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In the run up to Internet Explorer 9 Beta’s celebration of the Beauty of the Web on 9/15, we’ve been out talking to web developers and designers about the web. In this interview, I sat down with Rick Barraza, Principal Experience Architect at Cynergy. Cynergy is a leading software product concept, design and development company with a focus on interactive media built in Flash and Silverlight. We talked to Rick about what HTML5 means to him.
James : Rick, who are you and what do you do?
Rick : As the Principal Experience Architect at Cynergy, my daily focus is on researching emergent technology and rapidly prototyping engaging experiences for a wide variety of clients. I’ve been actively engaged in the concept, design and development of rich internet experiences for over a decade. Over the years, I’ve developed a far reaching collection of talents that span the spectrum between high level aesthetic design and low level software development.
James : It’s unusual to find someone who can span from development to aesthetic design. How did you end up with such an eclectic skill set?
Rick : Well, I’m not coming at this as a traditional web developer. The majority of my experience comes from being very active in the interactive media design and development communities over the past decade. To be frank, even up to a couple years ago, that really meant Flash, and that was the big divide that existed for people like me. Traditional online experiences could only take you so far, but if your focus was on highly polished or immersive experiences, you would usually have to go with Flash. Once Silverlight came out, it started giving us an option in terms of tools, but more importantly, you had a major company like Microsoft validating the role that RIA (rich internet applications) and plug-in solutions could serve. However, for most of the past decade, you still mainly had these two camps: the plug-in creatives and the more traditional, HTML based creatives.
James : So your focus has been on rich, immersive experiences delivered through Flash and Silverlight. What’s made you look again at HTML?
I’m really excited about what’s been happening this past year, and where the web is going. I think we have a perfect storm of three things happening at the same time: 1) the proliferation of different form factors for accessing online content and web experiences. Desktop PCs, smart phones, tablets, slates etc 2) The maturation of HTML5 and for people like me, the introduction of the CANVAS tag and other rich media elements like VIDEO is huge, and 3) Hardware accelerated browsers. IE9 has taken the lead in this area, blowing the doors off of what I previously believed possible with HTML only.
A lot of us interactive media programmers had previously dismissed HTML for not being strong enough to deliver highly designed experiences. All of a sudden, the playing field has been leveled and our assumptions about HTML are being challenged.
James : So as a Flash / Silverlight developer, you’ve had to learn a few new tricks?
Rick : I’m a very big believer and advocate of the notion that anyone engaged in new media needs to think of themselves as a Samurai and not a Swordsman. If you’re a swordsman, and that’s all you know, that’s all you got. If you lose that sword you’re finished. But a Samurai should be deadly with anything, under any constraints. So while we love our tools and strive to master them, we can never become dependent on them.
So seeing HTML step up its game, especially when it’s coupled with a powerful browser like IE9, means I’m finally able to deliver the compelling experiences a new media creative like myself loves. People working in Flash and Silverlight should pause and take note.
James : I love the Samurai analogy! Are you also deadly with that computer mouse?
Rick : You don’t want to find out.
James : I’ll keep my questions friendly just in case. Have you been working with the Internet Explorer Platform Preview?
Rick : Hah, so now for the full disclosure part of the interview. I had already dismissed HTML5 as still not being good enough. If it wasn’t for a commission by my company to spend a couple weeks and deep dive into the platform preview, I probably wouldn’t have tried it. I think a lot of interactive media people like myself may be in that same boat right now. I had seen other people’s work with CANVAS in other browsers, and I figured IE9 would be more of the same thing. But I’ll openly admit that I was premature in that. Once the Platform Previews came out that supported CANVAS and also, more importantly, showed off the true power of full hardware acceleration, everything changed for me. I was finally able to dive deeply into HTML5 and start creating things that were on par with what I do in the other interactive media languages I work with. It was really impressive and now I’m very glad that I’ve had this chance to upgrade my skill set so quickly. My toolbox just got bigger.
James : How do you think HTML5 will play into the work you and your company do?
Rick : We’re still primarily a software product concept, design and development company. But we’re seeing more and more scenarios where the clients are coming to us with constraints that will prevent a plug-in solution. Maybe it is form factor; maybe it’s IT considerations, whatever. I think in the past, there would usually need to be a trade off: “Do you want reach, or do you want premium?” With HTML5 and web standards moving into this richer experiences domain, we’re able to expand our offerings and fulfill our company’s greatest commandment: The right experience, on the right device, for the right person. HTML5 can only add to our ability to deliver on that.
James : Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Rick. One last question, what do you find most exciting about the future of the web?
Personally, as a designer, I find great beauty in diversity and inspiration in elegant solutions to seemingly impossible constraints. So while I think there are still some deep challenges ahead, I’m excited to see some of the walls start breaking down between these two camps; the new media creatives and the webs standards creatives. There are two types of personalities in this space. Those that like solving problems using the Lego method: snapping predictable and scalable objects together. And those who like solving problems with clay: loose and messy, but with a high level of customization and intricacy in the finished product. The tension between those two camps and their evolution, that cross pollination of ideas and techniques, should create some compelling experiences. We’ve been very separated this past decade, but I can’t wait to see what happens as we all start working closer together. It should be really interesting!
Is the Beta public or invite only ?
The Beta is public and suitable for anyone capable of downloading and installing software!