So I came across a video on YouTube for a web calendar application called Scrybe.
I was at first unimpressed. "Meh, another web calendar application." But you know as with all things that get reinterpreted time and again, Scrybe brings its own flavor to the game.
I think the first thing I noticed is how polished the application was. Obviously, a lot of detail was put not only into thinking through the functionlity, but also into how the UI is presented to the user. It's a very simple and yet compelling UI that keeps it nice and clean. Outlook seems...cluttered by contrast.
While most of it is standard fare for web calendars with slightly better eye candy, there are a few standout features.
One of the neat things that is first introduced in the video is offline synching capabilities. I can only guess that this is using local cookies with timestamped data which is sent back to the server the next time the client connects. A very cool idea that I never would have thought of using.
The second neat idea is the "thought stream" generation (or should I use the term "tracking"?). It's a nifty idea to allow simple content generation from scattered resources into a single, continuous document that allows you to aggregate your thoughts together (as opposed to say RSS feeds, which you would use to aggregate the thoughts of others). It looks like it's using some sort of browser plugin for this or it could be a frame/iframe toolbar. In any case, it's a cool concept if they can add some more functionality to it (would be cool to kind of have linked thought streams on similar topics so you could follow random thought streams to kind of discover things that you otherwise would never have seen/thought of in the context of a particular subject).
The third really neat (and simple!) idea is the printout, foldable calendar! So simple yet so useful and effective for keeping users "connected" to your app. I'm not sure if anyone else has done this yet, but if not, kudos to these guys for coming up with something so simple and useful.
Personal note: so what's the lesson here? Start with a basic need and reinterpret it while adding your own little twists and tweaks here and there. They don't have to be ground breaking or particularly difficult from an engineering perspective, but natural, easy to use, and useful. Add a little pizzaz and polish and you may have a winner on your hands.
Now if they could come up with an integrated mail client as well...