informa
/
Commentary

Does The "A" in RIA Also Mean "Art?"

In IT software development circles, at a time say about 10 BW (Before Web), seeing the work of an artist was usually a matter of a Friday or Saturday night out on the town. Then along came the Web with all its bells and whistles… and pictures, and graphics, and animations, and video... Eventually applications destined for the Web were expected to have artwork, especially multimedia... Now we get to Rich Internet Applications, and the connection to artwork goes up a notch.
In traditional IT software development circles, at a time say about 10 BW (Before Web), seeing the work of an artist (that is, someone who produces something in a recognized art form) was a matter of a Friday or Saturday night out on the town. Then along came the Web with all its bells and whistles… and pictures, and graphics, and animations, and video… and the Web page started to fill with the work of artists, if not works of art. Eventually applications destined for the Web were expected to have artwork, especially in the form of multimedia, and a generation of IT developers began to work with artists of many stripes.

Now we get to Rich Internet Applications, and the connection to artwork goes up a notch. Almost by definition, RIAs are supposed to be enhanced by graphics design and multimedia. In some cases the multimedia, for example a demonstration video, may be the purpose and majority content of the application. In any case, the roles of design and art work (in the broadest sense) are integral to the production of Rich Internet Applications.In a small shop, the artwork hat and the programmer hat may be on the same head. In most enterprise IT shops, the artists are different people and quite possibly a different breed of cat. Clash of cultures may be putting it too strongly, but it is not uncommon for software developers and providers of artistic input (sorry about the digital connotation) to not see eye to eye. As if the social complexity of software development weren't enough already.

Proof that there is a link between providing artwork and RIA software development needs to go no further than two of the most important vendors of RIA tools - Adobe and Microsoft. Both companies attempt to exploit the link. Adobe comes at it with its long and dominant history from the artwork side - products such as Photoshop and Illustrator - and positions them as a suite of products (Creative Suite 3) assumed to be providers for its RIA tools such as Adobe AIR and Flex/Flash. Not to be outdone, Microsoft launched a companion suite of artwork tools for its Silverlight RIA development system, Microsoft Expression (Expression - Web, Blend, Design and Media).

The suite approach may have specific merit when it comes to integrating artists with programmers. The commonalities between tools may help. All such suites meet at the Web page, and it is in page design and content that both artists and application developers have common ground - and might even learn, or at least understand some of the same tools. I don't want to make too big a thing out of having artistic suites, although it does distinguish Microsoft and Adobe from most of the competition in the RIA space. No doubt the "best of breed" approach, mixing and matching products from different vendors, will work quite well. But from an enterprise IT point of view, if you can stand the proprietary lock-in, then there are solid reasons for considering the suite approach for putting the Art in RIA Applications.

Nelson King has been a software developer for more than twenty-five years. Further complications include being a computer-industry analyst, product reviewer and author (of nine books on database programming). He's been writing for Intelligent Enterprise (and its precursors) for more than ten years. Write him at [email protected]In IT software development circles, at a time say about 10 BW (Before Web), seeing the work of an artist was usually a matter of a Friday or Saturday night out on the town. Then along came the Web with all its bells and whistles… and pictures, and graphics, and animations, and video... Eventually applications destined for the Web were expected to have artwork, especially multimedia... Now we get to Rich Internet Applications, and the connection to artwork goes up a notch.