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Time Magazine's 50 Best Web Sites (Time Uses Flex?)

Time Magazine's selection and the use of Flex

Time magazine has published their version of the 50 best Web sites of 2007 . Check it out. You may or may not agree with their ranking, but I'm sure you'll find some interesting sites there that you didn't know about.  All these sites are Web 2.0-ish, which by my definition are not sites that were built using any particular technology, but rather sites that give more control to the end user. So while some people say that Web 3.0 is about semantic Web, I believe that Web 3.0 sites will just give the end user more control than Web 2.0 ones.

But since developing rich Internet applications is my main professional activity, I couldn't stop myself from looking at what's under the hood at Time's Website.

It's good to see that they are gradually introducing Adobe Flex to their Web site. While most of the Web site is done using DHTML, the widget that shows "Top 5 Best Web Sites" is done in Adobe Flex. Just right-click on that area and you'll see that it was delivered by Flash Player. To be more specific, most likely it's a custom component that consists of a VBox container (a box with vertical layout) that in turn has an HBox and a DataGrid. The HBox holds the Label that reads Top 5 Best Web Sites" and two buttons - one with an image Refresh Data and the other with a custom skin that looks like a circle(?). As you move your mouse over the latter button, you'll see a tooltip that hints that the DataGrid below is sortable - just click on the column's header. If Time developers read this blog, I'd appreciate if someone would confirm that I've guessed your Flex components selection correctly.

I applaud Time for using Flex. Just think about it, this little widget that displays the rating can be coded in no time - one hour for coding and testing and one hour for the skin creation, which can be done in parallel by a Web designer in Photoshop.  The speed of development is crucial for any multimedia mega site such as Time Magazine.

Of course, since they are just starting, there are some usability issues; for example, if you sort  the ratings table by any other than Rate column, the text of the Label above should change from "Top 5 Best Web Sites" to something else based on your sort criteria.

Another usability issue - there is a column Total Votes, but it's not clear how the user can vote. I'd use a custom item renderer in the Total Votes column to turn the number of votes into a clickable link that would bring the user to the voting page. In Flex, this would take another five lines of code.

But these are the little things that will be ironed out in the future. Good job, Time Magazine! Go Flex!

Update. One of the readers (thank you, Zohar) gave me a reference to a Web site created by James Ward to check if a site was created in Flex
 http://www.jamesward.org/is_it_flex/

If you try this URLhttp://www.time.com/time/flash/time50BestWebsites/top5/top5_websites.swf you'll see that the site was not created in Flex. Oh, well, at least it's ActionScript :)   Time, go Flex!

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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