On Saturday 25th February 2012 I attended the Design Push event focusing on an emerging web technology called Web Intents (see my previous post). Working with an invited group of designers and technologists, we took on the challenge of creating a set of useful UX deliverables that could progress and improve the implementation of this new functionality.
The day began with talks from industry leaders Paul Kinlan (Google), Jim Lane (AddThis/Clearspring), Shane Caraveo (Mozilla/W3C) and Glenn Jones (Madgex) who have all been working on using Web Intents in a variety of different ways. They set the scene and demonstrated the complexity and range of issues that they have encountered so far.
We then broke out into three groups which explored some of the different user experience (UX) issues and ended the day with a presentation from each team. Our material was later uploaded to the Design Push Wiki for future reference, in order to help those continuing to work on Web Intents. The outputs from the event included:
- Design principles
- Notes on language and labels
- Chrome and page interfaces
- Thoughts on promoting Web Intents
Web Intents look to be a powerful set of tools to help make the web more useful and usable. The most prominent Web Intent and the one with the most obvious potential is Share. However the implementation of Share is also one of the more complex UX and user interface (UI) challenges. It already has some widely-adopted commercial cousins, most notably the service offered by AddThis. In his presentation, Jim Lane talked us through some of the solutions that his team at AddThis had developed and many of these ideas were later echoed in the team discussions. Creating a universal Share Intent could be a commercial challenge to these sharing services and might be a hard sell to companies already using them.
Personally I think it may be better to focus on the Web Intents that could be most rapidly deployed and have less existing competitors. In particular I’m thinking of Intents that could be really useful when combined with technologies that are neither well understood or much used by the average person. For example by combining the Web Intents Subscribe with RSS, or View/Save with Micro-formats (such as event, contact or product details) a greatly improved and more consistent user experience could result. It could also lead to the wider take-up of these under-used technologies.
How long it takes for Web Intents to be defined, standardised and implemented across browsers will determine whether they become a success or not. AddThis have 1.2 billion unique monthly users and 2.9 billion daily views, and they already provide other services such as Print (surprising popular in France) and Email. If they decided to extend into the territory of other Intents, they are likely to be able to do so fairly quickly. The web community, browser manufacturers and W3C better not drag their feet for too long, or some of the commercial operators may claim the ground first.