Stephen Robinson by UC Davis College of Engineering 

Future Unfriendly

Is there such a thing as site shaming? The challenges of web development is complicated enough without having sites dedicated to mocking each other. 

A while back, some professional speakers on the subject of web design got together, donned some space helmets, and made a website to state their position on what the future of the web should be. In PowerPoint-esque writing style, the message is clearly bulleted that we should make websites a specific way, using a specific strategy. More to the point:

1. Acknowledge and embrace unpredictability.

2. Think and behave in a future-friendly way.

3. Help others do the same.

It’s the third point which stands out as the most helpful. As any developer can point out, the number of factors to consider when building a site can be infinite. Knowing the best approach to building sites can not be summed up in some overly-priced conference session. Web development needs mentors, partners, and peers to help each other out.

Which is why it’s surprising to see sites crop up showing out-of-context screenshots of sites that do not fit other’s expectations., for example, shows how sites look on on an iPhone (btw wtfmobileweb only works well on the iPhone when user-agent detection is working properly). idontwantyourfuckingapp reenacts a XKCD comic over and over. sighjavascript, which made the rounds on Twitter yesterday, takes a more binary approach to testing sites by turning off JavaScript.

These kinds of sites are the least helpful.

Going back to rule three, helping others do the same, showing how sites behave when used in unexpected ways is only helpful when we show what can be improved. Without context, these sites only serve to shame other’s hard work, and maybe add bragging rights to the clever bloke who came up with the Tumblr page in the first place.

Instead, we should be focusing on mentoring, partnering, and peer review. Take this Future Friendly manifesto and show these sites what can reasonably fit within that ideology and still retain their business model.

Recently, some web developers started video workshops to step through other people’s sites (by their request) and what can be done to make their sites better. While these videos mainly focused on mobile web, tooling, and performance, the format for this kind of mentorship is applicable to all matters of future friendliness.

This is the most helpful.

Putting aside the debate about whether or not sites should work without JavaScript, the challenges of making sites as progressively enhanced as possible is only going to get more complicated as our technology moves forward. Only through mentoring, peer review, and getting involved and contributing, can we elevate the kind of discourse we truly need to build future friendly websites.

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