The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Web Application User Interface Technologies

Mikko Pohja

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Science for public examination and debate in Auditorium T2 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 4th of February 2011 at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4011-0)   [1366 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4010-3)


The World Wide Web has expanded from a huge information storage repository into a worldwide application platform. Web applications have several benefits compared to desktop applications. An application can be used anywhere from any system and device, which means that only one version is needed, they do not need to be installed and developers can modify running applications. Despite all the benefits of the Web, web applications are suffering because they are developed using the same technologies as the static documents on the Web. Some of these web technologies are outdated and were not originally designed for the complex use cases of the modern applications to which they are now applied. For instance, HTML forms comprise the main interaction of an application, despite not having been designed to describe complex and interactive UIs. Another example is HTTP communication on the Web, which always requires client initiative and is too restrictive for dynamic web applications. Additionally, new usage contexts have brought with them new requirements for web applications, which are no longer used only via Graphical User Interfaces.

Recently, several parties have developed specialized technologies for web application development. These solutions are not only minor additions to the existing technologies, but also new technologies. The goal of this thesis is to analyze the advanced web technologies and propose improvements to the technologies and architecture where applicable. The technologies are evaluated against a large set of requirements. The aim of the evaluation is two-fold. The first part is to select a technology on which to base the further improvements, and the second is to identify the deficiencies of the current solutions. The improvements focus on the developers' point-of-view.

Based on the evaluation, this thesis proposes certain improvements related to multimodal interaction, server push, and remote UI updates. It also discusses software that supports the improvements and XML-based web technologies. Finally, the improvements are evaluated against the requirements and compared to other solutions.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 6 publications:

  1. Mikko Pohja, Mikko Honkala, and Petri Vuorimaa. 2004. An XHTML 2.0 implementation. In: Nora Koch, Piero Fraternali, and Martin Wirsing (editors). Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Web Engineering (ICWE 2004). Munich, Germany. 26-30 July 2004. Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany. Springer. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, volume 3140, pages 402-415. ISBN 3-540-22511-0.
  2. Mikko Pohja and Petri Vuorimaa. 2005. CSS layout engine for compound documents. In: Proceedings of the Third Latin American Web Congress (LA-WEB 2005). Buenos Aires, Argentina. 31 October - 2 November 2005. Los Alamitos, California, USA. IEEE Computer Society. Pages 148-156. ISBN 0-7695-2471-0. © 2005 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). By permission.
  3. Mikko Honkala and Mikko Pohja. 2006. Multimodal interaction with XForms. In: David W. Wolber, Neil Calder, Christopher H. Brooks, and Athula Ginige (editors). Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Web Engineering (ICWE 2006). Palo Alto, California, USA. 11-14 July 2006. New York, NY, USA. ACM. Pages 201-208. ISBN 1-59593-352-2. © 2006 by authors.
  4. Mikko Pohja. 2008. Declarative push on Web. In: José Cordeiro, Joaquim Filipe, and Slimane Hammoudi (editors). Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies (WEBIST 2008). Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. 4-7 May 2008. Setubal, Portugal. INSTICC Press. Volume 2, pages 201-207. ISBN 978-989-8111-27-2. © 2008 INSTICC Press. By permission.
  5. Mikko Pohja. 2010. Comparison of common XML-based Web user interface languages. Journal of Web Engineering, volume 9, number 2, pages 95-115. © 2010 Rinton Press. By permission.
  6. Mikko Pohja. 2010. Server push for Web applications via instant messaging. Journal of Web Engineering, volume 9, number 3, pages 227-242. © 2010 Rinton Press. By permission.

Errata of publication 6

Keywords: user interfaces, web technologies, UIDL, XForms

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Last update 2012-02-14