Recently I was asked what Rich Internet Applications (RIA) were and whether they were good or bad, useful or something that we might be able to see in the future. Rich Internet Applications have been used on the web for many years. They are great for engaging the customer and drawing them deeper into your site. One of the earliest ways I remember using a RIA is dreaming about buying a new car and having all of those extra’s added on. So since my dream car is the new Dodge Charger I’m going to use that as my example.
RIA’s allow you to go in and select a product and then choose all the features that you want all the while seeing the price of the product so that you can see how your selections affect the price. So if I want the Charger R/T All Wheel Drive P package in the dark titanium metallic, I’m looking at a starting base price of $36,135. However, who wants a base model when you’re dreaming? After adding the “essential” extra’s like the power sunroof you’re looking at $39,785. Then I can go through and look at the Daytona R/T in Stone White starting at $37,035 add in the same extra’s and the price is $40,320. So within a few minutes I can see it is better pricewise to go with the R/T AWD and save or for less than $1000 go for the cool paint job of the Daytona R/T.
That is what is so great about RIA’s, they allow you to go through the selection of something you are looking at and pick and choose what you want to get the solution that is right for you. You could see if you added a feature if you could still afford it or if by adding another one you couldn’t. Another website I have seen where the RIA is great is on the Sony Ericsson site. Their site lets you go through the options of cell phones and it narrows down which phone would work the best for you (of course it has to be one they make). Verizon tried to use it but they still need to work on it. You can go in and select options but then you have to select view phones and if you select options that are not all included in a phone you get an error of “no match found, please modify selection and search again.” What I like about the Sony site is once you select an option it changes the features and phone selection to only have the options that are truly available shown. If you choose a phone that doesn’t have and option, it grays it out so you can’t select it.
One of the things I really like about a Rich Internet Application is that it doesn’t require me to download anything onto my computer in order to use it. It’s all a part of their site and doesn’t require me to spend 3 minutes allowing something to be added to my computer. Allow – hey I said allow already! I can see the use of RIA’s growing and more websites that offer a lot of features or options to use them to help customers narrow down what they are looking for.