Bad Design and the Evolution of the Web
In my previous post about Web Design Irks one of the points I discussed was that this fixation on “streamlining” would cause issues with usability. Particularly, by creating an experience that feels streamlined, it negatively affects slower connections and makes linking to the specific state of the page impossible.
So today Google took it upon themselves to make a particularly dangerous design decision – they removed the URL. Specifically, the address bar is now a field where you can enter the URL, but it no longer retains it, returning it into this button to the side that’s representing the root of the website you are viewing.
As the link above supposes, it seems like a design choice meant to improve security and not scare of the technologically inept. I am particularly iffy about the latter point, as simplifying UI design and hiding away important information doesn’t make something less scary for someone, it makes things a lot harder for those that have learnt to deal with technology and user interfaces.
So lets look back at the fact that Chrome could do away with the URL as a fixture on the browser UI. Firefox is almost sure to follow in Chrome’s footsteps, along with other browsers. The URL could become subconsciously forgotten by users, ignored more fervently by programmers, and once we are always sharing links via share buttons, we will have lost the ability to use the URL to specify what we want to see, share, or refer to. There is no URL that is is purely Tumblr’s posting interface, it is counter-intuitive to get the URL that is purely a specific artwork post on Deviantart, and don’t even mention infinite scrolling designs...
The internet is evolving, but we need to pay heed to the spread of fads and experimental choices in design that appeal to the ignorant masses. I’m not saying we’re not allowed to make mistakes, I’m saying we need to realise when we’re making a mistake. The heavy use of client-side generation, disregard for what URLs actually mean, and the use of filter bubbles under the pretence of user benefit; these all could mean that sharing information in the future won’t be as simple as sharing a link, because we will have to follow the tools provided by designers (or worse yet, copyright holders) to set up the conditions that will generate the same result for those that use your link.
Just imagine a future where all cars are self-driving without the option to drive the car yourself. All routes to all locations will follow specific guides no matter where you are, because the self-driving system that has been created has to get itself to certain hub points and then refresh co-ordinates towards your destination. That’s the kind of future I see for the web that keeps going with the strange, awkward design decisions that are so prevalent now.