Anyone who has had a conversation with me, over the past six months or so, about web programming will know that I am a firm advocate of the less-technical programmer. That phrase is heavily loaded and I will explain in a second, but I mean that creating applications, particularly web applications, is increasingly within the grasp of people unversed in the arts of software engineering.
This post, about the demo of “Thermo” at the Adobe MAX keynote yesterday, has captured my imagination. It is a tool for making it simpler to create web applications in Adobe Flex, to the point where you can do it without touching any code. So far, so much yawn – there are plenty of companies out there creating what are generally termed “mashup” editors – Yahoo! Pipes, Google Mashup Editor and Teqlo, for instance. Thermo is, to me at least, different; it is described as splitting the design of a user interface away from tying that interface to the programmed logic. Simply from a product design point-of-view, this is vitally important, as it puts the user and their interface at the start and the centre of the design process, something which my colleague Phil Whitehouse has been writing about here and here. But Thermo also recognises and supports different skillbases. For the “mashup editors” I mentioned, their problem is in the name – generally, they want to help novices pull together mashups with little or no programming, but this is just not interesting. There are only so many times you can re-combine RSS feeds and Google Maps before you really go off the whole business. I have yet to see a really compelling reason to use these tools to build my own applications, rather than just take what someone else has built. And because these tools focus on the building, they are not optimized for running the mashup, which means I’d probably be better off getting a php/perl/python-savvy friend to code it for me.
Back on these skillbases that Thermo supports, they have explicitly decided to support both user interface designers, as well as allowing programmers to come in and pull the threads together underneath the UI. In creating a single environment for that all to take place, they are able to push the skillsets closer to each other, where there exists a natural grey area.
#FOWA Adobe AIR and Microsoft Sliverfish have a strong presence here. Rich Applications are NOT the Web Repeat after me LOCKIN LOCKIN LOCKIN