Last week I wrote about the "Slow Web," covering the movement’s origins and early efforts to serve as a counter balance to the "click here, like this, re-tweet that" onslaught that currently makes up a considerable contingent of the Internet. As a marketer myself, working on the piece opened up an even deeper appreciation for just how important the user experience is to achieving online success — especially considering the role the Web has come to play in our everyday lives.
Gone are the days of sitting down at your desktop and "cranking up the InterWeb" — today’s Web is omnipresent. It’s on your TV, smartphone, tablet and in the backseat of your taxi — it’s how you preheat your oven while avoiding traffic in real time on your drive home. It’s everywhere — you can see it, touch it — hold it in your hand.
While I’m not going to venture too far down the road of IoT — we’ve covered that already — I will point out that as this new Web landscape continues to evolve it will become increasingly difficult to command users’ attention. The novelty of an item or idea holding some sort of inherent value simply because its "smart" or "connected" is over — users are demanding more. Not only do today’s apps, websites and smart devices need to stay "smart," they also need to provide meaningful experiences to the users who decide to choose them from the rising sea of alternatives.
How many money management applications are out there? How many have equally pleasing and seamless mobile, desktop and tablet interfaces? How many can see that you’re currently inside a Best Buy show rooming the new Xbox One when your car payment is due tomorrow and send you a friendly reminder to keep you on the path to financial responsibility? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that if I were choosing a money management app — I’d want the one that tells me to put the Xbox down and walk slowly out of the Best Buy.
The point is that today’s Web isn’t a resource that users go out and mine — rather, it’s an ethereal entity permeating every aspect of our lives — so much so that its influence has enough power to actually shape your behaviors and routines — and it’s the organizations and individuals who are able to best exploit this new reality that will reap the greatest rewards.
This whole idea of the Web having become more than the sum of its parts was hit on perfectly by Lyza Danger Gardner in her article Do as Little as Possible back in September. In her post, Gardner underscores the idea that the Web was fairly simple before mobile, which quickly came to be considered “the future” — which inevitably led to the argument over, “What makes something mobile? What is the mobile Web? What is the Web, anyway, really?” Her answer is to simply to call the Web, "The Web”— regardless of whatever phone, tablet, television, vehicle or refrigerator you’re accessing it from.
She states, “Looking at this new web and seeing beyond the specificity of the mobile Web, or at least seeing it as an extension of the Web, allows us to shore up some of the more fragile foundations we’ve laid and find ways to build the Web that make a bit more sense" -- and she’s exactly right. Whether you’re developing for a handheld smart device, a video game console’s proprietary browser or a refrigerator’s Wi-Fi enabled touchscreen — these are all just gateways to the experience the needs to be delivered. The easier it is for users to digest, the less friction and resistance, the quicker that experience can begin to take shape.
While Gardner is ultimately making, “an appeal for simplicity and elegance: putting commonality first, approaching differentiation carefully, and advocating for consistency in the creation and application of Web standards,” she admits that, “We sometimes spend more time tracking down why Web fonts are spitting out garbage on a particular BlackBerry than creating and honing meaningful content.”
Meaningful content, delivered in an elegant, easily consumed manner is the facilitator of meaningful user experiences — which have quickly become the only differentiating factor that matters online.