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Thursday, May 05, 2005

3-d web browsing

What I'm referring to is the ability of web pages to display actionable sub-menus.

There are lots of navigation menus that do this, but what I'm referring to is a bit different. After some thought I realize navigation menus are idempotent -- they have no lasting effect on the world.

Fill out forms and server side programming are different. When a user clicks on a button or a hyperlink, it triggers an event on the server. This changes the content of subsequent pages. For example, at eBay the sold items have sub-menus where an item can be relisted, an invoice can be sent, or an item can be marked as paid, etc. [screenshot would be appropriate].

Clicking an actions such as 'mark as paid' changes the contents of the menu so that the choice is no longer visible. Because the 'mark as paid' link is in a sub-menu that requires a click to be made visible, I call this 3-d web browsing. It feels like you're visiting a new page when you click the link to show the sub-menu, but what is really happening here is that a sub-menu div is being 'unhidden'.

Is 3-d web browsing the right word for this? Was it a design flaw, or on purpose? This is just starting to catch on for cgi type actions. This plus XMLHttp, and a little javascript, and things could get really interesting. (ajax==actionable javascript?)

final note: I think most designers would make the unhide effect something that happens onMouseOver instead of onClick. But end-users probably prefer the click effect since that gets you really focused on the list of actions available.

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