Although all the “cool kids” these days seem to be writing web apps, and the word “cloud” has taken on a new meaning that is sure to confuse meteorologists and normal people alike, I still think that desktop apps are very important. Maybe even important enough to deserve a little more attention than they’ve been getting lately (living, as they do, in the shadow of the buzzword friendly “web app”).
Now, I’m not deriding web apps here – I use them, too! But let’s face it – the web was not designed to be an application. Look up the history of what hypertext means and you’ll see how far we’ve had to stretch it to get to where we are today.
Even the very best web apps tend to spend a lot of effort to look just like a desktop app. When the lazy programmer in me sees this sort thing, it causes me to develop an unhealthy twitch (in minor cases) or curl up into a ball in the corner (in extreme cases), muttering something about “code reuse.”
But even truly unique web apps still end up tied to the desktop in one way or another. I use Google all the time; but most of my searches happen through the “search” box in Firefox. I use Google Notebook, but I get to it through a Firefox add-in. I use Twitter, but I do so through a client (I’m currently using Witty Twitter, but there are literally dozens and dozens of clients out there).
Sometimes I worry that we focus too much on web app design, to the detriment of desktop app design (UI design in particular). Web apps are cool, sure, but the desktop app is still “king,” and it’s not wise to ignore the king!