RIApalooza 3: A Look at the Future of RIAs

Every time I get a glimpse of the future of web and app development, I can’t help but believe the best has yet to come. I got that feeling again yesterday at RIApalooza 3 in Chicago, an insightful yearly conference that aims to advance the development of Rich Internet Applications.

Speakers included the always engaging Chris Bernard, a Microsoft User Experience Evangelist, who delivered the keynote on the future of RIAs. The big take away for me, besides Chris’ great “7 things I learned from John Hughes” segment, was the idea that to better understand and grow in the RIA space you have “go where you are uncomfortable”. His message was essentially this: if you are a Flash developer, explorer HTML5; if you are an Flex developer, explore Silverlight. Chris urged designers and developers to not let our focus on an particular development platform define us as technologists, lest we become the buggy whip makers in the next web technology revolution.

Other speakers included consultant Michael Labriola, who spoke on the major striations of internationalizing and localizing a product. Micheal’s examples were in Adobe Flex, but his lessons apply to whatever development platform you use. He examined several layers in terms of effort and return on investment to demonstrate what can be accomplished quickly, what takes up-front planning, and what fine-tuning work truly makes an application localized. If you are building for a global audience, the tips he provided were golden.

Another great talk came from Adobe’s Renaun Erickson, who demonstrated how Flex 4 could be used to build mobile apps that scale across many devices with different Pixel Per Inch screen densities without having to code device-specific apps. This is valuable if you developed an Android app with the Droid X in mind and want it display correctly in another handset with a different PPI density. This flexible development approach is also useful when handsets from the same manufacturer have different PPI densities, such as iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. But he advised that when you think about porting an iPhone app to the iPad, it may be time to look at a separate app that takes advantages of the iPad’s much larger surface.

All in all a great day of insightful talks from some really smart people. Not a bad way to end the week.