Will Mullets become fashionable after all?

Simple UX up front, smart data in the rear

The mullet is a hairdo that people love to tease. There are a slew of tumblrs to explore the magic that the juxtaposition of a “business up front, party in the rear” style provides.

I am intrigued by another type of mullet, one that pairs simple experiences in the front (client UI) with smart backends.

As the industry evolves we have the opportunity for the best of all worlds, if we set things up just right.

If we look at the various ages of computing, we have seen the pendulum swing several times wrt the client and the server.

  • Mainframe: power on the server
  • PC: a lot of client centric applications
  • Client server: richish clients talking back to a server
  • Browser: simple clients connected to the Internet

The Mobile Era

Mobile really took off when a few innovations came together:

  • Somewhat viable cellular network with data
  • The full Web experience on a phone (iPhone 1.0)
  • Rich applications on the device (post-Symbian etc).

We have had a first rush to get a nice front end talking to the backend on the Internet. It drives me nuts when I see applications that aren’t sync’d to the backend in some manner.

I switched from a pen and paper journal to the 5 Minute Journal app and had to use all of the power of “gratitude” to not be maddened when all of my data was lost. No backup. In 2014? I assume that this isn’t the case. Never use user data.

I feel like we are seeing various stages of application in mobile:

Nice mobile UI

We started with a gold rush to take something people wanted, and wrap it in a nice mobile form factor using affordances that make sense. This would get you far.

Nice mobile UI talking to the server

The real power was having the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy in your pocket. Now your mobile application is a view on top of the backend data, so you can do so much more (and access it from anywhere).

Collaboration and multi-user views

Single task apps can be very useful and popular, but I am seeing an increase in great collaborative applications:

  • That trivia app is fun and all, but way more fun when you play against your mates.
  • Sharing Asana with my family has been fantastic and we stay in sync in a way that would never happen if we had our own silos of tasks and info
  • Quip is a great example of a mobile-first, multi-user assumed application
  • Avocado is a great app for couples, but it is an example of the silo. What if you want other views and info as a couple? What if you actually want to extend beyond the couple? It feels like a dead end to me.

Multiple apps and views on the same data

This is where I really hope we get too. The mullet of apps. So many of the apps that I use are data silos. Some talk to each other through APIs, webhooks, and IFTTT….. but I need more.

Asana isn’t a task list for me, it is my extended brain. I have a slew of processes that keep it useful and organized, but I only have one client that thinks of everything as a task.

I would love to have various apps and views that take in the different data sets and allow me to interact differently with that data. The app that is aware of my book library isn’t the same as my task list, or my “raw thoughts” or my gift ideas or my decision tracking or my habit checklists etc.

I really hope that someone cracks the nut of having some shared data stores where multiple views can be written on top of them. Smart systems can be put in place to help the data.

I can see this world in my minds eye, and it is a world where the mullet is beautiful.

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