PPK tickled the belly of the old canard that is: Web vs. Native!
I have broached this topic often, so why not do so one more time, huh? While reading PPKs thoughts I found myself violently disagreeing with much of the details, yet agreeing with some of the high level conclusions.
Let’s not try to mimic native UI and get into uncanny valleys
Taking over scrolling to do some crazy thing is annoying 99% of the time, however we shouldn’t blindly ignore good UX that happens to come from native platforms, or naive app design teams (just like we shouldn’t ignore it from web developers or browser vendors!)
Trying to make web sites act like apps often doesn’t feel right, especially when the UI competes with the Chrome around it!
At the Google I/O talk on the mobile Web, one of the anecdotes compared the Web to speed dating whereas apps are a long term relationship. You may have a different plan of attack for the 5 minutes trying to impress someone you have never met vs. interactions once you have created a trusted relationship.
Chances are you will want to attract new customers and a great way for that to happen is for them to arrive on your content, get a taste, and then be able to get more.
I am sure the split of app vs web reading on the New York Times differs from that on Medium and that on somesmallernichemagazine.com, so even within one category you may have very different needs. I know that the app to Web split is also vastly different if you look at Amazon vs. Walmart.
Fix the performance of your main experiences, don’t just fix it on Facebook
Facebook Instant Articles are a curious beast. I understand the pain that we all feel when we are on Facebook (or Twitter or anything else that links out) and see a blank white screen while we wait for some third party content to load.
However, I think that Facebook ended up with a short sighted and selfish solution to the problem and could have instead helped all boats rise. The current solution seems to transpile the Web content to a JSON format that can be preloaded. It appears that a bunch of JS cruft is still loaded alongside, so I assume that the content creators pushed for that.
This feels like when mobile applications and mWeb sites first came about. The new form factor allowed the software teams to fight the bloat that the business had put into their experiences over time:
“Hey, have you seen the competition? On such a small form factor we can’t have huge sidebars and the like… we need to keep to the core content.”
Instead of just trimming for Facebook, how about preloading and cutting out the cruft of your mobile website? It really shouldn’t be so hard to fast boot and load a primary read only experience… so lets get to that. So often the issues are around the organization rather than purely technical.
The tribes are a changing. Google seems to collaborate more with Microsoft than Mozilla these days.
As someone who also loves the Web, I both see the need to have an honest look at its place in the world, and see how we can nudge it in the right direction for the future needs. There is always a short and a long game. There is no need to give up the ideals and openness of the Web.
We need to keep fighting for them, recognizing the trade offs, and not just relying on blind faith thinking that we have the higher ground or that “reach” is what matters the most. Reach and discoverability go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter if you have a service that can be run by a larger population if they can’t discover it, or if it works poorly on the platforms that matter most.
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