.
Through RIA technology, the instant zooming and instant panning the map is allowed. Other than that, famous industrial in this field such as Google and Microsoft offer an Application Programming Interface (API) to third party developers. (Google, 2010) It allows them to integrate web map services into RIA.
Integrated with multiple data source.
Through the web services or Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), RIA will allow the user to get information from multiple data sources, such as Oracle database, SAP and so on. Business logic and data services can integrate seamlessly with the RIA. As a result, RIA able to receive multiple data sources at the same time.
The RIA technologies such as Flash or Silverlight have ability to work under online and offline. Thought offline ability, RIA can work with or without network connection. Furthermore, user can work offline and resynchronize the web application when the connection is re-published. Data loading onto client can be conducted through cookies or any local resources (offline). For example, Google Gear is software make some online file able to work under offline.
3.2 Best Suited Website for Rich Internet Application
According to Gartner Research (2006), RIA technologies will be including in nearly 60% of all new application development in 2010. In fact, not all of RIAs have been successful. Therefore, when a company decides to implement RIA, they must analysis their business requirements. They shall not follow the past successful implementation example exactly and blindly. One of the reasons is that RIA technology may not a right solution for every website even it is available for wide ranges of web application development. The following are some websites that suitable to be built with RIA (Simmons, 2007).
Product catalogs and product selectors.
The key strengths of RIA technology assist end user to filter large volumes data. By using rich UI control of RIA such as sliders, check boxes, color swatches and other control, users can search their desire product that exactly fit their needs. It will provide a faster and better shopping experience with immediate feedback and real-time interaction.
RIA is suitable to implement on product configurator web application. It allows users to configure or customize their own product. The ability of update partial page information will deliver real-time visualization and support for graphic-intensive content for the complex product. End users can customize their own product without any delay, so it also enhances the quality of business services.
Web Application such as mapping software, webmail application, online time management tools, e-calendar, photo editing solutions are conducted by RIA technology. It offers the features and conveniences of desktop application but user can access it from anywhere on any system. User can get quickly and efficient application without any installation and maintenance.
Gaming and entertainment applications.
The powerful features of RIA technology enable developer to create virtual game with music and video. Furthermore, it also can stream video and audio for entertainment purpose. RIA-based gaming and entertainment applications allow the user to enjoy entertainment from anyplace.
4.0 The Challenges in Developing and Implementing Rich Internet Application in Real Life Organization
In fact, it is not easy to implement Rich Internet application and integrate it in the business. Many organizations are trying to involve themselves in the RIA arena to retain customers, but in order to success, there still much aspect that need to be discovered and solved accordingly.
4.1 Learning Curve for End User
With the advance features of RIA, development becomes more complicated. It is well known that when any new task is learned, learning curve will be occurs cause that a period of inefficiency. However, user becomes more familiar with the task once the user familiar with the system, the performance will return as usual or even better than performance of previous system.
The organization face more problems due to the increased complexity in design, for instance, some user might be not able to adapt the complicated design of RIA application. Therefore, when new functionality is added to the applications, it is also important to include guidelines, tutorials, and demo videos to show procedures to interact with the application. As a result, the end user learning curve will be lower because they can follow the instructions to learn how to use the applications. Missing instructions mean that a lot of users wouldn't proceed and create frustration and increase drop off rate.
4.2 Security Issue on Rich Internet Application
Real life organization have strict security requirement for business-critical data. One of major area of concern for RIA is security issue. The main reason of the problems is the RIA is running on the client side, the user can hack the RIA on the client side. For Ajax-based RIAs, there are several worms such as Yammer, Samy, and Spacefish-type worms exploiting client-side frameworks. There is several Ajax based website that have been targeted from cross-site scripting attack. For instance, Yammer attack Yahoo mail on 2005 and Samy worm attack Myspace.com. (Kotadia, 2006)
There are some solutions to eliminate the security problems be happening, the developer do not trust the client, web application just provide information that needed by client side. In addition, the developer must implement data and application protection. For instances, developer should implement technology such as encryption and carefully assign client privilege to prevent hacker from attack and steal the important confidential information. As a result, it can protect the communication stream. Some of RIA framework, such as Adobe Flash/Flex applied restricted security protocol (Bryan, 2009). Consequently, it will eliminate the security problems that happen on the RIA. The organization should choose RIA platform carefully in order to eliminate vulnerability to attack. Silverlight, Flash provides own security sandboxes to protect the privacy data not be exposed by hacker (Hammond, 2008).
4.3 Limitation of Search Engine Optimization
4.4 Other Challenges
Through the development tools like Adobe Flash, Flex Builder, Microsoft Visual Studio and other RIA development tools, RIA can be developed within couple of days. However, there is lack of standards and best practices for RIA technologies. Currently, this web application concept is lack of standard methodologies and models for design and development (Preciado et al., 2007). The organization should conduct research on business requirement and choose the most suitable development standard for the RIA.
Nowadays, web technologies had changed rapidly to adapt with the market's need and change. Therefore organizations cannot keep on remain the old web technology, but it also need to change constantly according the change of the business requirement and market need.
There has a lot of change and improve on RIA technologies such as Ajax, Flash, Silverlight and other RIA platform. The RIA platform keep on enhance and add in new features, it might cause challenge on development time; some features might be changed or updated during release of newer version RIA technologies. There are learning curves for developer; developers might not handle the updated technologies as well. The organization should conduct research on business requirement and choose the most suitable RIA framework for the web application.
5.0 Critical Evaluation on How Rich Internet Application Help in Real Life Organization
In this section, the author will conclude to why RIA should be implemented as a wiser alternative in obtaining the best solutions in overcoming complex business problems.
5.1 How Rich Internet Application Enhance business services
In this competitive world where we currently staying at, everything could be compared and compete with each other. People are fighting to explore and create new strategic advantage in the market. Everyone is certain that only the product or services that offered is highly competitive could able to survive longer-lasting in market. After studying several article, author make following supporting point to how the RIA enhance business services.
Organization can gain news customer by offer a better user experience. To achieve success business, application is one of success factor; it must satisfy the user needs and provide them with the functionality they need to accomplish their tasks. If the application does it, there will have a great chance to use the services again. People mostly turn towards the companies which provide better services, which can help them to achieve their goals as efficiently as possible. In addition, it also can increase brand value of the organization that implement RIA technologies.
Rich Internet application can simplify complex task. Distributors and retailers can improve the revenues of their companies by improving the user experience by providing simple interfaces to solve complex task and method. RIA-based systems provide an opportunity to streamline business processes by their ability of making simple, highly interactive interface for web application.
Better productivity. Today, there are getting more online-business owners start to invest in RIA-based technology development in order to assist them differentiate their offering from their competitor. The organization and businesses in services area can easily enhancing their services and guide them. RIA does not require full page refresh unlike traditional web applications, it will increase interactivity and responsiveness to improve the end-users experiences. As a result, it will bring greater productivity.
Cost Reduction. Many businesses can benefit from Rich Internet Application technology. RIA technology will lower the bandwidth costs and server load by moving the processing to client side, which is the web browser.
Better Decision support. Rich Internet applications are well suited for financial business services interaction. The reason because financial services are extremely complex, relies on graphic chart and model and always requires data from multiple data sources (Rogowskin, 2007). RIAs can have a big impact on financial industrial and connect the richer experiences into the web application.
From the supporting points mentioned at above, the author concluded that RIA technology is an advanced technology that worth for an organization to implement in order enhances business services and move the particular organization to next level.
5.2 Case Study: Philips
The following section will show an example of company implement Rich Internet Application technology into their system. Philips is a living example.
Philips is a global electronics manufacturer based in the Netherlands. With over $35 billion in annual sales and a work force of over 125,000, it was vital that Philips achieve broad adoption of their SAP Customer Relationship Management system.
Problems faced by Philips
The user complaint to Phillips due to the current HTML-based application was too slow and complicated for heavy use. Users have to wait around 30 seconds for request HTML pages. In addition, the existing system not user friendly and provide bad user experience to end user. Therefore, Philips require an approach that can provide advanced interface that would streamline tasks so they able to achieved the task in fewer mouse clicks and key strokes, embed charting for improved data analysis and system support. Other than that, the selected approach need integrated with the SAP enterprise services. Key Account Managers are often offline when update prize lists. Meanwhile, Philips wanted to reduce development time and costs.
Solutions take to overcome problems
Philips selected Adobe Flex, one of the RIA technologies to develop a system named LEAP Online to overcome the problems. Adobe Flex supports for rich, cross platform front-ends and out-of-the-box capabilities to integrate with SAP Enterprise Services through SOA. The Flex Builder development environment helped the Philips complete development on time and within the budget. The new system provides on-demand visualization of data that impacts pricing decision, and pricing comparison features. With the new system, the workflows are simplified from six clicks to two clicks. Furthermore, the system response times were lowered from 30 seconds to 4 seconds. They are able to mash up graphic sales and pricing information that help account executives to make better and faster decision. Adobe Flex also support for complex data model and discounted operation using local database met need to account professionals in this field.
Author evaluation part
After studying on this case, the author strongly agree that Philips had made a wise decision on integrating Rich internet application technologies with their existing SAP Customer Relationship Management system; this is because the integration both systems had perform in a perfect manner. The reasons why author write that because the performance of the system be enhance and the RIA successfully streamline business workflow of previous application.
Firstly, with ability of RIA, it helps to enriched and enhanced user experience. Apart from help in solve Philips problems, the implementation also indirectly help Philips in better management because all information present in well presentation view.
Secondly, the implementation will improve relationship between customer and Philips by offer a better user experience. People mostly turn towards the companies which provide better services, which can help them to achieve their goals as efficiently as possible.
On top of that, author would like to suggest that map technology of RIA should be implemented into the Philips LEAP online project. Adobe can integrate with Google API and build a great web map application (Marcel, 2009). As a result, It will be more convenient when the user to view address/location of customers. Furthermore, route direction web services also can implement to provide direction support to lead user to their correct position.
Although the RIA that implement by Philips bring benefit to the organization, but there are some problems might occur after implement the new system, end user need more times to get familiarize with new system because the system consist of advance user interface, once the user familiarized with the system, the performance will return as usual or even better than performance of previous system.
Finally, author concludes that Phillips is a wonderful example of making use of Rich Internet application to carry their business process in highly competitive world.
5.3 Linkage Rich Internet Application with Final Year Project
In this section, author will discuss how seminar entitles 'The Use of Rich Internet Application on Enhancing User Experiences and Business Services' linked with final year project. The concepts and knowledge gained from seminar have been used in develop the final year project, Green Reconnect.
From the research conducted for the seminar, author learnt benefits and key features to enhance business services and assist the business decision maker to make a better decision. Most of companies should choose to build their web application with RIA technologies.
Therefore, Green Reconnect has been developed by using Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies, which consist of Microsoft Silverlight and AJAX toolkit for ASP .NET. Microsoft Silverlight integrated with Bing Map, which is the map technology strongly recommended by Microsoft. One of module, online trading is develop in Microsoft Silverlight to get better integration with Bing Map. Bing Map web services provided by Microsoft can integrate with Silverlight seamlessly.
In author's opinion, the use of RIA technology has greatly enhanced the usability and user experience of using crops maintenance module, and it greatly boost the productiveness and effectiveness of the admin staff. Admin staff can work with desktop like web application without any installation on the PC, and they can update the crops information at anyplace on anytime. It is time consuming for HTML web page to implement the user experience of RIA technologies, even combined use with other programming languages. It shows the powerful and potential of RIA platform.
In conclusion, the concept and knowledge that gained from seminar research has benefited and assist the author to implement the Rich Internet Application technologies into Green Reconnect.
As a conclusion, RIA is a successfully concept and technology provide powerful features and bring web application to another level of user experience. RIAs helped many organizations to improve performance and quality for a business. The RIA can streamline the business process and transform business process into more intelligent way. Meanwhile, RIA also can help the organization reduce the development cost and time to develop a great user experience application.
The RIA provides a new way to design and build the next generation web application. The RIA technologies in the market like Adobe Flex/Flash, AJAX, and Microsoft Silverlight provide great technical support for RIA development. Compare with traditional HTML web page, RIA provide richer user experience, functionality and communication ability. However, there will face some challenges in implement on the real life organizations. The area of security and search engine optimization is the weakness area of RIA. In addition, the rapidly change of web technology make the implementation become more challenging. Other than that, learning curve for new RIA also one of issue that will face during RIA implementation.
However, the web technology is rapidly changed and unpredictable. The next generation html - html 5 might change the RIA world. Most of browser like Internet Explorer 9, Google Chrome 5, Firefox 4 and Safari start to provide better support for html 5 standards. The battle between the RIA plug-in with html 5 will be started. The competitive between web technologies will bring better technologies to end user. Great RIA technologies platform will bring benefits to organization, it will help the real life organizations to gain a great user experience and offer better business services to end user.