Thursday, August 2, 2012

Everything online is crap - fix it!

I'm going to approach things in a slightly new way from now on and the title of this post might just give it away.

If you make the assumption that every single website that is out there in some way needs fixing, then in my opinion you are on the right track.

I've previously stated my friend Tristan's thought that "if your ecommerce site isn't broken, you're not looking hard enough" and my approach is really a development of that.

Every website in some way needs help.

Here's what i mean by that comment. It is either:

1. Not fully compatible with all browsers
(a moving feast of web standards and evolving interpretations by the different browser makers - with Microsoft being the primary but not exclusive culprit over the years)

2. Not optimised for the user
(Even the most applauded websites have some barriers to their target users being able to complete all their tasks with the minimum of barriers. From eCommerce sites that sacrifice the smoothness of the user journey by trying to place more buying options in front of the potential purchaser, through to content sites like newspapers that interrupt the reader flow to insert advertising)
Note: and before you comment.... Yes, I know there's a commercial driver to both of these examples, where the site owner seeks to maximise the revenue from either sales or advertising, but this balance between revenue and user experience needs constant review to keep it in check.

3. Not optimised for speed and scale.
(It's actually pretty amazing, given only a few years ago we had to wait ages for a single image to come down the digital pipe via a chirping modem, that we now have such bloated websites that nobody has taken time to optimise the code, images and other assets. I've often criticised the flabby weights of major brand home pages and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Only a decade ago I had to make sure my online production team got the most out of every kilobyte downloaded, now pages of over a megabyte are not uncommon. Have we not learnt anything from those days from around a decade ago? Apparently not!)
Note: And these site owners wonder why their beautiful, newly-built and interactive platform goes down as soon as more than a few visitors come and take a look....

4. A bunch of other reasons I've previously gone into.
(From bad error messaging through to sites that decide to just break for no apparent reason..... the world wide web is awash with mediocrity that the people commissioning, building and testing them should be ashamed of).

But that's enough ranting. Just accepting it is all crap is not the answer. "Be the change you want to see" said Ghandi (allegedly) and this is what we must all do online.

If you manage a site and it is crap, fix it! If you use a site and it doesn't do what you expect, complain. If you try to buy stuff online and the site does everything it can to make it difficult to transact, don't buy anything (but do feel free to give feedback on why you didn't).

We owe it to others and ourselves to improve the online user experience wherever and whenever possible. We need to fix things and fix them fast!
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