The UX of FileSpots

Jack Slocum just pointed out a new EXT application called Filespots. This is interesting on many levels. Just from the homepage you can see how they have mirrored the exact Vista windows explorer user experience. The nice folks at Filespots were kind enough to give me a username and password. I immediately started to check it out.

At first blush I was really impressed with how the visual design exactly mirrored Microsoft Vista. I said, “Wow, Microsoft should buy these guys right away!” Then I started using the application. My expectations were set by the visual design that this should behave like a desktop application. But it’s not a desktop application; It’s a web application. That means it is going to be slower and be a little different. I think this is a bad place to be. It truly is an awesome application, but it doesn’t have everything that windows does. How could it?

The biggest missing feature, which I am sure could be added without too much difficulty is right-clicking. Context menus are a huge part of Windows and they are totally missing in Filespots. Additionally, I had alot of trouble getting drag and drop of the files and folders to work correctly. I am not sure if it’s a bug or something I am doing wrong. I also think that control-x (cut) and control-v (paste) could be added giving another way to get the job done.

Another missing feature which is harder to realize in a browser is dragging from the desktop. I tried to do this and it basically blew away the application and I had to start over. If the app was built in Flex or AIR, I believe that you would be able to drag from the OS. I wonder if Flex/AIR would also help increase speed? The application felt sluggish all around compared to Vista.

However, all of these complaints have nothing to do with what is a comparable Web Application. You shouldn’t compare a web application to a desktop application. Compared to Google Documents, Filespots is awesome. The tree, the UI, the multiple file upload, the drag and drop…all of these are incredible features for a web application. This thing is awesome. You can invite users and manage permissions. I wish the permission management was a little more robust. This was a great Hotkoko innovation. The problem is, Filespots begs to be compared to Vista because it’s wearing Vista’s clothes. You can’t look like Filespots and expect the user to have Web-level expectations.

When we built Hotkoko, we purposefully tried to mimic the UI of Windows 98/2000, but not the visual design. This helped establish the User Experience paradigm, but not confuse the user as to where they were or what to expect in terms of performance and latency. My recommendation to FileSpots would be:

  1. Add context menus on everything. (delete, move, new (submenu), open, upload, delete, etc)
  2. Add keyboard shortcuts for cut/paste/delete
  3. Improve performance as much as humanly possible.
  4. Roll this app up into an AIR deployment and see if you can make desktop dragging work.

If they do those things then the visual design would be validated. I still think Microsoft should buy this thing right away.

Overall, I give Filespots an A- for a web application and a C+ for a desktop application. The last time I saw such a cool UI was jump.com. They got bought for 90 million by Microsoft and were never heard from again. So much of filespots is made possible by the 2.0 version of EXT. The framework is, despite how awesome it is, still in Alpha! How can an Alpha product be that good? I think EXT 2.0, with the possible inclusion of some related technologies (AIR, Gears), has the potential of changing the whole game. EXT is to Applications as jQuery is to Websites.

9 thoughts on “The UX of FileSpots”

  1. Filespots has been released with a completely new design and is now available for everyone.

    The new version converts uploaded documents, videos, audio and text files to online players. I am curious what you think about the new user interface.

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