All web traffic is, I believe, driven by three factors:
1 – Pure content. Speaks for itself; if a user is seeking information, then relevance and quality are prime retention triggers.
2 – Look and feel. This is my description of user experience. The site’s interface, design, color scheme and interactivity level are key.
3 – Speed. ‘nough said. If it ain’t loading, I ain’t staying.
I suppose each web surfer has a personal recipe involving the above three ingredients. Some people favor speed above all else, others just care about content. Me, I like a smooth balance – and I must admit I have a sweet spot for the look and feel. Bad design, broken links, boring pages and lack of interactivity are my deal breakers.
Of course it wasn’t always that way. The web was, for a long time, a very bleak, static place. But the recent coming of a Web 2.0 attitude and its Ajax magic wand changed everything. Web 2.0 was the designers’ response to the fact that people were bored on the web and wanted to have fun. They wanted to be engaged and entertained. Web design became more polished, interfaces were tweaked, interactivity took on a major role, simplicity was flavored with eye-candy. The internet sped up. Fun level increased. One could now actually do things on a web page, rather than just read it.
Some internet factions picked up the trend instantly. Think of modern webmail and online word processors. It’s actually quite hard to tell the difference between writing a document on computer-based software like Word and cloud-based applications like Zoho Writer.
Others were slower to follow. One such example is Google’s Blogger platform. While blogging leaders such as WordPress and Typepad were adopting Ajax and featuring high level of customization and advanced plugins, Blogger remained strangely static and dull. Even with the recent introduction of template customization, there just wasn’t much energy in the air.
So I was actually quite impressed when recently, I stumbled upon a Blogger Buzz post that highlighted a new “dynamic blog view” feature. Now, I don’t have an official Blogger blog, but I certainly do use a private one for testing purposes; so I immediately tested not one, but five new Blogger looks.
The verdict? Impressive. Here’s what it’s all about; I’ll use my favorite blog 66 Square Feet as a guinea pig. When you go to Marie’s blog, you normally get to that regular URL you have bookmarked and visit 10 times more often then my own blog. No, I don’t hold a grudge. Now, however, try adding /view to that URL and you suddenly are served a new rendering of the page, meant for easy and quick browsing, sort of an overview.
There are five different styles to chose from, all very interactive and fluid, all Ajax-powered it would seem, and extremely efficient for photo-intensive blogs like hers. Here they are:
Now you’ll notice a few things; first, these are very simple pages. No fluff, no sidebars, no blogrolls, no widgets, no profile. As a visitor, you get to browse, you get to read individual posts and you get to leave comments. Period. Second, since these are Ajax-loaded, they are relatively fast pages even though they are actually endless. You will not need to click on a “next page” button at the bottom. As you scroll down, more content gets added in real time, without a full page reload. So instead of loading a million images, you are loading as many are needed to fill the screen, and the rest will follow.
Granted, while these new dynamic modes are very promising, they are still nothing but toys and won’t yet replace a user’s front page because of the URL modification. But I would bet you that this is just the typical Google live beta testing and that shortly, these will actually be turned into full themes and include a real sidebar.
In the meantime, enjoy. I know I am. So much so, in fact, that it got me thinking about an old project of mine. You see, the web has always been plagued by the consequence of its own unexpected exponential growth: no time to rethink itself, no time to reevaluate the old principles upon which everything was built.
One such example is screen format. The first computer screens were ugly cubes and so it was decided that content should flow from the top down – a decision that originated in the fact that early computers were ruled by DOS, a rudimentary command line operating system. It was only logical to make the lines of text flow vertically. So when graphical web pages were invented, the same format was kept. A page would start at the top, and content would flow downward.So when we load a web page in a browser, we get a top banner, a title, a menu, and if we are lucky, an inch of content.
However our modern computer screens have been evolving into elongated rectangles, lead by laptop LCD displays that are now designed with native DVD formats in mind. As a result, displays are now increasingly wide but becoming unreasonably short vertically. So when we load a web page in a browser, we get a top banner, a title, a menu, and if we are lucky, an inch of content. The rest will have to be scrolled down to. Ridiculous!
The only current solution to this issue is a fluid, triple-column template design which occupies the entire screen but forces the (middle) content column to be extra-wide, making for a rather uneasy reading experience. It would seem us readers want somewhat narrow text blocks, probably because of a century-old addiction to books.
So my goal on Coriolistic Anachronisms is to eventually reverse the steam and redesign the site from the ground up for a horizontal workflow. There will be limitations since I wouldn’t want to enforce an endless horizontal scroll bar, for instance. But with the help of Ajax, there is no longer a need for scrolling. Content can be served in real time and on demand, utilizing the entire screen in a way that remains eye-friendly.
The blog will then become less of a “parchment” shaped, infinite vertical series of posts, and more of an omnidirectional fresco, centered around the freshest content, heavy on images as leads, and branching off towards older stuff either sideways or only to the right.
So in a way, Blogger just beat me to it. It’s all right, I like a little competition…