The internet and cloud computing have changed our perceptions of communicating. It is now easier than ever before to connect offices in different locations or to work remotely from home. Different applications have been developed for browsers and there are now many useful applications that help us to communicate better. One example of these new applications is Dropbox, which helps people to share files.

However, businesses still use desktop applications to fulfill most of their software needs. Some desktop applications are now able to work either over a local network or the internet at the push of a button. It is a misconception that only browser-based software can communicate over the internet. The main disadvantage of desktop solutions is that the software needs to be installed on the client’s computer. Nevertheless, desktop software has some advantages over browser-based software as the graphical interface is generally better and the application is normally more responsive. Most financial and accounting software packages are still desktop based.

When analysing the difference between browser-based and desktop applications there is not a huge difference in capability. And the current trend towards marketing browser-based cloud computing as the panacea for all business software challenges, and desktop solutions as outdated, is misleading.

One of the biggest complaints against software developers is that the users have no say in the design of the software. Skilled personnel are not cheap and their productivity is vital for modern companies to remain competitive. Software that is difficult to use only increases costs and frustrations.

With the movement towards cloud computing there is the risk that technology will become even more remote from the people who use it. We need to take heed of lessons from the past and remember that advances in technology need to be matched with practicality. The internet is undoubtedly a fantastic connecting tool. But for more complex business software solutions, it is vital for the designers to know their users’ requirements and skills. Complex business software should never be developed in isolation.

Article by Duncan Stainer