Time magazine has published their version of 50 best Web sites of 2007 . Check it out. You may or may not agree with their ranking, but I’m sure you’ll find some interesting sites there that you did not know about. All these sites are Web2.0-ish, which by my definition are not the sites that were built using any particular technology, but rather the sites that give more control to the end user. So while some people say that Web 3.0 is about semantic Web, I believe that Web 3.0 sites will just give the end user more control than Web 2.0 ones.
But since developing rich Internet applications is my main professional activity, I could not stop myself from looking what’s under the hood at the Time’s Web site.
It’s good to see that they are gradually introducing Adobe Flex to their Web site. While most of the Web site is done using DHTML, the widget that shows “Top 5 Best Web Sites” is done in Adobe Flex. Just right-click on that area and you’ll see that it was delivered by Flash Player. To be more specific, most likely it’s a custom component that consists from a VBox container (a box with vertical layout) that in turn has an HBox and a DataGrid. The HBox holds the Label that reads Top 5 Best Web Sites” and two buttons – one is a button with an image Refresh Data and the other one is a button with a custom skin that looks like a circle(?). As you move your mouse over that button, you’ll see a tooltip that shows you a hint that the DataGrid below is sortable – just click on the column’s header. If Time developers read this blog, I’d appreciate if someone would confirm that I’ve guessed your Flex components selection correctly.
I applaud Time for using Flex. Just think about it, this little widget that displays the rating can be coded in no time – one hour for coding and testing and one hour for the skin creation, which can be done in parallel by a Web designer in Photoshop. The speed of development is crucial for any multimedia mega site such as Time magazine.
Of course, since they are just starting, there are some usability issues, for example if you sort the ratings table by any other than Rate column, the text of the Label above should change from “Top 5 Best Web Sites” to something else based on your sort criteria.
Another usability issue – there is a column Total Votes, but it’s not clear how the user can vote. I’d use a custom item renderer in the Total Votes column to turn the number of votes into a clickable link that would bring the user to the voting page. In Flex, this would take another 5 lines of code.
But these are the little things that will be ironed out in the future. Good job, Time Magazine! Go Flex!