Sep 11 2007

Philips Consumer Electronics launches Flex based product selector

Published by at 11:24 under Wayback Archive

Last week Philips launched a new product selector on their Consumer Electronics website. I was involved in this project so my opinion is biased, but hopefully you agree that the result is a very nice Rich Internet Application. You can experience the application by going to and then drill down to a specific product category (e.g. TVs).

Guiding users from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0
Obviously the selector has been inspired by famous applications like the Vodafone Handy Finder and Flex Store. However, whilst those RIAs have a more ‘flashy’ look and feel over them, Philips clearly has chosen for an experience that is more of a blend of Flash and HTML experiences.

Only time will tell what works out best for the end-user, but I think it’s a very nice example of how a large company can “guide” it’s site visitors from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 without disrupting too much of the ‘old’ experience. I speak to a lot of companies with big, frequently used websites, and somehow they always are afraid that RIA will be so much of a new experience that it becomes disruptive in a negative way. That is incorrect and I keep saying it over and over again; the transaction can be done very fluently and you should never forget to make Experience Designers and user research part of this process, they are there to avoid you making those mistakes. I am happy that Philips, a well recognized international brand, is showing off how you can do it.

Some technical details
The application has got many things that a good RIA should have, including a few which some people think are not possible to achieve within Flex (and which Philips also wasn’t sure of when they contacted my for more information when comparing Flex with AJAX);

  • Single engine supporting many products, product categories, many languages and many filtering parameters.
  • It supports proper browser interactions like bookmarking specific products and usage of the back button, still many people think this is not possible in RIA. Also notice how browser pages nicely resize when more of less content becomes available.
  • The application seems to perform very well on my machine, despite the amount of data that is loaded.
  • All product information, filtering settings and language information is pulled from an ecommerce CMS and loaded into the front-end on the fly. So Philips can easily add not only products, but also details, filtering settings, languages and even product categories using their CMS without having to change the Flex application itself.
  • If the user doesn’t have Flash Player 9 installed, the CMS system will notice this and automatically fall back to the original HTML design for the website. So no need for Philips to be afraid of ‘only’ 90% Flash Player 9 penetration.

So obviously there will be AJAX supporters stating that this could have been build in AJAX as well, and probably it could. Whilst I can not speak for Philips and their exact reasons, I think they clearly have a long term vision on ‘Sense and Simplicity’ and apparently they felt confident that they could deliver that experience with Flex.

Not there yet
The application is useful and given the time constraints that Philips had to launch it (I can not disclose the exact details, but this was delivered in a record time), I really think they have created a solid foundation for further RIA expansion. There’s still still some things on my wish list though, like improved printing, drag and drop functionality (I am getting so much used to drag and drop on the web these days, is it just me?) and the ability to get a PDF with the comparisons so that I can my selections to my girlfriend for approval 😉

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Philips Consumer Electronics launches Flex based product selector”

  1. JabbyPanda says:

    Can you give me a hint how did they manage fonts in this applications?

    All text inside Flash movie looks very crisp at my system and reading this text inside Flash gives me a “HTML-based” warm feeling.

    I guess they turned off Fonts embedding and using system fonts everywhere through the application?

  2. PPPst says:

    I have been using the Philips example in a number of recent presentations on RIA’s. I think we may have some mutual “colleagues” who are now working on a Flex implementation for my company. It would be good to make contact on the email address I have supplied. Thanks.

  3. JabbyPanda says:

    2 PPPst : Are you talking to me when referring to have some mutual “colleagues”?