Rich User Experiences is one of the eight core web 2.0 design patterns (O’Reilly, 2005), and it refers to internet applications that combine elements of desktop and online services.
Historically, desktop applications have been faster, more interactive and responsive than their online counterparts; it is the goal of web 2.0 to bring these experiences to online applications, and to perform ‘heavier’ tasks, traditionally not handled online.
Dropbox is a free file hosting service that allows users to upload files into the cloud and access those files from any internet-connected device. The files can be accessed and downloaded through any web browser, and if the computer has installed a local version of Dropbox, files will be automatically downloaded for access immediately. Dropbox is also available on mobile devices, giving users access to their files when away from the computer.
Dropbox and Rich User Experiences
Dropbox takes the combination of desktop and online application experiences literally, by giving the user the option to access, view and manage files from both an internet browser and the computer if Dropbox has been installed. Editing can be performed from the computer only.
Dropbox has high usability and a simple interface. The web browser interface mimics the file structure of a computer, and the user is easily able to navigate and locate their files. Users are able to search the file tree with the name of an item and it will be quickly located, no matter where it resides in the directory.
Addressability of content is maintained once it is placed in Dropbox’s hands, as file directories can be copied and preserved by the service, as well as the ability to generate and share unique links to specific files.
Dropbox and Rich User Experiences Best Practices
Combine the best of desktop and online experiences
Dropbox is available in browser, on all PC platforms and on mobiles. In browser and on mobiles, the user is able to view and traverse their collection of files already uploaded to the service, as well as download files in their online directory. Once the file is on the device, it can be edited (limited only by native file types and the device itself), and the updated file can be manually uploaded to Dropbox once more to be synced across all devices.
On PC, Dropbox is streamlined and requires installation. Once installed, the entire file directory is downloaded to the hard drive of the computer for immediate editing, and when the file is saved it is automatically synced with Dropbox servers.
Usability and simplicity first
Dropbox is easy to use and presents users with a simple interface to manage their files. The presentation mimics the file directory of computers, allowing the user to become immediately familiar with the environment and easily able to locate items.
Dropbox also accepts any file format without complaint. Specific formats can be rendered and viewed within the browser, whereas others must be downloaded and viewed on the device (if it has the right programs to handle the file). Aside from the ability to render and view a file, Dropbox does not limit users to any set of file formats, greatly increasing the ease of use of the service.
Dropbox also allows users to share directories and files. Entire directories can be shared with other Dropbox users, or single files can be shared with anyone through the generation of a Public Link, which gives access to that file for download.
Dropbox is a simple, easy to use file hosting service, which allows users to access, edit and sync files from any internet-connected device. Dropbox provides rich user experiences as an online service through its ability to combine the best of online and desktop services and provide users with the ability to perform ‘heavy’ tasks, usually restricted to desktop applications, on an online platform.