My Summary: Web developers are being seduced by modern web techniques to the extent that they sometimes forget the fundamental lessons that have been learnt over the past 20 years. It’s every web developers responsibility, as a professional, to use cutting edge techniques responsibly and take that little extra time to make sure our applications respect the web.
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Phil noted that developers were so seduced by the shizzle and the possibilities that they often forgot about the foundations on which the web were built.
In the past, whenever Phil would speak to flash developers, about those sorts of shortcomings, they’d always come back with the same response. Flash *can* do it, and with a little extra care and attention to detail those sorts of problems can be overcome.
The problem is when developers care more about the pixels rather than the web or to put it another way pixels > the web. People care more about the look rather than the web.
In many respects the choice between Pixels or the Web comes down to what is valued by the developer. In the flash world, developers often go through a journey of Photoshop > Adobe suite > Flash and therefore care more about the sex appeal than the web or the seductive power of what is possible.
If we look at how websites were, we now have increased sophistication in the features and users expectations.Take for example the McDonalds website 15 years ago:
With the site on screen Phil pointed out some of the sites deficiencies, such as the way they used a loading screen, how much instruction was required and how it catered for a less sophisticated audience.
He then loaded beetle.de and went on to explain that although it has a richer experience, it takes 13 seconds to load, the user journey is different to the point that it also requires instructions and it seems like we haven’t come along way from the McDonalds website built 15 years ago. The beetle site has over 11mg images, with 251 http requests and is missing cache expiration on many of the elements.
Rather than using image sprites, all of the elements are separate images. Phil remarked “We know better than this” and went on to say it reminds him of a quote:
Jeff Goldblum – “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Or if you really pushed Jeff he’d probably say:
Jeff Goldblum – “That’s really a lot of http requests for a site about a car”
The mobile experience was also used by by Phil to make another point “If you need a separate version of your site for mobile, it’s time to think, maybe the way we approached this website was wrong. “
Also the site doesn’t use the URL bar so elements of the website are not discoverable.
Phil was keen to point out that it’s not that he’s against new client side technologies but just that as professional developers we should take more care to be respectful of the web.
Things like URIs are what make the web the web.
Phil went on to talk about the usage of Hash Bangs # in URLs pointing out that these complicated hacks are making crawling the web really hard raising the question “When did it get so hard to crawl the web?”
All this client side shizzle doesn’t have to break the URL. Phil was keen to point out the great work GitHub have done to utilise the History API and pointed to the work that Google Advocate Paul Kinlan (and Michael Mahemoff incidentally) did on Levi Routes a routes framework for JS that hooks in to HTML5 history API.
Phil admits that on occasion he’d have spent a little more time refining his own work so that it better respects the fundamentals of the web.
Phil spoke about his worry around tools like Adobe edge saying that by Automating things for us, they can sometime make it too easy for us to forget about the web. He showed an image of Microsoft Clippy suggesting that having a tool that’s always willing to help isn’t a great thing.
Fundamentally Phil’s talk could be reduced to this: As professional Developers and designers we should all look after the web a little more. It was a fantastic, well researched and insightful talk and if you get the chance to see Phil speak in future you should absolutely go.