Monday, May 14, 2007

The Way They Used To Be

Ah, the good old days. Do you remember them? When you would load a web page, and it was a mish-mash of text and images, and that's it. Okay, maybe a cute little animated icon every once in a while. But the web was safe and comfortable back then. Leisurely.

As of late, I'm becoming more and more disgruntled with websites, no thanks to Podcasts and YouTube and Flash-based sites.

See, what was so great about the web is that you could click on a link and browse a site at your own pace. You could skim articles if you were in a hurry, or take your time and read over the course of a few visits. You were in control, and that was what set it apart from television. Sure, you have been able to record shows off the television for years, but ultimately, the pace was dictated by the format. The web offered freedom!

But today, that is becoming less and less the case. Take the Podcast. Somebody had this great idea of making an audio recording of something that you could download and play on your PC or iPod or whatever. Great. Except that in the time that it takes to download and listen to the file, I could have easily read through the article in text format twice. It turns what is simply my ability to read at my own pace to forcing me to listen at their pace...and ultimately listen by way of speakers or headphones, limiting the times and places I can take advantage of the information.

There is a particularly interesting sounding Podcast on a website that I'm really interested it. But the format has kept me from listening to a single episode, and they don't bother ever posting a transcript, which is all I really care about.

On-line videos are another annoyance of mine, for similar reasons. I just don't have the patience (or time) to sit and watch something to learn something I could get in another format. Okay, I don't have a problem with downloadable video in general...just not when I have no option for information another way. YouTube is primarily about entertainment. I get that. But why must I only be allowed to view certain news items on news sites such as MSNBC if I'm willing to watch a video? Kind of defeats the whole advantage of the web.

And don't even get me started on Flash-based sites. Those annoying websites with cleverly-laid-out graphics and animations that ultimately keep me from getting to the information I want at the pace I want it. Instead, I have to hold my mouse over a little picture, have it whirl around, doing acrobatics on my screen, eventually landing me to another graphic with limited information that forces me to repeat the process.

There is a tendency to use technology for the sake of using it, rather than using it because it is ultimately the best way to accomplish something. The web is ripe with sites that abuse that. Just because we are able to download videos now at blazingly-fast speeds doesn't mean we want to. Maybe we just want to be able to read the news. The 21st century version of the newspaper...a format that has worked for a couple centuries, actually.

I preferred the good old days of web surfing. I think I'm becoming an old-fogy. But more and more, I like things the way they used to be.

1 comment:

Kassie said...

At my place of work, we pay close attention to this kind of stuff - primarily because we strive to make al of our websites accessible to people who are blind (and cannot watch a youtube video) or deaf (and cannot listen to a podcast). Transcripts are essential!

In my experience, good, useable design is good, useable design. There's often no need for the fancy stuff and it often gest in the way.