Heydon Pickering this last weekend released a redesign to their web site and upon visiting it, the contents prompted a series of interesting thoughts and ideas to run riot through my mind.
The URL is https://heydonworks.com and it (currently) looks like this:
Seeing Heydon's redesign prompted me to want to write about what I saw and experienced - which is also related to decades of my own work on the web.
To the average user
I had wanted to write about what the "average user" might experience, but I realise that thought was wrong.
What I should say is: what the average user like me would experience: a privileged user of the web.
Someone with access to a fairly high powered and reasonably new technology both on my mobile phone but also my laptop. Someone like me who is used to bouncing from web site to web site munching down 100s of megabytes of data to view a shiny web site only to take off to the next one.
I happened to visit Heydon's web site on my mobile phone. I consider myself as fairly tech savvy and fairly privacy conscious and so I use multiple browsers on my phone. I use Brave for my daily browsing and Firefox exclusively for the Facebook groups I'm connected to (the idea being that I never browse another site from the browser Facebook has access to). I use Chrome and Canary for PWA installations and I use DuckDuckGo's browser for browse and burn. I also have Edge installed for last ditch testing.
- Brave: under the lion face icon in the navbar, tap Advanced controls I can block scripts and this applies on an individual basis
These browsers' settings also raise an interesting set of questions:
I don't have answers for these, but I think it's an interesting position for browsers to come from.
Anyway, now, finally, after determination, I can read Heydon's web site.
I stuck with it. Am I the average, albeit privileged, user? What if I had followed a link from another person's web site into one of Heydon's blog posts? Would I stick out the multiple browser changes, multiple setting searches just to read a blog post? Possibly not. More probably I would have given up out of frustration. We'll get back to this.
I couldn't say, but if I were to bet, I'd be prepared to put down some of my hard earned monkey nuts to say that Heydon has had an influx of traffic following their redesign.
There's definitely the usual fair share of upset White Boy Bro developers at Heydon's antics, and replies citing that the site isn't accessible, or that the site doesn't "enhance" but forces the user's browsing requirements. We'll get back to this too.
I took a brief look at the hackernews comments (because of course there's going to be a hackernews thread - where else do upset White Boy Bro developers go to share their triggered experience… oh, I guess there's reddit too…). I skim read some of the comments and they're all pretty confused.
But is this bad for Heydon's web site? I doubt it. For one, our web sites, our online personas are goldfish in an ocean that is the web. I'm pretty confident that most of the readers of my own blog have never seen my business web site (or are even aware it exists) - those who do visit it are going there with intention. I suspect that's the case for heydonworks.com also.
If anything it shows that Heydon knows what he's doing. Probably more so than the developers bashing out the websites that leave my browser hanging or chewing up my phone's battery.
The website's body of content is also wrapped in a
<noscript>. Google has no problem spidering and caching the content by the way - I checked.
textContent so the visitor would get an entirely blank page…except IE8 also doesn't support the type of encryption used over HTTPS and IE8's global market share (according to w3counter.com/trends is about 0.1%) so… probably not a problem in any shape or form.
Or at least, I don't think it is. The point, that I wanted to return to, as I take it, is that forcing a visitor down a specific path just so that they can access the content is a burden that they should not carry. It is our jobs as web developers to make our web sites accessible to all.
That's the lesson that heydonworks.com is reminded us of.
There are many, many people browsing the web in many different ways. Ways that do not mirror my perfect 10 digits and my motor skills and my fairly decent eyesight, and (sometimes questionable) conative abilities. There are people who browse the web on a huge gamut of devices and browsers.