The Web is Still the Web (Fluent 2015: 3 of 5)

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This is the third post in a five-post series about O’Reilly’s Fluent Conference.

In our last post we talked about Web Components, a set of technologies on the bleeding edge of web development. In it, we discussed how these components can be helpful, but also how we need to be careful using them because they might not work everywhere.

As different as the web looks now compared to the early days, its core tenets—content, delivery, ubiquity—are unchanged. Designing for consistency is controversial, but designing for universality remains a steadfast standard of web development. Our UX and Product Lead Bernie Zang (@berniezang) brings us some of his lessons learned from Fluent:

The Web Is Still The Web

As technologists, optimists, and makers, we constantly find ourselves looking ahead and pushing boundaries further and further. This was apparent at Fluent. Highlighted in almost every talk were new technologies driving the future of the web, along with novel and new techniques to bring new experiences to viewers. However, even with these shining examples of what’s to come, there was an underlying emphasis to refocus on what’s important: the people who actually view our creations.

In his talk, This Web App Best Viewed By Someone Else, Eric Meyer drove home the idea that the web is built for everyone, not just the person running the latest web browser with a high-speed connection. He expounded the need to step back and rethink all the JavaScript, CSS, and high-quality video and graphics we’ve become accustomed to embedding into our webpages. Do we really need all these technologies? Have the new shiny baubles of Angular, Ember, React, and Backbone distracted us from the primary tenant of the web?

Philly local, Kim Blessing of Think Brownstone, reminded us it wasn’t too long ago when browsers like the Line Mode Browser were the only way we could access the web. This is how the 50onRed website would’ve looked:


While it’s important to look back and understand the fundamental value the web provides, I do strongly believe there are ways we can continue to create engaging experiences for web users while also ensuring we don’t continue to widen the digital divide. After all, one of the core tenets of the web is ubiquity: The internet was born to enable the universal dissemination of information. If our websites don’t enable that, we need to strongly consider why that is and how we can redesign them to work more universally.

A great technique we’ve used at 50onRed is the PJAX method, which renders all templates on the server, then uses Ajax to serve rendered HTML if JavaScript is available. PJAX has been used by Basecamp and Github to, not only provide a better experience for those who don’t have JavaScript, but also increase the performance and speed of their sites. David Well’s talk at Fluent described a similar technique using ReactJS and NodeJS to create Isomorphic JavaScript.

The increasing usage of these technologies seems to indicate that those who build the web are still trying hard to provide equal access to all. Looking forward, I can easily imagine a world where the web continues to provide great content for everyone while still creating cutting-edge interactions and experiences that can bring more people together.