A column by Cory Doctorow at Locus: Why the Internet will always suck.
Every time the Internet gets cheaper, or more pervasive, or faster, the applications that it is expected to bear increase in intensity, precarity and importance. As with printers – as with every technology – users and businesses push each innovation to the brink of uselessness, not because they want useless technology, but because something is usually better than nothing.
Okay, maybe true. I guess it’s probably true.
Recently, on Back To the Future day, we all noticed that thirty years ago the internet did not exist, much less smartphones in every pocket. What will be essential and ubiquitous in 30 years that doesn’t exist now? If we all have chips in our brains, I hope they are upgradable.
Anyway, Doctorow’s take-home message for tech guys and innovators:
The corollary of this: always assume that your users are in a zone of patchy coverage, far from technical assistance, working with larger files than they should, under tighter deadlines than is sane, without a place to recharge their battery. Don’t make your users load three screens to approve a process, and if you do, make sure that if one of those screens times out and has to be reloaded, it doesn’t start the process over. Assume every download will fail and need to be recovered midstream. Assume their IP addresses will change midstream as they hunt for a wifi network with three bars.
… and I’m sure we ALL agree with this! Even in the winter, even when it’s at its best, my internet connection from home is slow, slow, slow. I, with generally no essential need for the internet — there are no lives nor fortunes riding on my ability to click through three screens when one would do — even I, I repeat, would greatly appreciate it if ALL websites assume you do not EVER want to load more pages than strictly necessary. WHY DO YOU MAKE ME DO THIS? PUT THE WHOLE ARTICLE ON ONE PAGE. ONE. PAGE.
Or check-out process or registration process or whatever. All you site designers out there, please take Doctorow’s post to heart.