– I should’ve posted this sooner:
Web browsing isn’t utilizing its full potential. The internet, strangely enough, is old-school. We perceive the internet as a large everything-connected, everywhere & instant-access information highway, which, sad to say, it’s currently not. At least not in the way we use the internet. We are using the internet in a form that’s a reflection of a dated psychical representation of this world. And by using the internet so ineffectively, we are crippling a system that has huge potential.
I’m an UX Designer and I believe this is one of the possible outcomes of interaction with the internet in the future.
The internet in the next 10-15 years
There is a bridge to be crossed in how we interact with the mediums that bring us information. We had the old way, and the new way can often only be pondered on. People often imagine the internet in the future and the interaction with it as something from the Matrix. But that future, if possible, is far far away.
So were are left with gap in between. A near future of the next 5 years to come, a not so distant future of the coming 5 to 10 years, and the future of 10-20 years, were ‘anything’ can happen, a giant such as Facebook or Google might fall, and your next door neighbors kid could build a billion dollar empire in a matter of months through massive VC investments, growth hacking or a radical new tech or social service. But in the lines of 5 – 10 years, I believe it safe to make some assumptions/predictions on the evolution’s of the internet, and mainly how we are going to interact with it and how it will serve us.
That’s the doorbell your ringing when you enter a website.
Modern day browsers are very much like knocking on doors and being surprised who’s behind, while you’re the one making all the house calls! If you’ve read any of my other pieces you’ve probably noticed I often wonder we, the users, are often the ones the work. When you visit a website, it takes your effort into finding the information you want and processing it through the design of its creator.
As often if the case, when you are interested in a product/service, you use a device with a browser. Lets see what that entails:
- You use a device which has a browser
- You need to search the product or visit the URL
- You need to interpret the design of the website you are visiting
- You need to learn how to interact with said design
- You need to follow through the steps to make a purchase/find the information needed/etc.
To me it seems that could be done a lot easier. I believe the main problem lies in designs. Nowadays we have a lot of established design standards on the web, which is a good thing. We realized that we need to make good on making the user feel comfortable, and often doing that is done by not surprising the user. And to keep the surprise at bay, webdesign requires using design standards that are known/often used. But it will also make branding look dull (there are even parodies that mock the monotony of today’s websites). But, by using standards, the user knows it way around quicker because it recognizes the patterns that are used somewhere in that gray matter. Still, you are the one that keeps knocking on doors, doing your best, to find information that essentially is designed to be found, interpreting it the best you can.
The times they are a-changing
I think we can quit knocking on doors soon. Hopefully through the developments OS builders such as Microsoft, Google and Apple are taking on to assisting you in the best possible way.
I believe the browser as a portal to the web will become irrelevant if we are going to engage the internet through a hub, be it within the OS itself, an app or perhaps an AI . This hub – as i will call it – will perform as a filter of the internet based upon your requests. State whatever information you request to the hub and it will find it for you. The ‘remaining’ internet will perform as a database, and based upon the correct usage of tags and markup on websites, the OS will be able to interpret the data and present it to you.
As you might have noticed, an RSS feed has a similar functionality. The main difference is that with correct markup usage, we can index entire websites and interact with the only the required content through the means of this hub.
Most importantly is the User Experience aspect here, you won´t have to leave the familiar design habitat of your OS. All the data it gathers is the data that comes from the feed, essentially It will read the webpages for you and display that information to you in a ubiquitous, UX friendly design.
Here a badly designed example when ordering a pizza:
- ‘How can I help you?’
*I want pizza
- ‘What kind of pizza?’
*Select salami pizza
- ‘Where do you like to order the pizza salami?’
*Select New York Pizza
- ‘Thank you, your order is paid for and will arrive in 20 minutes.’
No need for for the user to understand the design, flow of information or form input needed. The system can just pull the data it needs from the website and present it to you in a way that fits the context of your needs.
This might be a trivial example but a lot of our interaction with the web (albeit not with certain platforms) is just this. “What time does this shop close?”, “How quick can you deliver?”, “Is there a KFC near me?”.
*Funny enough, Microsoft just released some information on how it thinks it going to assist us users with bots. Now while I don’t quite yet believe in personified A.I.’s or voice command – your fingers still seem to be more capable and adaptive than mere audio – it’s a step in the right direction in terms of assistance. Microsoft states that they want to create a hub between data, apps and services. That mostly corresponds as how I see it. For this system to work you will to exchange data between different systems and services.
**Amazingly again, The creators of the Apple’s Siri just showcased their latest voice assistant; Viv. The showcases demonstrates how the user will be assisted through context of existing user data, apps, the web and the user query. I was impressed with the showcase, the future of internet and how we use it may arrive even sooner than I thought, although I still don’t believe voice input has a place in the near future. I would happily use it in private, but doing this in public..
When will all of this happen?
These changes won’t happen overnight. And there is more to the internet than just information, there is also branding (which matters to its creator for marketing purposes and not so much to the consumer) and online interaction.
But interaction, with users or with services, might be an obstacle for this to completely work. But i’m not suspecting that browsers will be put to bed entirely. Site’s that offer interaction will continue to exist and popular platforms however will thrive nonetheless. As example, for years the usage of Google as a search platform is on its return. Instead of Googling, users turn to renowned dedicated platforms. Think of Yelp for food reviews, Rotten Tomatoes for your movies, Facebook for friendly interaction, Reddit for discussion, etc. These websites that offer interaction in any form often migrate to their own platforms and they are quite successful when they do.
So, now I’ve might have gotten you excited and/or raised a couple of red flags. I know approaching the internet like this has side effects and consequences. Mostly good, but some might experience this as bad.
Good & Bad consequences
Jobs – It’s will change a lot for current web designers and developers, most of them will have to change their skill set of webdesign to.. something else. Universities will have to update courses accordingly. It was bound to happen though, for something as young and powerful as the internet, it really needed to evolve. A lot of companies that thrive solely on web based interaction for data/sales have the tough job ahead of them to rethink their strategy. If this catches on, a lot is going to change for your business.
Ads – Less of them. Although, if your connectivity to the internet in the future is dependent of your OS supplier or a commercial third party, something is being sold for revenue. That may be ads for your display, or your own personal data. But, without the webpage, there won’t be ads flashing in your face, and that’s awesome. Until that is, those Russian women in your neighborhood come find you again.
Web design creativity – If webpages are truly only accessed through this feed-reader-hub, nobody would care anymore how a website look like. Users of the feed will have a more usable and effective tool to their disposal by using the hub. Therefore, a lot of webpages are going to go and a lot of awesome and creative web marvels won’t see the daylight anymore.
Feel free to add good or bad consequences in the comments, there are a lot of businesses that thrive on the current state of the internet and it will be interesting to discuss more.