I encounter a lot of web applications that essentially implement a small windowing system inside the browser. On you web page there exist a number of little boxes that look like windows, which can be moved, re-sized, closed, etc. In almost every situation I have seen, this is a very bad idea which violates many of the design principles talked about on this site. For example:
- You can open a little window on some information, but you can't bookmark it to return later
- It usually violates the "don't break my back button" rule.
- You can't use standard browser tabs with these applications. Open in new window/tab never works.
- You can't open different parts of the application on different monitors. It all needs to exist in a single rectangular area which might be stretched to be bigger than all the monitors, but this is a huge inconvenience.
- These little windows never work as well as browser tabs, and don't mix well with other applications
This is just a sample list -- I have not done any in-depth study of the problem. Are there serious guidelines that make it clear that this sort of thing is a really bad idea? Or am I mistaken, and there really are good reasons for doing things this way?
The problem as I see it, is that this sort of UI looks very good to the people who purchase applications for companies to use. Use of Flash or HTML5 to make little windows that can be moved around that page gives the superficial feeling that it is a good GUI. There usually nice graphics, and it has a polished look. But ... the usability sucks when you actually have to use it.