Many people mistakenly believe that Al Gore invented the Internet, but in reality it was Tim Berners-Lee. He created URIs, HTTP, HTML, and the first web browser – all critical building blocks that paved the way for the Internet to operate as the ubiquitous, decentralized network for sharing information that we take for granted today. As a result of his contributions to society, it was recently announced that Tim Berners-Lee has been awarded the prestigious Turing Award.
Side note: The A.M. Turing Award is the heavyweight of all computer science-related awards, intended to recognize “an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community". This is an understated way of saying “people who have done something really awesome” in the realm of computer science. For anyone who is familiar with Alan Turing’s involvement in breaking the German’s enigma code during World War II, as shown in the recent Hollywood hit The Imitation Game, you can appreciate the significance of Turing’s career accomplishments and the significance of the award that bears his name.
Since Berners-Lee dropped on us the awesomeness that is the Internet in 1989, we’ve become utterly reliant on this infrastructure to connect us to the services that power our personal and professional lives… social media, streaming video, email, gaming, mobile apps, eCommerce sites, travel sites, enterprise applications, etc. Blasphemy, you say? You’re not “utterly reliant” on the Internet? Do you remember the last time AWS had an outage? Every time it happens, everyone freaks out. Have you ever had the Internet go down in your office? Productivity literally grinds to a halt – it’s amazing how truly reliant we have become.
The Internet has been the biggest societal and economic disruptor over the course of the last 25 years. It has spawned countless new companies, has transformed and sometimes destroyed existing industries, and has completely changed the way we learn, work, socialize, communicate, and entertain ourselves. And even though there appears to be no end in sight for the innovation that can continue to grow on the shoulders of the Internet, the disruptor that is the Internet needs disrupting in its own right. For as far as we’ve come with the sophistication and elegance of many of the popular Internet-enabled experiences today, why is it that, by and large, user experience quality is still such an issue?!
There are a myriad of examples of low-quality user experiences that we can all relate to – image cropping and resizing, certificate and cookie warnings, mobile redirects, technology incompatibilities (e.g. flash)… notice that I’m not talking about intentionally suboptimal user experiences, like those riddled with pop-ups, click bait content, videos that auto-play, and single articles split into multiple pages, but rather those user experiences designed by well intentioned teams, that fall short in delivery due a lack of sufficient quality assurance throughout development, deployment, and ongoing operations. Testing might not be the most sexy role out there, but it can be a game changer in terms of ensuring a high quality user experience that delivers on the promise of the given digital experience.
So who or what will serve to disrupt the current paradigm of low-quality Internet experiences? I assert (pun intended) that teams aspiring to deliver Internet-enabled experiences that WOW their users will need to embrace next generation testing, which combines the right tooling with the right processes to reduce time and cost, speed time-to-market, and ensure the highest levels of quality at all levels of the stack and across devices. So here’s to Tim Berners-Lee’s award-winning creation continuing to evolve and enable even greater levels of innovation, but while doing so, let’s hope for disruption in how Internet-enabled experiences are designed and delivered, so as to improve reliability and usability, and usher in the next generation of Internet experiences.