Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog


Archive for the ‘Web’ Category

The Mobile Web

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

I was tempted to reply to a comment on LWN.net’s news article “The end of Flash”, where the following observation was made:

So they create a mobile site with a bit fewer graphics and fewer scripts loading up to try to speed it up.

But I found that I had enough to say that I might as well put it here.

A recent experience I had with one airline’s booking Web site involved an obvious pandering to “mobile” users. But to the designers this seemed to mean oversized widgets on any non-mobile device coupled with a frustratingly sequential mode of interaction, as if Fisher-Price had an enterprise computing division and had been contracted to do the work. A minimal amount of information was displayed at any given time, and even normal widget navigation failed to function correctly. (Maybe this is completely unfair to Fisher-Price as some of their products appear to encourage far more sophisticated interaction.)

And yet, despite all the apparent simplification, the site ran abominably slow. Every – single – keypress – took – ages – to – process. Even in normal text boxes. My desktop machine is ancient and mostly skipped the needless opening and closing animations on widgets because it just isn’t fast enough to notice that it should have been doing them before the time limit for doing them runs out. And despite fewer graphics and scripts, it was still heavy on the CPU.

After fighting my way through the booking process, I was pointed to the completely adequate (and actually steadily improving) conventional site that I’d used before but which was now hidden by the new and shiny default experience. And then I noticed a message about customer feedback and the continued availability of the old site: many of their other customers were presumably so appalled by the new “made for mobile” experience and, with some of them undoubtedly having to use the site for their job, booking travel for their colleagues or customers, they’d let the airline know what they thought. I imagine that some of the conversations were pretty frank.

I suppose that when companies manage to decouple themselves from fads and trends and actually listen to their customers (and not via Twitter), they can be reminded to deliver usable services after all. And I am thankful for the “professional customers” who are presumably all that stand in the way of everyone being obliged to download an “app” to book their flights. Maybe that corporate urge will lead to the next reality check for the airline’s “digital strategists”.