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Insights from Jesse James Garrett, the Guy Who Coined Ajax

Posted by edort on December 6, 2006 at 10:35 AM PST

"Someone said that Adaptive Path's most notable product is four letter words." That was one of the many interesting quotes that Jesse James Garrett, co-founder of the product and business design consultancy, Adaptive Path, sprinkled into his keynote "Where Ajax and RIA Trends Will Take Us" at the Web Builder 2.0 Conference. The quote alludes to two specific four letter words that were coined by people at Adaptive Path: blog, coined by Peter Meyerholz, and Ajax, coined by Garrett.

In his talk, Garrett, cited some of the characteristics that distinguish the new generation of web applications. These characteristics include:

  • High interactivity. Web applications are moving away from the page metaphor to an interactive application model.
  • Get better with use. This is the basis of highly successful sites such as YouTube. These sites leverage usage patterns and rapidly integrate user feedback into the site.
  • Deliver rich experiences. These sites have visual impact. They're also highly responsive -- that's why people are so excited about Ajax.

Garrett said that people often ask him what technologies constitute Ajax. He answers that it's not really a set of technlogies. In fact, many of the technologies that people associate with Ajax will likely be supplanted by other technologies. Instead Ajax is a design pattern, one that gets us away from the old web publishing model to a new asynchronous interaction model of the web.

Calling Ajax "our manifest destiny as an industry," Garrett said that Ajax enables the responsiveness that was previously available only in desktop applications. Furthermore, Ajax requires no compromises in terms of browser features or environmental setup. Garrett also said that one of the great things about Ajax is that you can incrementally migrate web applications to it, sprinkling in Ajax functionality a little at a time in the places that it makes most sense.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the talk was Garrett's answer to the question "What is the highest compliment that someone can give a product?" His answer: "cool!" He then went on to delve into what makes a product cool by looking at Apple's iPod. Garret underscored that what makes the iPod a success is its simplicity and attention to the user's experience. "We get ourselves into trouble when we design from the inside out." By that he meant that problems arise when technologies and features drive a product's design and the user's experience is only a secondary consideration. The successful cool products are the ones that start with the user's experiences and use it to inform the selection of technologies and features.

So be cool.