How COVID-19 Will Help Build The Web The World Needs
Maybe you're having a similar experience to me.
I'm doing everything I can to keep all the plates spinning personally and professionally as the world wades through the impact of COVID-19. In between meetings and prospect calls, I'm running around the house, making sure your kids are out of bed, they don't have any homework questions, and they (and the animals) have enough food in their bellies to survive at least until my next break. We're all going to bed too late, "survival mode" is our normal mode, and I'm always one cup of coffee behind and an hour too short to get it all done.
It's exhausting, and it's relentless. Coupled with all of this is an immense feeling of gratitude for all that we have, ad to the daily whirlwind of emotion.
Any of this sound familiar?
In times like these, it's easy to get lost in the chaos and the search for truth. In times like these, it's easy to miss the subtle ways the world is changing all around us.
For me, I imagine my kids will be telling their kids stories about "how things were before CV-19". The nostalgic stories I tell my kids now are of the 1980's - Star Wars (the good ones), parachute pants, super-long telephone chords, Saturday morning cartoons, MTV.
For them, I fear their stories will be filled with navigating social distancing from their friends, missing graduations and grandparents, and worrying about topics like life, death, and sickness well before any child should have to ponder those big issues.
The Silver Lining
Despite all of this, I remain wholeheartedly optimistic. I firmly believe that out of this chaos will come some of the most incredible innovations that we've seen in our generation. This innovation, in response to our current state, will help us build both a better world and a better web together.
This innovation can only happen, however, if we raise out of the chaos and fear. We must both observe and acknowledge the cracks in the old way of doing things and call them out for what they are - the failing digital experiences of today.
What the world needs to now, more than ever, is a better web that is easy-to-use, welcomes those of all abilities, and allows us to navigate the new world order as efficiently as possible.
"Sunshine is the best disinfectant," as the saying goes and still rings true here.
What the world needs to now, more than ever, is a better web that is easy-to-use, welcomes those of all abilities, and allows us to navigate the new world order as efficiently as possible. Building the web the world needs can only happen if we push strongly enough and fight for it with each interaction and each engagement we lead.
The silver lining here - I think CV-19 will help us get there faster, so let's explore some of the ways COVID has changed our world and the opportunities it presents us.
The Internet of
Shelter in place has forced the day-to-day physical world further online than it has ever been before. Think about that for a second - we are now living in the most digital world we've ever experienced in the history of humanity.
Communication, shopping, medicine, entertainment, training, person-to-person connection, and even happy hours have moved online. Quality digital experiences are more important than ever. As the web organically grows to fill the chasm of lost physical connect with "acceptable" online alternatives, users are sadly going to struggle to keep up or simply be left behind. The best way to showcase this is to provide some examples so we can lead with empathy.
Think about that senior citizen who is trying to order groceries online - can they adapt quickly enough to keep their pantries full?
Think about that restaurant owner who is potentially transitioning their entire business model from dine-in service - can they pivot to, or expand, online ordering systems to serve a fearful community while trying to keep the lights on?
Think about the health professionals who have transitioned to a technology-rich telehealth experience while also navigating their personal world and sustaining the support their patients need - can the same level of emotional support be provided in a world of reduced in-person interactions and nuance? Are the tools intuitive enough for the wide spectrum of ages and abilities who rely on them?
Think about that person who is navigating unemployment for the first time. Can they find the resources and help they need to feel confident that there is hope? Are unemployment sites ready for the growing numbers?
These examples only represent a tiny fraction of our society, all navigating new online experiences that are ripe for innovation and refinement. We're all forced into a new way of connection and, if we're listening (I'm speaking to the world here), we can quickly learn and refine and help each other build better experiences.
Our New Education System
Millions of kids are now learning from home, and millions of parents and grandparents are simultaneously now part-time teachers. The spectrum of age, skills, and technical experience has never been more extreme while navigating the same online experience. How can these experiences and tools be made better and more inclusive to consider and enable all users of all ages and backgrounds? The time to ensure our digital experiences are accessible and inclusive to all users has never been more evident and vital.
The time to ensure our digital experiences are accessible and inclusive to all users has never been more evident and vital.
The innovation here is ripe for the picking and COVID-19 is exposing the gaps. This imposed transition can be made so much simpler through well-designed, accessible experiences. The big questions are - do we acknowledge the issues exist and do we want to be a part of the solution? Fellow UT Longhorn Brené Brown says it best, "A crisis highlights all of our faultlines. We can pretend that we have nothing to learn or we can take this opportunity to own the truth and make a better future for ourselves and others."
Again, let's think carefully about the front line who are now impacted daily by poor experiences related to education:
Think about that teacher who is battling to migrate her curriculum and teaching methods online while keeping the connection with her students.
Think about that student who had to leave school mid-semester and is now navigating new systems to learning, ask questions, and stay organized.
Think about the parents who are now part-time teachers and have new technology (and algebra!) to learn while navigating their own professional transition.
Think about the grandparents who are trying to help both their children and grandchildren navigate a world they have never seen while also being the most susceptible to the most significant health crisis in our recent history.
A crisis highlights all of our faultlines. We can pretend that we have nothing to learn or we can take this opportunity to own the truth and make a better future for ourselves and others.
The time is now to take a step back and see all of these challenges and build new, quality experiences that support all of these people that we know, support, and love.
Our Need for Speed
No, no... not Maverick's break the sound barrier in a jetfighter kind of speed - I'm talking about the "who can give me priority internet for my next Zoom call?" type of speed. Ring a bell?
Yeah, yeah, we're moving to 5G and all that, but, at some point, it doesn't make sense to continually buy bigger bandwidth pants for the bloated websites of the world when what we need to do is trim the fat. According to a recent Neilsen Norman Group study, "data strongly suggests that the websites people encounter today aren’t that much faster than they were a decade ago." and "delays of just 1 second are enough to interrupt a person's conscious thought process."
...data strongly suggests that the websites people encounter today aren’t that much faster than they were a decade ago.
Because of CV-19 and the battle for bandwidth, those websites that are bloated, slow, and excessively requiring us to download things we don't need or want are getting exposed and adding frustration to an already frustrating situation. Never before have those experiences utilizing off-the-shelf templates, excessive plugins, and implementation shortcuts been so stress tested. We must invest in high-performing websites in the same way we invest in creating a high-performance business - it must become non-negotiable.
Think about that salesperson who is making sales calls from their home office - what if her website and demo are slow to perform. Does the digital experience help or hurt the sales discussions? How does its performance reflect on the quality of the product or service she is selling? Could it be a disqualifier?
Think about that working parent who needs to update his website with an important addition, but has dinner on the stove - he doesn't have time to fight with his CMS. He needs nimble tools built to save him time, money, and stress.
Think about that customer who will do more business on her phone as she navigates the chaotic and fractured schedule of the new world - are the mobile experiences intentionally built to deliver her the quality and performance she needs? Is it an afterthought checkbox that will impact both her efficiency and the impression she has of your brand?
The Sunshine We Need
There is a path forward towards creating the web the world needs, and I have so much hope. The expression of compassion, empathy, and the global connection is all around us and around the world every day. The prescription we need is founded in empathy and kindness and in our society that translates into creating compelling, accessible, and easy-to-use and manage digital experiences that are intentional and handcrafted to fit how we work and what we need.
We must seize this opportunity. We must keep humans of all abilities in mind when we craft these experiences. We must focus on high-quality effectiveness and kill the bloat. We must strive to bring an end to the checkbox and template websites and look beyond ourselves so that the experiences help build a better web for everyone.
At Monkee-Boy, we believe that a better web exists. We believe that a better web is possible when the proper amount of research, thinking, and empathy permeates every interaction. We believe that all experiences should endeavor to support users of all abilities and be highly inclusive. We believe in an endless supply of sunshine and that a better web is possible if we work together and demand it.
Join us on our mission.