Wasn’t the Web supposed to make everything easier? Oh sure, the maturation of companies doing business on the Web has made things more reliable and more secure, but easier? If you’ve been using the Web for a while (5+ years), you’ve noticed the evolution from static web pages to dynamic content. AJAX and other technologies provide an even greater level of interactivity giving end-users a richer Web experience. Google has pioneered the simple-interface approach. There are web sites devoted to every conceivable human activity and subject imaginable. (Don’t believe me? Point your browser to http://www.kli.org/tlh/newwords.html.)
Yes, all of these things make us more productive, more interested in the world around us, more connected to people and places we might never have a chance of knowing about. But is it easier? You should be able to do everything by yourself by now: fix your car, pick up girls (or guys), start your own company. Yet there is still a deep thirst for knowledge. Part of this has to do with customer expectations, and by customer, I mean anyone who visits your site. Customers demand more and more information. There is an almost insatiable desire for knowledge. At what point does the sheer volume of information make it impossible to present information to a user in a meaningful way? At what point do the scales tip and users become less interested in what information is presented to them and more interested in how it is presented to them?
I believe we’ve reached that point. Don’t get me wrong; users are still interested in the content of what they’re looking for, but more and more people, overwhelmed by the quantity of information available, are either turning to sites or products that summarize and organize content, using the first thing Google returns to them, or giving up altogether. Even inside a company or organization (where the choices of where to gather information are much more limited), users (employees) will choose what they are comfortable with, whether it’s an Oracle Portal system, a set of binders, or just walking over to a colleague’s desk to ask about the information they need. As a developer, your challenge is not only to present the data your customers want but present it in a meaningful way. In short, modern web development should be just as concerned with how information is presented as with what is presented.