Tags: web

1856

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Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

In between

I was chatting with my new colleague Alex yesterday about a link she had shared in Slack. It was the Nielsen Norman Group’s annual State of Mobile User Experience report.

There’s nothing too surprising in there, other than the mention of Apple’s app clips and Google’s instant apps.

Remember those?

Me neither.

Perhaps I lead a sheltered existence, but as an iPhone user, I don’t think I’ve come across a single app clip in the wild.

I remember when they were announced. I was quite worried about them.

See, the one thing that the web can (theoretically) offer that native can’t is instant access to a resource. Go to this URL—that’s it. Whereas for a native app, the flow is: go to this app store, find the app, download the app.

(I say that the benefit is theoretical because the website found at the URL should download quickly—the reality is that the bloat of “modern” web development imperils that advantage.)

App clips—and instant apps—looked like a way to route around the convoluted install process of native apps. That’s why I was nervous when they were announced. They sounded like a threat to the web.

In reality, the potential was never fulfilled (if my own experience is anything to go by). I wonder why people didn’t jump on app clips and instant apps?

Perhaps it’s because what they promise isn’t desirable from a business perspective: “here’s a way for users to accomplish their tasks without downloading your app.” Even though app clips can in theory be a stepping stone to installing the full app, from a user’s perspective, their appeal is the exact opposite.

Or maybe they’re just too confusing to understand. I think there’s an another technology that suffers from the same problem: progressive web apps.

Hear me out. Progressive web apps are—if done well—absolutely amazing. You get all of the benefits of native apps in terms of UX—they even work offline!—but you retain the web’s frictionless access model: go to a URL; that’s it.

So what are they? Are they websites? Yes, sorta. Are they apps? Yes, sorta.

That’s confusing, right? I can see how app clips and instant apps sound equally confusing: “you can use them straight away, like going to a web page, but they’re not web pages; they’re little bits of apps.”

I’m mostly glad that app clips never took off. But I’m sad that progressive web apps haven’t taken off more. I suspect that their fates are intertwined. Neither suffer from technical limitations. The problem they both face is inertia:

The technologies are the easy bit. Getting people to re-evaluate their opinions about technologies? That’s the hard part.

True of progressive web apps. Equally true of app clips.

But when I was chatting to Alex, she made me look at app clips in a different way. She described a situation where somebody might need to interact with some kind of NFC beacon from their phone. Web NFC isn’t supported in many browsers yet, so you can’t rely on that. But you don’t want to make people download a native app just to have a quick interaction. In theory, an app clip—or instant app—could do the job.

In that situation, app clips aren’t a danger to the web—they’re polyfills for hardware APIs that the web doesn’t yet support!

I love having my perspective shifted like that.

The specific situations that Alex and I were discussing were in the context of museums. Musuems offer such interesting opportunities for the physical and the digital to intersect.

Remember the pen from Cooper Hewitt? Aaron spoke about it at dConstruct 2014—a terrific presentation that’s well worth revisiting and absorbing.

The other dConstruct talk that’s very relevant to this liminal space between the web and native apps is the 2012 talk from Scott Jenson. I always thought the physical web initiative had a lot of promise, but it may have been ahead of its time.

I loved the thinking behind the physical web beacons. They were deliberately dumb, much like the internet itself. All they did was broadcast a URL. That’s it. All the smarts were to be found at the URL itself. That meant a service could get smarter over time. It’s a lot easier to update a website than swap out a piece of hardware.

But any kind of technology that uses Bluetooth, NFC, or other wireless technology has to get over the discovery problem. They’re invisible technologies, so by default, people don’t know they’re even there. But if you make them too discoverable— intrusively announcing themselves like one of the commercials in Minority Report—then they’re indistinguishable from spam. There’s a sweet spot of discoverability right in the middle that’s hard to get right.

Over the past couple of years—accelerated by the physical distancing necessitated by The Situation—QR codes stepped up to the plate.

They still suffer from some discoverability issues. They’re not human-readable, so you can’t be entirely sure that the URL you’re going to go to isn’t going to be a Rick Astley video. But they are visible, which gives them an advantage over hidden wireless technologies.

They’re cheaper too. Printing a QR code sticker costs less than getting a plastic beacon shipped from China.

QR codes turned out to be just good enough to bridge the gap between the physical and digital for those one-off interactions like dining outdoors during a pandemic:

I can see why they chose the web over a native app. Online ordering is the only way to place your order at this place. Telling people “You have to go to this website” …that seems reasonable. But telling people “You have to download this app” …that’s too much friction.

Ironically, the nail in the coffin for app clips and instant apps might’ve been hammered in by Apple and Google when they built QR-code recognition into their camera software.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Colin Devroe - Blogging is alive and well

The past, present and future of blogs.

Five websites

Some lovely people have recently made some lovely websites.

Dan has launched his type foundry, Simple Type Co. and it’s gorgeous!

For as long as I’ve been making websites, Dan’s designs have been an inspiration: Corkd, Dribbble, his own website; whenever he unveils something it always sits just right with me.

Oh, and I love the tagline for Simple Type Co.:

Never perfect. Always a-okay.

Someone who is a perfectionist is Marcin. He’s been working on his book about keyboards for years now (the Kickstarter project will launch in February) and he’s made a stunning website for the book called Shift Happens. Click around and find out.

Mandy has a lovely new professional website, courtesy of Ethan. It’s called everything changes. I love the subtletly of the different colour schemes for dark and light modes. It’s almost as if Ethan knows a thing or two about responsive design.

Look! Jason has new professional website too. The text is just scrumptious. It’s almost as if Jason knows a thing or two about typography.

And look! Lynn has done it again—a new site design for a new year. Beautiful stuff, as always—have a look through the archive if you want to the creativity she puts into this every single year.

All of these people are my web design heroes.

Monday, January 9th, 2023

The Year of the Personal Website · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer

Especially if you are a designer, an artist, a photographer, a writer, a blogger, a creator of any kind, owning your work is as important as ever. Social media platforms might be great for distributing your content and creating a network of like-minded people around you. But they will always be ephemeral, transient, and impermanent – not the best place to preserve your thoughts, words, and brushstrokes.

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

On the current decentralisation movement – Manu

The more I look at this “issue” the more I’m convinced the solution is already right there and it’s called the web. Want to have an unblockable, unbannable user profile? Buy yourself a domain and get a personal website. Want to have a space where you can say and do whatever the fuck you want? Get a webspace and put up a blog.

Saturday, December 31st, 2022

2022 in numbers

I posted 1057 times on adactio in 2022. sparkline

That’s a bit more than in 2021.

November was the busiest month with 137 posts. sparkline

February was the quietest with 65 posts. sparkline

That included about 237 notes with photos sparkline and 214 replies. sparkline

I published one article, the transcript of my talk, In And Out Of Style.

I watched an awful lot of television but managed to read 25 books. sparkline

Elsewhere, I huffduffed 130 audio files and added 55 tune settings on The Session in 2022.

I spoke at ten events.

I travelled within Europe and the USA to a total of 18 destinations. sparkline

Friday, December 30th, 2022

Words I wrote in 2022

Here’s a highlight reel of some of my blog posts from 2022:

I also published the transcript of my conference talk, In And Out Of Style, a journey through the history of CSS.

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

(Almost) no one cares

Every time I’ve thought “this is a niche subject or random thought, no one will be interested but I’ll publish anyway” someone will let me know that it was the EXACT train of thought they were thinking or thing they were looking for.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2022

How We Verified Ourselves on Mastodon — and How You Can Too – The Markup

It gives me warm fuzzies to see an indie web building block like rel="me" getting coverage like this.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Network effect

Mastodon is not a platform. Mastodon is just a tiny part of a concept many have been dreaming about and working on for years. Social media started on the wrong foot. The idea for the read/write web has always been different. Our digital identities weren’t supposed to end up in something like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

Decentralisation, Federation, The Indie Web: There were many groups silently working on solving the broken architecture of our digital social networks and communication channels – long, long before the “web 3” dudes tried to reframe it as their genius new idea.

I’ve been a part of this for many years until I gave up hope. How would you compete against the VC money, the technical and economical benefits of centralised platforms? It was a fight between David and Gloiath. But now Mastodon could be the stone.

Sunday, December 18th, 2022

Indiekit

Paul’s indie web project is live!

Meet the little Node.js server with all the parts needed to publish content to your personal website and share it on social networks.

You can read the accompanying blog post.

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

Pluralistic: Web apps could de-monopolize mobile devices (13 Dec 2022) – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

But you can’t have a web app without a web-app-compatible browser, and you can’t get a web-app-compatible browser in Apple’s App Store. The only browsers permitted in the App Store are those based on WebKit, the browser engine behind Safari. This means that every browser on iOS, from Firefox to Edge to Chrome, is just a reskinned version of Safari.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

A year of new avenues

All along, from the frothy 1990s to the per­co­lat­ing 2000s to the frozen 2010s to today, the web has been the sure thing. All along, it’s been grow­ing and maturing, sprout­ing new capabilities. From my van­tage point, that growth has seemed to accel­er­ate in the past five years; CSS, in par­tic­u­lar, has become incred­i­bly flex­i­ble and expressive. Maybe even a bit overstuffed — but I’ll take it.

For peo­ple who care about cre­at­ing worlds together, rather than get­ting rich, the web is the past and the web is the future. What luck, that this decentralized, per­mis­sion­less sys­tem claimed a posi­tion at the heart of the inter­net, and stuck there. It’s limited, of course; frustrating; some­times maddening. But that’s every cre­ative medium. That’s life.

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

Transient Frameworks · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer

Frameworks come and go. They are transient. Web standards, on the other hand, are the reason the Web is good now and it will become even better in the future.

Monday, November 28th, 2022

jwz: PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet

If you’re thinking of signing up to Hive or Post:

If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.

Consign that app to oblivion.

Sunday, November 27th, 2022

ongoing by Tim Bray · Bye, Twitter

I don’t like making unpaid contributions to a for-profit publisher whose proprietor is an alt-right troll.

Same.

I can see no good arguments for redirecting my voice into anyone else’s for-profit venture-funded algorithm-driven engagement-maximizing wet dream.

Mastodon is a gateway | Andy Bell

I’ve been very guilty of putting all my eggs in the Twitter basket over the last couple of years, especially, and all of that has been destroyed by one bellend billionaire. I’m determined not to make that mistake again and even more determined to make my little home on the internet—this website—as lovely and sustainable as I can make it.

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

How to Weave the Artisan Web | Whatever

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a site that’s not run by an amoral billionaire chaos engine, or algorithmically designed to keep you doomscrolling in a state of fear and anger, or is essentially spyware for governments and/or corporations? Wouldn’t it be nice not to have ads shoved in your face every time you open an app to see what your friends are up to? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when your friends post something, you’ll actually see it without a social media platform deciding whether to shove it down your feed and pump that feed full of stuff you didn’t ask for?

Wouldn’t that be great?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

ooh.directory

A directory of blogs, all nicely categorised:

ooh.directory is a place to find good blogs that interest you.

Phil gave me a sneak peek at this when he was putting it together and asked me what I thought of it. My response was basically “This is great!”

And of course you can suggest a site to add to the directory.

“You can be a carpenter this time around.” – Lucy Bellwood

A personal website is a lovely thing. Nobody will buy this platform and use it as their personal plaything. No advertisers will boycott and send me scrambling to produce different content. No seed funding will run out overnight.