Desktop vs. Web Application Interface DesignBuilding effective user interfaces for enterprise applications is one of the most confounding elements of business application programming. Genius developers that excel at linking complex data sources, designing highly efficient application logic, and architecting well organized user screen stacks often struggle to build attractive, intuitive, and responsive UIs. The challenge is that building good UIs requires equal parts art, social science, and programming skill. This challenge is felt particularly strongly in the world of business application development. As business app developers are shifting away from desktop application platforms to web development for delivery on both desktops and mobile devices. Desktop development tools like VB6 and PowerBuilder had well developed UI tools based on windows based user interaction models. Adapting user interface concepts to desktop and mobile web poses unique challenges to developers. This MSDN article “Designing for Web or Desktop?” provides a nice comparative summary of the topic.
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While there are a rich sets of HTML5 controls that the C# or Java programmer can use to help with web design, many of of the web development toolsets were conceived to facilitate development of modern websites – not to support the specific interaction model of business applications. In preparing this article, I found this older article from Smashing Magazine discussing the specific differences in designing website UIs vs. web application UI interesting.