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Future of Web Apps – Wrap-Up
Ok, so I am back from the Future of Web Apps conference held last week in San Francisco. It is great to be back on level ground! You can read all of my notes, and some audio files here. This post will summarize what I believe were the big topics of discussion across the presentations as well as outside the summit. I think Ryan, Gillian, Lisa and the whole gang from Carson Systems did a great job pulling everything together. It felt like a family atmosphere rather than just another conference at a big hotel facility. On the main coverage page, I have listed a few things I would like to see added to the next summit which will make the event even stronger. You can also check out my list of others who have coverage of the event.
The buzzwords seemed to remain far away from the summit. Words like "Web 2.0" were barely mentioned. And that's a good thing. The number one theme of the summit was about creating value. It is important that when we create new web apps, we create them with value. And as Ted from Dogster mentioned, it is about the value the customer sees, not the value we believe the app holds.
Many of the speakers talked about the importance of design. Jeff Veen had a good comment in this area, "Use design techniques to improve the data." It is important to always remember the goal. I think design should help us get to the goal, not move us further from it. Designing web applications is a different beast than creating a brochure web site. There seems to also be a lack of good CSS coders. I find that interesting because I enjoy it and would love to do more of it. I guess it comes from my HTMLCenter.com days.
Matt from WordPress talked about how lucky we are today. I think that sentiment could not be echoed enough. Never before has technology finally caught up with our minds. I am working on an Insight post about this that I hope will really explain my thoughts about this topic. I certainly thank my lucky stars that I am no longer a public accountant though the education and experience has certainly helped me.
And lastly, never be afraid to stand up and say, "I screwed up." People will respect you for telling them as soon as possible about the screw up. Sometimes they will even want to help you correct the issue. Waiting until they find out will generally make the person not trust you in the future. And with a new web app, trust is very important.
Ok, so we talked about some of the non-technical topics discussed. Now let's take a peek at the technical topics I thought were of interest.
Tantek Çelik from Technorati discussed Microformats. For me, this was the greatest takeaway from the summit. I run HTMLCenter and so I think it is a great fit for us to add content around this topic. I have some experience around Microformats but it was great to hear that they are going to new levels. Clicking on a name gives you a vCard, a date gives you a calendar entry… c'mon this is great stuff!
Backup, backup, backup… and then backup again
Several of the presenters mentioned how they have lost data because of poor backup plans. Since people will rely on your application, backup should be on the top of the list. If I spend an hour on your site uploading pictures and creating a story, you better believe I expect it to be there next week, next month and next year. Oh yea, having a backup system in one location won't cut it.
Over 70% of the speakers mentined measurement. As a former auditor, I can't stress enough the importance of a good analytics program. And I mean having a human create analysis that shows the strengths and weaknesses of the application. Not just pulling a top users/top pageviews report from WebTrends. In all of my discussions, companies state how important analytics and measurement is and in the same breath state that they don't do enough in this area.
Listen to your customers
This might seem like it is not technical, but alas, it is. You need to listen to your customers. Do customer service, handle the incoming calls to your support line, run surveys. And whatever they say (in aggregate), do it. At the end of the day, they are your bread and butter. Get out onto the front lines and what you hear will be different than what you see in a chart or a graph. Also, it gives a personal touch which people really enjoy. And create an easy way for people to contact you in the way that works for them.
- Putting the web app where the people are (mobile, handheld, gaming)
- Overfunding in the beginning can lead to problems
- APIs are important and will be even more important in the future
Again, I really enjoyed meeting everyone and learning more about where we are today for web apps. If you would like CenterNetworks to review your web application or attend your conference, please let me know.
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