Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Machine Learning , Silverlight

Machine Learning : Article

Bringing Excellence to the Field of UI Engineering

Exclusive Q&A with Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering, Netflix

"My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering," says Bill Scott, Director of User Interface Engineering at Netflix, which has 8+ million users, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's AJAX & RIA Journal in the run-up to his session on October 20 at AJAX World RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose, California (October 20-22, 2008).

AJAX & RIA Journal: When asked to prove to doubters that user experience matters, also to the bottom line of a company…what companies (in addition to Netflix!) do you tend to reference?

BILL SCOTT: I love Pandora. Pandora is dead simple. You pick a song or artist and immediately a radio station is built for you. The player is easy to use, easy to rate songs and does a great job of integrating advertising into the player space. The Pandora player and its companion iPhone application demonstrate the power of simple, rich interfaces that don’t get in the way of the experience but enhance it. Understanding that it is the experience of music listening and not the site experience directly is what focuses a team to build an experience for the user and not for themselves.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What would you say to those who contend that while “Rich Internet Application” had a very clear meaning at the time it was coined in the early 2000s, when an RIA was a clear contrast to the prevailing mass of applications on the web, the contrast is largely gone – leaving the term less useful. Has the entire web really evolved that dramatically, already? Is “Rich Web” now a given do you think?

SCOTT: It is not a given. It is getting to be more common. But the idea is not to make everything “rich”. The idea is to give the best experience. Sites have really messed up when they forget what the user really wanted from them. A popular TV site was primarily used for TV listings. When they changed it to be “rich” they made it harder to do the primary thing—get a TV listing.

I think the term is still useful as most of the techniques, patterns, etc. are still being fleshed out. I continue to see sites launch rich interfaces that are an abuse to the user – so there is still a lot to learn. The more capabilities, the more dangerous it is. Chain saws are great for quickly cutting down a tree, but they can also saw off a limb.

AJAX & RIA Journal:
Your title at Netflix - “Director of User Interface Engineering” – bears testimony to the importance of front end engineering at Netflix. Are you surprised that there are not more ‘directors of UI engineering’ than there are?


SCOTT: Yes and no. If you really understand that crafting a good user experience requires solid engineering then it makes sense. If instead you think that creating a web interface is what developers who can’t cut the backend work then no it wouldn’t occur to you.

My mission has always been to bring excellence to the field of user interface engineering. What impressed me most about Netflix was their deep understanding of the criticality of this role. Think about it. From an engineering perspective, taming Java, JSP, HTML, CSS & Javascript into a cohesive framework with proper the proper software architecture while at the same time being perfomant for our 8+ million users is a worthwhile challenge. And then recruiting and keeping the talent to pull it off – well that deserves the attention of a Director of UI Engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: How did you get started in the world of user interface and user experience?

SCOTT: In 1984 I bought a Macintosh 128k. By the end of the year I joined forces with two of my fellow co-workers (from the Apple store where I worked) to write one of the first games for the Macintosh – GATO, a submarine simulation game. Designing and building the interface to this game completely hooked me on the joy of creating software that people wanted to use. From that moment forward I focused solely on user experience design and engineering.

AJAX & RIA Journal: What role do open APIs play in the business and software universe, in general terms?

SCOTT: In 2006, Netflix launched the Netflix Prize. The idea is to award $1 million to the team that can improve our recommendations engine by 10%. Why did we do this? We believe innovation is bigger than us.

Just this month Netflix announced its open APIs. By opening up APIs to the public we invite the talent of the masses to make Netflix a better experience. Open APIs foster innovation, provide an economic space for smaller development shops to thrive and allow businesses to host their services on a wide range of devices with fringe feature sets that otherwise would not have been supported.

AJAX & RIA Journal: Does Netflix make use of this trend towards open APIs?

SCOTT: Yes, with our launch of the public APIs on October 1, 2008. We are planning a soon to be announced Open Hack Day to invite developers onto our campus to hack for notoriety and fame!

AJAX & RIA Journal: What technologies does Netflix use in-house?

SCOTT: Our primary technology is Java running in a Tomcat/Apache configuration. For the user interface we use JSPs and the normal DHTML stack. We are in the process of re-architecting the presentation infrastructure utilizing: JSP tags, Struts2, Tiles2, YUI CSS framework and jQuery.


AJAX & RIA Journal: How about Cloud Computing: do you see it to be a useful product category?

SCOTT: Cloud computing is very interesting as it provides elasticity and cost benefits. We are looking carefully at all of the solutions in this space. Regardless of our direction we are busy architecting our infrastructure so that we have the flexibility to move to whatever makes the most sense.


AJAX & RIA Journal: Your latest book is called Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interaction – what goodies await your many fans in that?

SCOTT: The book is about interaction design: specifically, interaction design on the Web. And even more specifically, about rich interaction design on the Web. It is a distillation of best practices, patterns, and principles for creating a rich experience unique to the Web. In the book I discuss 6 principles for designing rich interactions (my talk follows this outline). There are 75+ patterns, a number of anti-patterns and over 250 examples from various web sites that illustrate these principles.


AJAX & RIA Journal: “Crafting Rich Web Interfaces” is the appealing title of your session at the upcoming AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo in San Jose CA. What is in store for attendees, and for those following it online during the simulcast of your session on SYS-CON.TV?

SCOTT: I will be sharing some the 6 principles from the upcoming book. The talk is chocked full of screencasts & animations that illustrate the good (patterns) and the bad (anti-patterns) when designing for rich interfaces.


AJAX & RIA Journal: What are the biggest meta-trends you see in terms of the Rich Web space in 2009?

SCOTT: One large trend (that has already started) is the way the Web (and its technologies) will be the platform for all kinds of environments. Starting with the iPhone and continuing with a host of new devices, web applications are now becoming prevelant in the mobile space.

With the iPod Touch, the web made its way onto my MP3 player – and it feels natural.

The desktop is already seeing this blending with Adobe Air, Microsoft Silverlight, Prism, Google Chrome’s application shortcut feature, Fluid and other products that bring a distraction free browsing experience into the desktop as well as bring the internet and social communities to desktop applications. Google Chrome basically introduces a Web OS onto the desktop setting the stage for online office applications to compete head to head with Microsoft Office products.

The Nintendo Wii successfully blended the web with its embedded Opera browser (Opera for devices). It is only natural that this will contine into other media spaces such as set top boxes and TVs. I will take some time for the devices to be powerful enough while still cheap enough, but it will happen. This will finally bring in web technologies onto the TV. Some will bring parts of the technology but eventually browsers will be fully integrated into these devices. Some of this has been realized already with the introduction of the Netflix player by Roku, the LG Blu-Ray player with Netflix, and the X-Box with Netflix streaming movies.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SourceForge has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SourceForge is the largest, most trusted destination for Open Source Software development, collaboration, discovery and download on the web serving over 32 million viewers, 150 million downloads and over 460,000 active development projects each and every month.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will discuss how from store operations...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.