The influence of broadband on the future of design and development

This is just a quick thought about the influence of broadband and any services that come after it on the design and development of websites and web-apps.

As web designers and developers we’ve never had it so good. I can remember part of our testing process when I started in this business (A long time ago!) was to check download speeds on 28.8k and even 14.4k modems – anything more than 30 seconds was usually deemed unacceptable and we’d have to shave off graphics, mark-up and scripts (sometimes at the cost of functionality) before we were allowed to suggest a release.

When broadband finally became the norm rather than the exception we let go of our concerns about bandwidth to a certain extent. Today we load our pages and apps with all sorts of graphics and data. There is still some concern the amount of time it takes to fully download a web page or access data in a web-app but we are still self-centred in this respect, focusing on the idea that one user is viewing one page. We don’t go nearly far enough for the future.

Most of us now have smart phones and tabbed browsers. Without necessarily realising it we are actually starting to consume multiple data streams simultaneously. This means that our apps and pages are now competing for space in an increasingly busy broadband connection.

Now we need to start thinking about ‘competitive weighting’ – strategically making our pages or apps lighter than anyone else’s so that our data can be consumed more easily than that of our competitors. Rather than fighting our competitors in terms of ‘who can get the richest content to the customer’, the future is more likely to be about who can get reasonable and usable data to the customer quickest and without interrupting the other data streams that they might be using for other services outside the remit of ours. They may have a chat service, a task monitor or some other service that requires bandwidth – They should be able to choose our product over that of our competitors because our site / app doesn’t get in the way of what they normally do with their devices.

When I first started building websites all those years ago there was a competition to see who could build the best website judged on both design and functionality without using more than 10Kb in downloaded files… It might be time to bring it back!

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