Good vs. Great

I rely heavily on the internet and cloud applications in my day to day life. With the release of the Chrome Webstore I’ve been turning to the web for even more computer needs.

However, I’ve noticed one thing about many of these applications, and what makes an ok one versus a great one.

Its all in the back button. As in, great applications don’t rely on that crutch. Most websites don’t need great UI because if the visitor ever gets confused they can just ‘back out’ of the situation. Web applications don’t have the luxury, there need to be a way for me to navigate through your ‘site’ without every having to use typical browser functions.

I’ve started to realize though, that this shouldn’t be a requirement of just cloud apps. All websites should be held to this standard, and its nowhere near common enough. As an example, take your favorite webpage and turn it into an application via Chrome. Is it still as intuitive as before?

What do you think? Am I completely off my rocker and (as I expect) have no real design sense?

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  • Brian Mym

    I think that all web apps should support the back button. If it breaks the app and you can’t code for it, then at least put some javascript on the navigate away event to let the user know that the back button isn’t supported and using it might cause loss of work.

    It’s frustrating when you click a back button and get to a non working page and you end up losing something you were working on.

    Support it or at least make sure a user knows that they can’t use it, and remind them when they click it out of habit.

  • Pat Dryburgh

    I would actually argue the opposite, that web apps should have better integration with common browser functions like the back button. While you may be intuitive or familiar enough with browsing a website without having to use the browser UI, people who are only familiar with using browser UI (the same people who type web addresses into Google’s search bar) are going to be immensely confused.

    While it may seem like a crutch to use the back button, in reality the back button is a well established UI convention that, in my opinion, should not be broken for the sake of laziness.

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the insights guys. I thought that removing not relying on the back button forces websites to behave more like desktop apps. However I see that benefits of being able to move to previous screens easily.

    My only problem is when the back button is the only way to return to a previous screen as has happened to me on several sites that I have made into apps via Chrome.