What Am I?

A publication of a recent internal communication. A light-hearted, Friday afternoon view on a modern website’s complexities.

What am I?

I am accessed through an app on your computer – the one in your pocket and the one on your desk. I am available on almost anything with an internet connection. It’ll be your phone, your phablet, your tablet but that’s not all – it’ll still be the work laptop with its 2 huge screens, the PC at home or the TV and fridge. I am Mobile First because that is what you need me to be. More and more you use me across all of the devices you own and, on a frequent basis, are starting a task on one and completing it on another.

To allow focus on an artificial classification of device, you might think I should be broken and split. This has been done many times over and caused more confusion for you than not. The line is so variable – what would you do? Have me for the tablet and create a brother for mobile? What about your smart watch, phablet, TV, fridge et al. Where would you stop? With the right structure I can do it all.

I work across 4 browsers and 2 Operating Systems. If only it was 2005 and that was all I had to care about! Those were the easy years and that was hard enough – thanks mainly to IE6. Things are evolving faster than ever. There are thousands of devices, hundreds of OS’, tens of browsers and plenty of non-browser based windows. A Facebook App’s webview anyone? At a minimum, I am usable on as many combinations as you tell me to be and need to be awesome on most. It’s certainly more than those simple 8 – I’m lucky if it’s <800.

I used to be just 960px wide and then I got wider. I still can be but I have more fun than that. I have to be usable on so many screen sizes – I am responsive to both orientation and size. Sometimes there’s just so much really,
really important stuff that folks want me to show that I simply run out of space. Sometimes I hide it and hope you won’t notice. My bad. That screen real estate problem is a big one for sure but there are many other factors and capabilities that matter. I must adapt to many but definitely not all.

At my core I am HTML. I am a Document with a Model of page Objects to give meaning and structure. But I am so much more than that. HTML alone offers such limited control. You tell me HTML5 is the answer – if only that were true. I need scripts and shims to control implementations that vary amid light-speed evolution. I do enough to keep up but it’s no magic bullet.

Most of what you see is prettified with CSS – a language for style that changes as quickly as HTML5. So much evolves with little or mixed support. WebKit, oh Webkit – a rendering engine among many. It may be the best but the others matter too. I do what I can to keep it right, but demands for pixel perfection are not the least bit helpful.

A lot of our interaction is managed by Javascript. That’s my code executing right there in your window. But is it consistent in every damned window? Sometimes, I run into that many errors, I just want to give up and pack it in.

My power is controlled by the strength of your connection. I break the rules to be as quick as I can, but your faked 3G connection is slower than dial up. That is my problem, something I can’t just ignore. I am slow, wearisome and need to do more.

I have both human and technical masters and I must serve both. You find me in Google. It’s the way to get found. Well, but that’s just for you – others go to Yandex, Baidu, Naver and more. My public face needs to support those automated bots. Including the impact of Google’s Knowledge based search. Just as I got to grips with that, Facebook evolved Social search and I am already moving on to that next challenge. But you, the human, need to be first master not last. The rest simply follows as you “like” me.

If only life was simple and I could be one-size-fits-all. Everyone uses me to varying degrees but there are worlds that need me to conform to some unique perceptions. You like me clean and simple with lots of white space. Your friend likes me to be compact and busy with a clutter of stuff. I must adapt to fit those mental models and cultural nuances. I need to be one-size-fits-all while concurrently adapting to your personal context.

“You are obsolete” some of you say – ready for retirement. Yes, I now have a family – a close product family – where I support my sisters, the native Apps. In turn, they support me back. We are different but equal, like 2 sides of an equation. Obsolete you say? Maybe only to a blinkered minority.

With all of these challenges why not hang up my boots and call it a day? That time may come but today, I am more active than ever!

What am I?

I am a website in 2012 2014 and I am proud to be adaptive and highly complex!

Those who design and build me are the best of the best!


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