Recently, Google Widget Toolkit attracted attention of web developers from all over the world. GWT is a great technology for AJAX development actually. It helps to get rid of many head-aches associated with cross-browser development, user interaction and development cycle.
The library provides unprecedented possibilities to build Web 2.0 applications with high level of interactivity. And there is a trap.
Often, the user interface of web-applications is simpler to build than desktop UIs due to two factors.First, the HTML/CSS ecosystem provides for a great number of tools to easily express designers vision.
And there is no need to build/run/debug cycle for the web-pages. Second, HTML provides for a significantly lower level of interactivity that is encapsulated by browser. So developers don’t need to debug each.
Revolutionary AJAX development GWT changes these factors also. GWT apps can be highly interactive and they are component based. So the initial expectation about easy change of web applications’ look’n’feel is not completely true anymore. Now, if you want to change it in the visual design this may require a significant effort. Moreover, as we now use components visual design is limited by available set of controls. A little spicy text edit field invited by a web-designer may create a real mess for the dev team. Isn’t it like in the good old times of the desktop application UI?
So GWT development requires very tight cooperation of the design and development teams. Keep these guys in one place, preferably in a room with closed doors and a small window to serve food.
Another feature of a GWT application is interactivity. Yes, this is a great feature and a great head-ache.
As I have said before, web 1.0 applications rarely provide an interactive response on the user’s actions. So the first move of web designers is to provide static mockups of the UI. This does not work here. Developers need a specified behavior of the application. And the behavior is a part of the code. That is not an easy thing to change. So you need to have enough reserved resources to debug and tweak the UI.
So let me say this again. Keep your developers and interface designers as close as possible. May be this is why Google apps (gmail, reader and others) so well thought. Usability the team works very closely with developers.
Alexey Kharlamov is an expert in area of Java application application development. He has been working on GWT related projects since the early stages of the Google Toolkit Adoption.