There are a couple of things which are great concerning usability of the three layer model described in my first blog (Building Gadgets with a little processes in them!). The main positive feature is that there are three layers in which the usability can be clearly differentiated. This indeed brings large positive aspects as well when thinking about governance; however I would like to view this only briefly here. My main focus is on the usability abstraction that is possible through the model.
Over the last three years the FAST Project Consortia (http://fast.morfeo-project.eu/) has been investigating the theory of Mashups and has developed an application platform called FAST GVS. The innovation is that the FAST GVS only focuses on the development of Gadgets, Widgets or Apps in an end-user friendly way. The FAST GVS hence does not focus on the publication, but offers different publication channels. A plus is that we have one channel, which is publishing to i-google, which now runs as well on mobile phones.
As there are three distinct layers there is indeed the opportunity to view these in form of three different applications. Hence the top layer can be seen as the most simple to use layer and the layer were the gadgets are viewed as a block of functionality. One block is defined as a screen, which is nothing else than a user interface, that is connected to an electronic service in the web. The middle layer is the layer, where the end-user can influence the screens behavior or define a screen from scratch. Hence the end-user has the option to call up an existing screen and for example change the service. One example would be to change a search screen from an amazon search to an ebay search or google search. The only thing that needs to be done is change the service block, link it up and publish the screen again. The final part of the project is ongoing and will be simplifying the option to define a service in the system. However this is in a prototypical stage at the moment, but should be released in the next month.
Focusing back on the usability; you will notice that when the user logs onto the system he will be very quick to be able to publish a gadget using the fast platform using existing screens. With the support of the semantic matching the screens which fit turn green; hence the end-user will be offered available options by the system. Additionally a “magic wand” exists which gives the end-user completion options, meaning if the end-user does not know how to fill a gap between two screens he can use the tool to get some suggestions from the system. A successful use of the system by the end-user
When advancing with the system use the user may find out, that for one app or widget, a screen is not available. He can then go into the screen development and work on a screen.
It can be seen as important that the user is able to be productive with such a system as soon as possible. This system is specifically developed to be understandable for end- or business users. Hence it is important that such users get frustrated when they cannot be productive with a system very quickly.
Contrary we have found a study comparing the usability of enterprise mashup development tools that; the more complex the system is the more time it needs to learn and understand the system. However in contrary it is logical that the system will always be less powerful and offer less complexity if it is very simple to learn.
The FAST GVS is an output of the FAST research project, which is sponsored by the EC. Have a look at http://fast.morfeo-project.eu/ for more details.