Molecular, Inc., a technology consulting firm, has released findings from a study on the use of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) in online channels. By conducting usability tests with consumers ranging in Web experience levels, Molecular analyzed the functionality of six Web sites that currently employ RIA technology, including www.jjill.com, www.kayak.com, www.bananarepublic.com, www.myrateplan.com, http://maps.google.com, and www.llbean.com. The study revealed the importance of usability testing to determine effective implementations of RIAs. Molecular recommends that companies work closely with their target audiences to better understand their needs, goals, and expectations and then design rich Internet experiences to meet those goals.
During the usability study, users were given a scenario and asked to complete specific tasks. Participants were encouraged to describe their actions, motivations and assumptions during each experience, the results of which were then analyzed by Molecular. Molecular found that users' interactions with RIAs were favorable overall and they enjoyed the interactive features and improved response times not offered by many traditional HTML interfaces. Users still encountered problems with RIA interfaces, however, these were mostly due to usability issues that could have been resolved by testing prior to launch.