Pitch black darkness and the degradation of end user experience

2023-10-09 / mgrubinger / 0 reactions

Yesterday I rode my bike home in pitch black darkness, because the bike lamps ran out of battery. Luckily I was able to go almost all the way on backcountry gravel roads and/or cycle paths. No way I would have survived had I ridden on the main road without lights. I felt helpless without those lamps.

I thought: wouldn’t it be great if we had bike lamps powered by the circular motion of the wheels?

Wait, we had that!

When I was a kid*, every bike would be equipped with a dynamo which powered the head- and taillamps of the bike. No worrying about low batteries! No taking the lamps off the bike when parking it in public because otherwise they would be stolen 100%.

Another example: switching on a TV was a matter of pressing one button on a clunky remote. Now? I have to switch on the TV, the receiver, the sound system and set them all to the correct inputs. Luckily I still own a Logitech Harmony, so at least I can do it all through one remote, and some things the Harmony sets up automatically. But this is not the norm, I know many people with two or more remote controls for their TV setup.

This thought lead to the broader question: How come we are accepting such obvious degradations in end-user experience? Sure, the lamps are brighter and the TV sound is from a different league, but still.

Speaking about degradation of end user experience: a big chunk of the “modern” web is barely usable. Ads cluttering the UI, forms failing to submit without proper display of the problem, layout shifts all over the place, text contrast nowhere near conforming WCAG AA levels, janky scrolling experience — I could go on, but you get my point. (Except: have you tried using the facebook mobile website?)

Chris Coyer recently wrote about this topic as well in A lot of stuff is just fine. While I generally agree with his article, I do think a lot of things in the “real” world are not fine and could be significantly better.

What’s extra fricked about all this is that you really gotta try to screw up a website as much as we do. — Chris Coyer in A lot of stuff is just fine

Where do we go from here? In my opinion, there are a few things we can all do:

  • buy less shitty things
  • buy less (in general)
  • as craftspeople (like web developers): aim to build the best possible product for the end user
  • as product teams: don’t let capitalism ruin your product
  • as web developers: use the platform; stop using react ffs

* I know these things are still around, but most bikes are sold without.

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