For a Future-Friendly Web: Mobilism 2012

My wife and I just returned to New York after a much-needed holiday in Amsterdam and Spain. Our excuse for crossing the pond was for Mobilism in Amsterdam, which was an absolutely amazing mobile web conference put on by PPK and company.

I presented For a Future-Friendly Web, which covered how we as web creators can think and act in a more future-friendly way. Here are the slides, video and notes from my talk:

  • The web is now a lot bigger than what we’ve been used to. There’s more web-enabled devices than ever: from smartphones, dumbphones, e-readers, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, desktops, smart TVs, game consoles and a whole lot more.
  • All of these devices are just the beginning. There’s a whole host of connected devices right around the corner. Disruptions like Google’s Project Glass will continue to redefine our connected world.
  • Because change is so rapid, it would be foolish to say that we can create anything that’s really “future proof”. But just because we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do to be better-prepared for whatever comes down the pipes.
  • The power of the web is its ubiquity. No native platform or proprietary solution can claim the same level of reach as the web. This ubiquity is becoming increasingly important as more and more devices emerge. The web’s intrinsic inclusiveness is something that should be preserved and embraced.
  • First and foremost we need to create relavent, purposeful content. There’s more stuff than ever demanding our attention, and we as humans only have the capacity to handle so much.
  • People’s capacity for bullshit is rapidly diminishing. If you don’t focus your products and services, your users will do it for you. Tools like Instapaper, Readability, Safari Reader, Ad Block Plus, DVR, Bittorrent, and more allow users to get to the content without the crap that typically goes with it.
  • As Josh Clark eloquently put it, we need to think of our content like water, and get our content ready to go anywhere because it’s going to go everywhere. It’s bigger than the web, native, Facebook, etc. We need to put our content and functionality in front of users wherever they may be.
  • Rethink context. Historically we’ve created assumptions that users are comfortably seated in front of a desktop or laptop with a strong connection, large screen and fast processor. Mobile has shattered those assumptions and now context is a lot more fuzzy. We need to think about the quantitative (screen size, processing power, input methods, etc) and qualitative (user goals, environment, capabilities, etc) aspects of context when designing experiences
  • Invest in content infrastructure. Too often redesigns are like slapping a new coat of paint on an otherwise-condemned building. Content is the foundation with which everything else stands. That means creating context-agnostic APIs and more robust, flexible content management systems that lend themselves to adaptation.
  • Think more responsively. Responsive web design isn’t about creating squishy websites, it’s to create a more optimal experience across an increasing number of contexts. Unfortunately, many people, both proponents and opponents, miss the point.
  • Users don’t care if your site is responsive, a separate mobile site, or even a plain old desktop site. They do care if they can’t accomplish their goals, if the experience takes 30 seconds to load, or if interactions are buggy and broken.
  • Mobile is more than just a small screen. We should take mobile’s constraints and opportunities in mind when designing experiences.
  • Progressive enhancement is becoming increasingly important. Lay a solid semantic foundation, writing mobile-first styles and using feature detection are good techniques to support more web-enabled devices while still optimizing for the best.
  • Entirely separate experiences aren’t scalable in the long run, but building a separate mobile site might be reality. This can be a great opportunity to lay a future-friendly foundation. Don’t wait for the “perfect opportunity” to start taking steps in the right direction.
  • This is going to be difficult, but it’s absolutely necessary. It will require all of us working together like never before, so let’s set aside petty differences and realize that we’re all on the same team trying to figure all this out. Let’s keep learning from each other.

I’m truly honored to have been part of such an amazing conference. I saw a lot of old friends and met a lot of new ones too. I’m already excited for next year’s Mobilism!