Single Screen Web Application Flows

by Luke Wroblewski January 3, 2005

The technical limitations of Web browsers have forced many a Web Application to divide key interactions into sequences of cumbersome steps -often resulting in sub-optimal user experiences. Rich Internet Applications (a term publicized by Marcomedia and their Flex product) promise to “deliver application front-ends that combine desktop software functionality with the broad reach and low cost deployment of the web.” This allows Web apps to be more responsive (real-time feedback and indication) and more flexible (support a broader range of interaction models).

A recent example (found in TJ Maxx’s checkout process) is the Single-Screen Checkout by Molecular. “Customers experience the entire shopping cart and checkout process on one dynamic screen, while the e-commerce provider can cross-sell directly in the cart.” But before you think three page checkout flows are a thing of the past, consider that the iHotelier application (which reduces the entire hotel reservation process down to a single screen) has been around since 2002 and still managed to elude widespread adoption. DHTML solutions can also help Web application designers manage the complexity of multi-screen interactions. In a recent project for Media Marketing Inc., we turned a six-page wizard-like desktop application into a single screen Web-based presentation builder. The advantage to end users is that contextually relevant data is always visible when they interact with the product and not hidden behind three steps of screens.