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Seeking the Dominant Design for Web Apps

One of my missions in developing web applications for a Fortune 15 company is to emulate the dominant design of well known internet applications when designing new functionality for inside the company. I occasionally am beat up for not doing this. One recent example was an RSS reader portlet. The goal was to provide people with a customizable portlet on the McKNet homepage that would allow them to subscribe to various feeds within the company and see the 3-5 most recent updates for those feeds. When my management team saw the proposed product, they questioned why it didn’t look and work like Google Reader. I tried not to laugh – you might imagine that it comes down to money. This was one function point out of 8 proposed in a quarterly maintenance release that was being worked on full time by a single programmer. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say that Google Reader took someone more than a week to develop.

One of the things I’ve been involved with lately is establishing “maintenance” pages for each of our applications. These maintenance pages are just meant to say “sorry – we’ve got some planned maintenance going on, here are some links to other content that you may be looking for that is not currently impacted by our maintenance.” Finding examples of dominant design for this are a little more difficult, since you have to find either a reputable site that is

under maintenance or read a blog post about it. Today, I tried to go to My Cigna based on some mail I received yesterday and found they were under maintenance. Perfect! Here’s a screenshot of what I saw:

This gives me a good idea, but also points out the pitfall. The idea? Let them know when the maintenance window is planned to end. In this case, it says “The site will return at approximately 12:00pm on Sunday, March 28th.”. The down side is that you have to keep up with the page and make sure that it reflects an accurate date and time. You’ll see I included the status bar from Windows to show that today is April 18th – 3 weeks after the above referenced date.  So now that I think about it, this isn’t the greatest of examples. Guess I’ll have to keep fishing for a dominant design of under maintenance pages. 

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