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Web design in the cloud. A pancake tuesday guide.

Paul Anthony / February 24, 2009

Posted in: Archive

Cloud computing is the next big thing. Or so the media keeps telling us. I have to agree that it looks very much like there is a real possibility that the processing of all (or most of our apps) will be done server side. Already, a lot of us use web applications to get the job done.

So then, for web designers what does the future look like? Will we still be looking at using the Adobe suite of products as we are now?

Probably not.

Software is changing, and traditional desktop software is likely to get replaced, bit by bit by web applications in the cloud. In the next few years  (and as speed and technology server side improves), we can expect to see more and more heavy duty web applications cropping up, that replace the existing processing we use our desktop machines for, and licensing will change very much to a pay as you go model.

Not convinced – here’s the evidence that applications in the cloud are here to stay.

Online Flash Replacement

Four options (that I know of) offer animation based tools online. Balthaser Studios have been around since the dawn of time. Hell I remember going away and making a cup of tea before viewing that site on a 56k modem.  Basically it lets you drag and drop prebuilt animation elements onto a project, and create your own flash animation.  Produle is another web  based service, that has recently cropped up for rapidly building and sharing interactive flash based applications in the cloud without touching a line of code. Designer360 is another site which offers out of the box, premade animation tools. If it’s more of a powerpoint presentation that you are after, there are applications in the cloud which compete with the functionality that Flash offers too. Animoto , Slideshare, Preezo and 280 Slides all show that powerpoint as an application is dying.

Ok – so you don’t have complete control over what you create, and there is not any support for Actionscripting yet, but my guess is that a mature product offering could offer a low barrier to entry for animation (for some designers), if they get  it right. Adobe. Watch your back.

Online Dreamweaver Alternative

I’ve mentioned before that dreamweaver isn’t the only option available to designers and developers, there are plenty of dreamweaver alternatives available.  But what about in the cloud? The newest one to pop up and say hello, is the Mozilla product Bespin – shown in the video below. HTML 5 support, along with collaborative tools, makes it look like a contender for the throne. Ok, so it’s still in Beta, but it looks like it could develop into a great product. Something else that dreamweaver does well, is FTP support. No problems there – programs like net2FTP and phpFTP – already have that problem solved.  Google sites offers a web based editor for newbies AND hosting. Will a professional product emerge that combines the best of these products into one?

Online Fireworks Alternative

Adobe have been pushing the notion recently that they intend to keep the best web features of photoshop, and merge them into the trunk of Fireworks. Each product will become it’s own separate entity and solve two different problems. If you are a photographer, you will use photoshop, if you are a web designer, well then you’ll use Fireworks. That’s the market spin anyway. My guess is that they’ll just try and combine the code bases, and rebrand each product differently, tweak a few knobs and bobs your uncle. Anyway, what about the web based contenders that are cropping up. LifeClever did a great job at rounding up the recent 10 free web based alternatives to photoshop, no point in me receiting them here. My own personal favourite is Picnik – because of it’s integration with Flickr, but well worth a mention is the Irish product from SXoop technologies –  Pixenate

Yesterday, I did a bit of a roundup of planning / wireframing applications, so all that is left, is for some bright spark to come up with a killer all in one package, that takes us right from the quotation stage of a project, through to the final product.

Pancake Tuesday guide to a killer app.

1.  Create web based application requirements tool. Add client, and collaboration to the mix.
2. Add to a large bowl the above web based requirements tool,  allow developer to insert a functional specfication, and online quotation for signoff. Mix together.
3.  Assuming your quote has tasted just right. Begin the Wireframing process.
4.  Using the collaboration tools mentioned above, allow the client to taste the initial wireframe
5.  If it tastes right, proceed to the next step, if not, add a little more sugar and wireframing
6.  Continue to mix one finely tuned design from the wireframe with some XHTML and CSS.
7. Flip a couple of times for good measure. Test with web based testing tools (BrowserShots and W3c Validator)
8. Add some lemon juice (jQuery) and Sugar (Ajax effects). Present the final solution to your client for the taste test.
9.  Enjoy the sweet taste of success, all within the cloud.

All the pieces of the puzzle are out there, but in disconnected places. The killer application will come, when someone realises how they can fit them together in one place, and make a developers life that bit easier. The great thing about working online, is that you can immediately see how something previews in the browser easily.

  • bespin
  • cloud
  • computing
  • Dreamweaver
  • fireworks
  • flash
  • web design

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