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CHI-WEB  August 2001, Week 3

CHI-WEB August 2001, Week 3

Subject:

Windows/GUI applications with embedded web browsers

From:

Susan Herbst <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Susan Herbst <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 16 Aug 2001 12:19:29 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (66 lines)

Hello all -

I am looking for information, thoughts, opinions and words of wisdom on
Windows applications which have a web browser embedded in the UI.  By
embedded, I mean that the browser is displayed as one piece contained
within a larger application window.  A couple examples I know of -
Microsoft Outlook and Allaire HomeSite.  Outlook allows the displaying
of web pages within the main content area.  I'm not a big user of
Outlook, so I do not know how valuable people find this functionality.
In HomeSite (a tool for building web pages), the embedded web browser
allows the user to preview the HTML page while it is being developed.
My feeling is that this browser in HomeSite makes sense - a frequent
task of a user of HomeSite would be to validate the appearance of what
is being developed in a web browser.  In both cases, the application
provides a toolbar with standard browser controls (back, forward,
refresh, etceteras).

In a project that I am currently involved with, we are developing a
Windows application which has an embedded web browser.  For this
application, the target user group is that of "power users" whose
typical tasks involve a lot of complex interactions that are not easily
supported in our existing web (HTML) application.

Our plan to deliver the application as a Windows client (versus using
Java) is, for better or worse, set in stone and not subject to
discussion.  However, possibly, whether or not to embed the browser in
the application is up for discussion.

There have been no discussion as of yet as to why we feel the need to
embed the browser (versus using more traditional Windows/GUI
components). The data being displayed in the web pages is not inherently
HTML or web-oriented.  That is, the user is not manipulating web pages
or web content as they are in HomeSite, so there is no immediate need to
display it in web pages.  I suspect the main reason for embedding the
browser is to reduce development time - where interactive functionality
is not needed by the user (view-only tasks), the HTML UI from the
existing web application will be used.

I have some initial concerns with embedding the web browser in the
application, which I have yet to substantiate with any testing.  One is
that we may overwhelm the user with all of the different means for
navigation.  The Windows application will provide menus and toolbars to
give user access to information and functionality.  The embedded
browser, too, will display pages containing hyperlinks providing another
means for navigation.  And, the browser might also provide its own
toolbar of standard browser controls for navigation.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.  When is it appropriate or when
does it make sense to embed a web browser in an application?  What
implications does embedding the browser in the context of a larger
application have on how the pages are designed.

Please send responses to me ([log in to unmask]), and I will summarize for the
list.

Regards,

Susan

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