As we saw in parts one and two, the way we approach design on the web has been a constantly evolving debate between designers, developers, clients, and those who eventually get to enjoy our hard work – our visitors and users. It took us nearly a decade just to develop the technology stack we needed to take a website from design to pixel-perfect implementation with no compromises, and then the mobile revolution changed what pixel-perfect meant to us. In the past few years we’ve seen many visions for the future, most of which will require us to rethink what the web is and how we interact with it.
The Web is Dead (Again!)
Hardly a year passes passes some major media or tech publication declares the web officially over, going at least as far back as the Dot-Com crash in 2000. Everything from social networks to Google profiles to online review sites have inspired sensationalist headlines about the end of the web. The latest web killer? Apps, which we are told are a better, faster, cleaner, and more direct route to communicating with the public and providing online services.
fewer than 14% of apps installed last for more than a week before being forgotten or uninstalled
Let’s put this to rest: apps cannot and will not replace the web. Apps compete for our users’ most limited resources: screen real-estate and attention – whereas the web costs next-to-nothing in the same arena. We’ve known for years now that the average mobile user only uses a couple dozen apps a month, and the news on user retention is even worse: fewer than 14% of apps installed last for more than a week before being forgotten or uninstalled. Meanwhile, the best features of apps – offline use, push notifications, and location awareness – only make sense for a tiny fraction of the web. If you’re Facebook, Amazon, or Tinder, an app is a great choice, but if you’re one of the thousands of other websites that a typical person visits in a month an app could be a costly mistake.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Microsoft’s HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus Rift present two similar but subtly different visions of the future of digital media consumption: in the former, the digital seamlessly overlays the physical, and in the latter it transports us to an immersive alternate world. Both of these ideas have saturated our science fiction for a generation, but by the end of this decade they’ll be a part of our everyday lives. In both of these scenarios we expect to have the user’s full attention and they expect us to provide peak interactive experiences that amaze and delight them. Even if it doesn’t make much sense for your own content to be the center of attention here, you may still fit in on the periphery. You’ll have to think about how your website or a portion of it might look overlaid on a user’s living room wall, or whether your ads are effective in the context of a virtual social setting.
The Internet of Things: Connecting Your Fashion Accessories to the Internet
most of these devices won’t have a tiny little display with a built-in browser
The title sounds a little glib, but this is big deal and it may fundamentally change our relationship with technology. Smartwatches and intelligent thermostats are mere baby-steps toward a future where practically everything we own is, in one way or other, integrated with the online world. Within the next decade everything from jewelry to textiles to lightbulbs will be capable of gathering, transmitting, receiving, and reacting to online information. Unlike an app, a well-designed IoT object won’t compete for our constant attention. Instead, it will fade into the background of our lives, providing or gathering information for its owner within the context of its use. A smart thermostat’s job is to track and predict your air conditioning needs while efficiently managing electricity use; a smart earring might double as an earphone that always knows what you want to listen to, whether it’s a conversation in a crowded room or music that has followed you from living room to vehicle to supermarket. What most of them won’t have is a tiny little display with a built-in web browser.
Browsers? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Browsers… As Often
“Wait!” you might object, “these are all remarkable ideas, but what in the world do they have to do with websites?”
In the previous two articles we talked about how the web evolved from simple, static pages with one-size-fits-all designs to dynamic, flexible, responsive sites that look great on any screen and can be easily updated by their owners. This steady evolution has forced web developers to stop thinking about data in terms of documents, and design in terms of pages – metaphors that outlived their usefulness by the late 2000s. Now we think about elements of a design as discrete parts that can be moved around, resized, hidden or shown, summarized or reformatted based on who is viewing it and what they’re viewing it on. Take it a step further and imagine that data is no longer bound to a digital “place” – a website – but instead can be provided individually, on demand, and displayed appropriately according to context.
A centralized source for all your media and services is the only way forward
Remember the couple-dozen apps that the average user pays attention to each month? Those apps are going to become consumers for data our websites provide (much like Facebook and Flipboard already do). Your website itself is the one-stop shop for all things related to you or your business, but a user might purchase products from you through his favorite shopping app in the morning, view your upcoming events though his personal planner on the bus to work, or read your articles through a news app over lunch. Later that evening his living room lights might briefly pulse in your trademark orange to notify him that his order shipped, while a notification on his smartwatch reminds him he has to leave in 15 minutes if he’s going to make it in time to catch your show. These experiences will be subtle, seamless, and pleasant – they don’t demand special attention or require much effort because they’re part of his daily routine.
Behind the scenes, all of these things will go through the same place – your website. Why? Because the present alternative where you maintain and update content, often duplicated, across dozens of different sites and services, makes no sense and will not be cost-effective in the near future. In fact they’re not very cost-effective today. Syndicating serialized content to a handful of major social networks and e-commerce outlets is already a logistical nightmare, and as we’ve seen the number of contexts where users want to interact with your content is going to multiply from dozens to thousands.
A centralized source for all your media and services is the only way forward, and the web is already equipped to deliver it. Web developers have been improving the way we store and organize data, and displaying it across hundreds of combinations of browsers and devices, for many years now – for Mad Dancer Media, over 20. We’ve been though paradigm shifts before, and we’re already excited about the next one.
Categorised in: Blog
This post was written by Mad Dancer