Internet riches make comeback

A few years ago the words "rich" and "internet" used together expressed the dreams of all those who imagined themselves becoming overnight cyber-millionaires. The dot-com crash put paid to that.

A few years ago the words “rich” and “internet” used together expressed the dreams of all those who imagined themselves becoming overnight cyber-millionaires. The dot-com crash put paid to that.

Rich internet today is the term coined by Macromedia for websites developed using its Flash MX multimedia tool. Auckland Flash MX exponent Grant Straker regrets the name.

“The irony is that Flash probably gave rise to most users’ bad web experiences,” Straker says. Flash MX, on the other hand, whose companion product is ColdFusion MX, doesn’t deserve the bad name.

Straker demonstrated the meaning of rich internet to an audience of potential customers of his company’s Shado content management package in Auckland this month. Describing rich internet as “a combination of web and desktop interactivity”, he gave a tour of websites that exemplify the technology.

First stop was not Air New Zealand’s online booking site. “Not the most elegant solution” was how he characterised the site (although someone in the room chimed in that it was “better than Qantas”).

In contrast to Air New Zealand’s effort, which Straker says drives most users to ring a travel agent, he showed the example of US hotel The Broadmoor. The beauty of the Flash-based broadmoor.com is that it provides a one-screen booking system, he says, with a correspondingly high booking completion rate.

Straker showed a succession of sites that simply and effectively give the visitor something to interact with, a key ingredient of the sales process.

“The longer you can engage someone the greater the likelihood of selling them something,” says Straker.

They variously used still images, streaming video and audio at speeds that didn’t detract from the experience. Flash is unfairly perceived as slow, Straker says, but the reality is that its vector graphics enable twice as much content to be crammed into a given piece of web real estate as HTML does.

NZ Post Auckland-based project manager Haydn Easte says the example which impressed him most was a site that sold digital cameras. The opening screen showed dozens of choices, which were rapidly whittled down as price and feature options on the right of the screen were selected.

The effect was to rapidly “reduce information overload”, Easte says.

“Rich internet is the way of the future. I can see it having application for airline booking systems.”

NZ Post is considering its options for an internet portal, says Easte, who has implemented Shado for a former employer.

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