280 Slides


2 of 5 stars
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A friend of mine just showed this site to me today, which I apparently missed when it first debuted several months ago. It’s a nearly perfect re-creation of the Apple Keynote presentation-making application — or as nearly perfect as can be expected within a Web browser — built with the Cappuccino Web framework, which enables “desktop class applications” through JavaScript.

280 Slides is an impressive piece of work, but I wonder if it isn’t somewhat quixotic too. Though browser applications will inevitably become more desktop-like as they become more powerful, that doesn’t mean they should be designed to look and function like the software that lives on your hard drive. It’s still important to be true to the medium and the platform. That’s why Gmail is such a huge success; it doesn’t try to ape the desktop. Rather it makes the most of the strengths and weaknesses of the browser. Trying to re-create the desktop experience note-for-note seems like an ill-advised way to create a great browser application.



  1. Hi Khoi! I understand your argument, and you make a valid point. It’s generally not a smart idea to ignore the medium you’re dealing with to try and create something it was not really intended for.

    However, it’s tough to argue that the Objective-J/Cappuccino guys aren’t at least on to something. The 280 Slides application is responsive, cross-browser, and beautiful to look at. Generally when building web applications it’s really tough to get the first two. To have all three is the Holy Grail.

    Besides, a good principle to follow in UI design (as I’m sure you know) is consistency. 280 Slides is almost a seamless transition for a user moving from the desktop to the world of web applications. And that is something you can’t really say for Gmail.

  2. I don’t know, man. I’ve seen that argument elsewhere and I thought I agreed; but seeing this, the execution is flawless, and why would I want it to have a more “web-like” interface? Frankly, running it in Chrome in app mode on a very fast connection, it’s indistinguishable from a desktop app. I’m not sure that Gmail is a good model – this really, really works.

  3. I think that main point of 280 slides application is more ‘proof of concept’ or showcase for Cappuccino. It was meant to show what Cappuccino is capable of, and as such it works great.

  4. Though browser applications will inevitably become more desktop-like as they become more powerful, that doesn’t mean they should be designed to look and function like the software that lives on your hard drive.

    I agree with this. It’s similar to why Java apps felt/feel so weird. I think this phenomena is called the uncanny valley.

  5. Yeah, this app is interesting, but it doesn’t quite add much to the space, right? I’d guess Witold is right. If it were part of Google docs, the game would be on.

    I’m a bit confused, though, on your assertion. Are you suggesting that there is an indelible line between UI design for the desktop and the web? Or are you promoting creativity in web app design? Of course there are opportunities in the browser and web morжs to be utilized, I agree. But if an application’s interface is most ideally executed one way, shouldn’t it be done that way irrespective of its host?

    If gmail had mobile me’s mail UI, I’d be over the moon. I could actually look at it, and it would feel solid. My dad could figure it out. What’s wrong with that? If google docs looked and worked like Apple’s Numbers and Pages it would be an undeniable improvement over its awkwardly webish UI.

    So, I guess, couldn’t the web learn from the local apps the same way online news and blogs learn from print design without aping and being untrue to their media?

    If the trouble is the browser, maybe what we need is a ‘web browser’ and an ‘app portal’Ё

  6. I have to agree with you on this point, Khoi. As an avid Keynoter, I can’t see why I would come and use this service, because the desktop app is so superb. I would, however, be more inclined to use something that had an interface more befitting the browser experience.

    From the design perspective, I think it’s offensive to just blatantly rip the UI of the app which obviously inspired your work. While the application and its function is certainly impressive, it’s a big slap to the original developers and designers, in my opinion.

  7. Greg, what is “more befitting the browser experience”? I understand the general sentiment, but not all apps conform to HTML checkboxes.

    I think GMail is a weak supporting argument:

    1. Its take-up since the invites were scrapped is still slower than Yahoo! or live.com. GMail is a poster child for a service that a certain cocoon of tech folks think is a world-beater because they and their friends use it, when in fact it is largely a failure in the larger court of public opinion.

    2. That aside, the only innovative aspect of GMail was the incorporation of search, and this was an evolutionarily obvious next step (advanced full-text searching has been a growth area in mail for a number of years before, no surprise that the search leader would put their stamp on it). Nothing in the interaction model or features was new, and nobody has offered a convincing argument that anything in the synthesis is new or interesting.

    Which isn’t to say that GMail is useless; it isn’t. But what it also isn’t is an interesting model vis-a-vis good web interaction.

  8. Brian,

    Actually, I’m not talking about HTML checkboxes, to be clear. As an old-school Flash guy, I’m definitely not someone who thinks that websites have to act and look one way. I’m not necessarily a fan of the “app” look or 2.0 look that so many people have adopted.

    I’m just saying that as the division lines between the web and the desktop are blurring, and there’s an app in the same space already – in fact, the app in the same space is the one who’s UI was completely stolen – it would do some good to design an interface that shows some differentiation.

    As for your other comments re: gmail, I agree with you. I thought that Gmail’s threaded mail was the best implementation when they hit the scene years back, but other than that, it’s not all that innovative.

    Actually, it’s pretty horrible when it comes to reading HTML mail, and makes it pretty difficult to prepare company newsletters and such.

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