– Colleague wants web apps to behave like Windows desktop programs

I have been creating new ASP.Net web apps for my workplace intranet (it is a closed system, not accessible to customers) and also re-creating some existing Windows programs as web applications. One colleague always suggests that things work more like a Windows desktop program – things that would take extensive effort with JavaScript for example (of which I have only a small amount of experience) to implement, and which only the requestor is likely to notice. Our primary internal tools are all moving to a browser-based, externally mandated production system now, and so I have been following those standards.

This colleague always asks, “could there be an Hourglass?” for anything that is not instantaneous. Also, “could there be a piece of JavaScript that explains that it is searching?” or whatever the scenario is. I had previously done this for some particularly long-running pages. That is more effort than our in-house system needs. Another issue arose over how to update data. The suggestion was to have a button to switch to Edit mode, then save the data if the user navigates away or closes the page. But the web server doesn’t know that you have closed the browser window or navigated away. (Yes, it could be done with JavaScript, but is not necessary.) Another request is for a message to appear on the page to say “Click Update to save your changes” as soon as any alteration is made to the data on the screen.

My approach when using ASP.Net for pages that simply edit a single row in a table (not insert or delete) is to have the DetailsView or FormView launch in Edit mode, with the standard link buttons labelled Update and Cancel at the bottom. If the user closes or navigates away, no data change happens – which seems very intuitive to me (and requires no code). The suggested way feels a bit like leaving the car in Drive when you stop and having it roll away when you get out of it.

Are my colleague’s suggestions reasonable, or do they reflect a lack of experience with web applications? To me, these suggestions are not just inappropriate to the browser app situation, they are actually harmful. It would add lots of needless and error-prone development for me. How can I approach this? My manager has not heard these one to one discussions and likely has no opinion, but I will bring it up when possible.