Monday, July 12, 2010

Apps & Sites - Widgets & Feeds ....

One of the favors bestowed by the iPhone was a common name for the icons on the user interface – they are all called apps which is short and simple. There is no distinction between a web site bookmark in the form of a colorful square and the colorful square that opens an application running on the iPhone processor utilizing all its impressive computing and rendering capabilities. This brings great simplicity to the user who does not have to worry what hides behind the colorful square! For them it is all the same whether it is a cell phone application, a bookmark or a widget – a third category!

Hmm, so how many categories can hide behind a colorful square? Well, there are of course ‘phone functions’ like placing calls, messaging etc. But if we stick with applications or web applications, there seems to be at least two more in use, the browser and the feed (or RSS) reader. I am sure the reader can come up with more but let us stick with these five:

  • phone application
  • web bookmark
  • widget
  • browser
  • feed reader
The definitional differences between them are relatively clear although browser and feed reader are descriptions of functions rather than just apps. They both come from the personal computer world and have been shrunk to the mobile phone world. As on the PC, browser has become somewhat synonymous with search and web rendering combined into one app. As for feed reader – it is just an app designed for a specific purpose, to display RSS feeds.

Does the everyday user care about these distinctions? Most likely not and if one or more can be combined so that we have fewer categories, we would have fewer functions, less confusion and a better user experience. More on that in a later blog!

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