The Browser As User Interface

A new way to access and deliver information.

Originally thought of as the interface for hosted software systems residing on the Internet, browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome are now being used as the user interface (UI) to access and deliver information.

Zero Footprint — Browser-based applications eliminate the need to manually load and update software on individual users’ machines. Instead, software resides and is managed either on a server or “in the cloud”—that is, the Internet. Upgrades can be completed once in a single location and made available immediately to all users—10 or 10,000—in one location or across the globe. IT support staff do not need to provide training and assistance on multiple versions of the same software. Each computer or mobile device needs only enough power to run the browser itself.

Functionality Available Anytime, Anywhere — Users are not tied to specific locations or machines such as mainframes or PCs containing needed software and data. Instead, employees can obtain the resources they need regardless of where or when they’re working. A browser-based e-mail utility like Gmail, for example, lets users send and receive e-mail not only in the office but also at home, from a client’s PC, or anyplace else simply by entering a user name and password. The result is a more mobile and versatile workforce that’s better equipped to get the job done.

Multi-Task Across Applications
— Unlike other technologies which require you to close one program to get to another, browser UIs make it simple to operate and access multiple applications concurrently. A few mouse clicks are all it takes to maximize or minimize each application page or, depending on the device and program, open and view several at the same time. Browsers can be expanded for larger monitors, allowing users to see more information on the screen. This enhances work speed by simplifying processes and saving the time formerly needed to exit one program and launch another. It also opens up a vast new world of functionality through the thousands of applications being created and made available on the Internet every day, often at little or no cost. Many of these can be integrated into other programs.

User-Friendly Operation — While the green screens and key codes that characterize command-prompt software tend to frustrate and discourage users, UIs deliver an intuitive, user-friendly experience. Various graphic and functional features—including text, images, videos and animations, search capabilities, extensions and plug-ins such as text editors or WebEx conferencing—help users absorb information and master a wide range of tasks.

Future-Proof Your Business — As the first truly universal computer interface—so simple that any child can and often does use it—the browser provides access to a new generation of applications.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Tim Fusco Meet the Author
Tim Fusco, a member of GAWDA’s Management Information Committee, is president and COO of TrackAbout Inc., headquartered in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, and on the Web at www.trackabout.com.