Discussing the nuts and bolts of software development

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Making the Web Flexible

Unless you have been living under a rock, or have never touched the source code of a web application you have likely heard of Flex or Silverlight.

I am not going to talk about the differences, in reality, I have never used Silverlight, nor have I ever written production code in Flex. But I tell you, from my research and R&D, this is the way of the future for web applications.

Now, the more astute of you will have noticed that I am saying web applications, not sites. This is because Flex and Silverlight are useful for making what is known as Rich Internet Applications.

Using these technologies for your blog site is like using a 30 pound sledge to hammer in finishing nails. Sure you can do it, but you are going to dent a lot of wood.

Personally, when I want to read about the latest souffle cooking recipe from my favourite blog, I don't want to wait for the site to load.

There is no reason to use Flex or similar technologies for simple web sites. The vast majority of sites don't require the vast level of interactivity that Flex provides. Using Flex will limit you to users that have the Flash player installed, which is most, but not all. Some web purists will also not visit your site if it uses Flash.

Then why use Flex to build RIA? Because the value of your application will outweigh any of the negatives that some people will associate with Flash based web applications. And the time you will save in development will allow you to add more content and value then you could with the standard HTML/CSS/JavaScript approach.

So let's get to the point, and talk about the benefits of using Flex.
Wow you must be saying, where do I sign up? Well before you do that, there are few cons as well:
Overall, I would say Flex is incredibly useful for developing rich internet applications. In fact, if I had of known about this a year ago, I would have started a project with Flex instead of .NET/HTML/CSS and a set of third party charting widgets.

Live and learn.....

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Hi Jason,

This theme is very native to me. I'm totally agree with you about this point "If you are building UI that interacts with exposed web services, you need a strong middle tier to validate data". The great ability of charting is the one of the pluses of the Flex, especially with FB3 which include some custom charting abilities. And few cons of Flex are coming from AS especially the asynchronous requests and the date handling.
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