Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adaptave Web Site Design

Paul De Bra (1999), identifies a number of issues related to adoptive web site design including “the separation of a conceptual representation of an application domain from the content of the actual Web-site, the separation of content from adaptation issues, the structure and granularity of user models, the role of a user and application context” Paul De Bra (1999). This essay will discuss separation of conceptual representation and the role of the user in the application context more than ten years after publication of the original article.
Modern web application development frameworks such as .NET, Spring Framework, JavaServer Faces, Apache Orchestra, Grails and Struts offer clear separation between application representation and the content. The separation is achieved by implementation of Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture where “Model” layer is responsible for storing and managing access to relevant pieces of data, “View” layer is responsible for rendering and layout of the data, and “Controller” layer is responsible for interaction with the end user (i.e. Internet browser). No more the entire content has to be “stored” statically in the HTML page, but generated dynamically based on input received from the user. Moreover, HTML5 Web Storage API greatly increase the storage capacity (compared to HTML session cookies) which allows web application to store structured data on a client side (WHATWG, 2011). This could further facilitate user centric web site design such as storage of user preferences, data catch, etc.
On the other hand, when discussion “the role of a user and application context” Paul De Bra (1999), the methodology and the technology is not as mature. Qiuyuan Jimmy Li ties the issue to the organization of the web application structure and notes that majority of web sites do not adapt the content to the individual user. Instead, the web server “provides the same content that has been created beforehand to everyone who visits the site” (Qiuyuan Jimmy Li, 2007). Instead, he suggest a framework which accounts for users' cognitive style and adopts information content for each individual user. Justin Brickell at. al. (2006) takes a slightly different approach and instead suggest mining site access longs to identify access patterns and user behavior such as scrolling, time spent on each page, etc. The collected information could be used for shortcutting - “process of providing links to users’ eventual goals while skipping over the in-between pages” (Brickell at. al., 2006).
In addition, it is important to highlight the security and privacy issues when discussing adaptive web-site design. In order for a web application to provide customized content, it (web application) requires to acquire or collect personal data about individual user and users' behavior patterns. For example, Google Gmail uses automated scanning and filtering technology to “show relevant ads” (Google, 2011). This could be considered by some individuals as intrusion into privacy, especially if the processed message contains sensitive information such as health records or financial information.


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