Click here to close now.



Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Xenia von Wedel, Sanjay Zalavadia, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: IoT User Interface, Silverlight

IoT User Interface: Article

Bringing Excellence to the Field of UI Engineering

Exclusive Q&A with Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering, Netflix

"My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering," says Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering at Netflix, which has 8+ million users, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's AJAX & RIA Journal in the run-up to his session on October 20 at AJAX World RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose, California (October 20-22, 2008).

AJAX & RIA Journal: When asked to prove to doubters that user experience matters, also to the bottom line of a company…what companies (in addition to Netflix!) do you tend to reference?

BILL SCOTT: I love Pandora. Pandora is dead simple. You pick a song or artist and immediately a radio station is built for you. The player is easy to use, easy to rate songs and does a great job of integrating advertising into the player space. The Pandora player and its companion iPhone application demonstrate the power of simple, rich interfaces that don’t get in the way of the experience but enhance it. Understanding that it is the experience of music listening and not the site experience directly is what focuses a team to build an experience for the user and not for themselves.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What would you say to those who contend that while “Rich Internet Application” had a very clear meaning at the time it was coined in the early 2000s, when an RIA was a clear contrast to the prevailing mass of applications on the web, the contrast is largely gone – leaving the term less useful. Has the entire web really evolved that dramatically, already? Is “Rich Web” now a given do you think?

SCOTT: It is not a given. It is getting to be more common. But the idea is not to make everything “rich”. The idea is to give the best experience. Sites have really messed up when they forget what the user really wanted from them. A popular TV site was primarily used for TV listings. When they changed it to be “rich” they made it harder to do the primary thing—get a TV listing.

I think the term is still useful as most of the techniques, patterns, etc. are still being fleshed out. I continue to see sites launch rich interfaces that are an abuse to the user – so there is still a lot to learn. The more capabilities, the more dangerous it is. Chain saws are great for quickly cutting down a tree, but they can also saw off a limb.

AJAX & RIA Journal:
Your title at Netflix - “Director of User Interface Engineering” – bears testimony to the importance of front end engineering at Netflix. Are you surprised that there are not more ‘directors of UI engineering’ than there are?


SCOTT: Yes and no. If you really understand that crafting a good user experience requires solid engineering then it makes sense. If instead you think that creating a web interface is what developers who can’t cut the backend work then no it wouldn’t occur to you.

My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering. What impressed me most about Netflix was their deep understanding of the criticality of this role. Think about it. From an engineering perspective, taming Java, JSP, HTML, CSS & Javascript into a cohesive framework with proper the proper software architecture while at the same time being perfomant for our 8+ million users is a worthwhile challenge. And then recruiting and keeping the talent to pull it off – well that deserves the attention of a Director of UI Engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: How did you get started in the world of user interface and user experience?

SCOTT: In 1984 I bought a Macintosh 128k. By the end of the year I joined forces with two of my fellow co-workers (from the Apple store where I worked) to write one of the first games for the Macintosh – GATO, a submarine simulation game. Designing and building the interface to this game completely hooked me on the joy of creating software that people wanted to use. From that moment forward I focused solely on user experience design and engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What role do open APIs play in the business and software universe, in general terms?

SCOTT: In 2006, Netflix launched the Netflix Prize. The idea is to award $1 million to the team that can improve our recommendations engine by 10%. Why did we do this? We believe innovation is bigger than us.

Just this month Netflix announced its open APIs. By opening up APIs to the public we invite the talent of the masses to make Netflix a better experience. Open APIs foster innovation, provide an economic space for smaller development shops to thrive and allow businesses to host their services on a wide range of devices with fringe feature sets that otherwise would not have been supported.

AJAX & RIA Journal: Does Netflix make use of this trend towards open APIs?

SCOTT: Yes, with our launch of the public APIs on October 1, 2008. We are planning a soon to be announced Open Hack Day to invite developers onto our campus to hack for notoriety and fame!

AJAX & RIA Journal: What technologies does Netflix use in-house?

SCOTT: Our primary technology is Java running in a Tomcat/Apache configuration. For the user interface we use JSPs and the normal DHTML stack. We are in the process of re-architecting the presentation infrastructure utilizing: JSP tags, Struts2, Tiles2, YUI CSS framework and jQuery.


AJAX & RIA Journal: How about Cloud Computing: do you see it to be a useful product category?

SCOTT: Cloud computing is very interesting as it provides elasticity and cost benefits. We are looking carefully at all of the solutions in this space. Regardless of our direction we are busy architecting our infrastructure so that we have the flexibility to move to whatever makes the most sense.


AJAX & RIA Journal: Your latest book is called Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interaction – what goodies await your many fans in that?

SCOTT: The book is about interaction design: specifically, interaction design on the Web. And even more specifically, about rich interaction design on the Web. It is a distillation of best practices, patterns, and principles for creating a rich experience unique to the Web. In the book I discuss 6 principles for designing rich interactions (my talk follows this outline). There are 75+ patterns, a number of anti-patterns and over 250 examples from various web sites that illustrate these principles.


AJAX & RIA Journal: “Crafting Rich Web Interfaces” is the appealing title of your session at the upcoming AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose CA. What is in store for attendees, and for those following it online during the simulcast of your session on SYS-CON.TV?

SCOTT: I will be sharing some the 6 principles from the upcoming book. The talk is chocked full of screencasts & animations that illustrate the good (patterns) and the bad (anti-patterns) when designing for rich interfaces.


AJAX & RIA Journal: What are the biggest meta-trends you see in terms of the Rich Web space in 2009?

SCOTT: One large trend (that has already started) is the way the Web (and its technologies) will be the platform for all kinds of environments. Starting with the iPhone and continuing with a host of new devices, web applications are now becoming prevelant in the mobile space.

With the iPod Touch, the web made its way onto my MP3 player – and it feels natural.

The desktop is already seeing this blending with Adobe Air, Microsoft Silverlight, Prism, Google Chrome’s application shortcut feature, Fluid and other products that bring a distraction free browsing experience into the desktop as well as bring the internet and social communities to desktop applications. Google Chrome basically introduces a Web OS onto the desktop setting the stage for online office applications to compete head to head with Microsoft Office products.

The Nintendo Wii successfully blended the web with its embedded Opera browser (Opera for devices). It is only natural that this will contine into other media spaces such as set top boxes and TVs. I will take some time for the devices to be powerful enough while still cheap enough, but it will happen. This will finally bring in web technologies onto the TV. Some will bring parts of the technology but eventually browsers will be fully integrated into these devices. Some of this has been realized already with the introduction of the Netflix player by Roku, the LG Blu-Ray player with Netflix, and the X-Box with Netflix streaming movies.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change t...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
industrial company for a multi-year contract initially valued at over $4.0 million. In addition to DataV software, Bsquare will also provide comprehensive systems integration, support and maintenance services. DataV leverages advanced data analytics, predictive reasoning, data-driven diagnostics, and automated orchestration of remediation actions in order to improve asset uptime while reducing service and warranty costs.
Vidyo, Inc., has joined the Alliance for Open Media. The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit organization working to define and develop media technologies that address the need for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the web. As a member of the Alliance, Vidyo will collaborate with industry leaders in pursuit of an open and royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1. Vidyo’s contributions to the organization will bring to bear its long history of expertise in codec technolo...