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Object versus Document, Part III
by Bill Venners
First Published in JavaWorld, November 2000

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Advantage 4: Services UIs Can Be More Natural

A fourth advantage of objects over documents is that service UIs can provide more natural UIs than documents. Although hypertext is very easy to use, it isn't necessarily the right metaphor for every kind of service. When delivering services via Webpages, those services must be presented to users with hypertext. When delivering services via objects of service UIs, the service UIs can take any form. A service UI can present the functionality of a service to users with hypertext, but can alternatively use other metaphors. For example, with an object-based service, Yahoo and Hotmail could deliver their email services across the Internet to desktop computers with UIs that look, feel, and behave similar to Outlook or Eudora. They could deliver the same email service to phones with a speech and touchtone interface. Whereas the current hypertext Web forces everyone to present their services to users in Webpage form, object-based services give service providers the option of using whatever kind of UI they feel is most natural and effective for each service.

Advantage 5: A more seamless user experience

Lastly, because objects encapsulate network-mobile behavior (whereas documents require behavior to already exist on the client side), objects can provide a more seamless overall experience for users than documents.

A few years ago I heard over the radio a talk given by Jim Barksdale, founder of Netscape. Barksdale asked audience members to raise their hands if they had read the Navigator user manual. It being radio, I wasn't certain of the result, but Barksdale seemed to imply that no hands were raised. This result didn't surprise me, because I myself had certainly never read any such document. Barksdale went on to extol Navigator's ease of use. He said Navigator's user interface is so intuitive that no one needed to read its manual. "You see something you want," Barksdale said, "you click on it. You see something else you want, you click on that."

I agree to an extent with Barksdale about the ease of use of the Netscape Navigator browser. I find hypertext to be very intuitive, very easy to use, and quite easy to explain to novices. The trouble I see with the browser is if you see something you want and click on it, you'll only get it if the browser already understands its type.

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