I just recently joined this list, since Dani pointed out this
interesting thread. My response here was bit delayed since the
list was down last weekend...
I've been giving Dan's original question a bit of thought:
>But now with all the AJAX/ >Flash/Flex Web 2.0 stuff starting to take off, what happens to the >humble page? Clearly the metaphor isn't as valid anymore, but what >(if anything) should replace it? Screen? > I also work at Laszlo, which coined the term "Cinematic User
Experience." The metaphor works for me. I may be called a "software
architect," but we don't create blueprints for an application, we create
"story boards". We write "scripts" which drive the development of
initial prototypes. The application changes over time in a way that is
analogous to film, but the changes are typically triggered by user
interaction or changes in data from the network. We borrow other words
from film and video production to describe transitions. A new element
may "slide in" or "fade out".
Previously I worked at Macromedia on Director and Flash. Director takes
the movie metaphor pretty far. Using "cast members" and a "score", you
produce a "movie", which can be shown using a "projector". (Shockwave
was a bit of an abrupt departure from the metaphor, for which I am
partly responsible.) In creating applications, I tend not to
anthropomorphize my props. We use terms from the physical world, like
panel or pane, gripper, and button. Then we often use film words to
talk about how these objects react to user interaction and how they
appear and disappear. Perhaps it's more like creating a stop-motion
animation than the typical live action flick.
Harry Chesley posted a response which highlights animation principles
from the book "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life," by Frank Thomas
and Ollie Johnston. This wonderful book provides good insight into
the process behdind greating great animation. Many of the ideas apply
to user interface design. They write that animation "had to present
a unified, single idea with nothing complicated, extraneous, or
contradictory in its makeup." Metaphors can inspire us and trigger
our imaginations, but we need to be careful to not let the metaphor
run away with us and succumb to gratuitous animations. It is important
to never lose focus on what we are trying to communicate.