Mashups are cool. Cool to develop. No denial. But what about the person accessing your mashup? Is their browser being hung up? Their bandwidth pounded with log of requests (be it AJAX or otherwise)?
A good mashup should pay attention to the usability aspect as well. Just pulling in information from lots of websites and assembling it on the fly on the client-side may not work. Especially if the information being fetched from the remote site has to be repeated for each row on a table of data, a standard implementation would definitely choke the browser.
Take Online Ad Networks page for example. It currently has mashups to get the Google’s PageRank and Alexa’s traffic rank. However, if this information is loaded on the fly for each row in the table, not only is it going to be painful for the viewer, it also would rapidly fire several requests to the respective servers from where the data is being fetched. So, instead, the information is loaded on demand, through the onmouseover events.
In general, in cases where a lot of requests have to be sent, instead of doing that by default, it would be good to do it on a user action. The choice is typically between a onclick and onmouseover. If you want to avoid the user to click too much, then go for onmouseover. However, if you want to absolutely make sure that the user actually intends to see the information you are providing, then an onclick would be better. Note that it’s still better than forcing the user to go to another page for the details and then bringing back to the summary page by back button or a bread crumb.
A lot of people are using tag cloud or keyword clouds these days. Many websites provide free tools to create these clouds. ToCloud.com has used it’s log of the websites that have been converted to keyword clouds, for each of those websites, got the number of bookmarks on del.icio.us and then plotted it as cloud of clouders.
Is this “cloud of clouders” a tag cloud or a keyword cloud? I think it’s neither. Because, tag clouds are based on tagging while keyword clouds are based on converting of text within a page, article or book. However, a cloud created using the names of an entity with some metric of those entities as cloud frequency can probably called as “metric cloud” or “statistical cloud”.
ToCloud.com has extended the Tag Cloud mashup with Google Suggest to now support exploring Amazon Products from the Tag Cloud. This gives an opportunity for bloggers to quickly check what kind of products correspond to their blogging content. This is useful for people considering placing affiliate links to generate additional revenue.
Here is an example of Photo.net tag cloud and when you click on each link, you can choose either Google Suggest or Amazon to display the related content for each of the words in the cloud. When Amazon is chosen, it is also possible to pick the product category.
What happens if a keyword cloud or a tag cloud is mixed with Google Suggest? You get a Cloud Suggest. The motivation behind this is that say you have a tag cloud of your blog. The cloud gives you and your readers a quick idea of what topics you mostly cover in your blog. But what if you or your readers want to know what are the popular searches related to those tags? That’s where you can make use of Google Suggest. ToCloud.com seems to be the first keyword cloud generator that has this Cloud Suggest idea. So, once a cloud is generated, clicking on any of the word/phrase opens a popup that fetches suggestions for that word/phrase from Google Suggest.