We need to create a more inclusive web for developers
When I was a kid, back in the time when there were announcers telling you which the next program on TV would be, you knew it would be good if they said: "We'd like to warn sensitive viewers that next program might upset you". So, with that in mind, I need to start this blog post with saying that it doesn't reflect the opinions of my employer, Google, but are all my own.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about the state of the web, and what it's like for developers, and I do hope to bring some nuance and perspective to the discussion.
My background is that I've worked almost 20 years on the web now, blogging here since 2005, creating and contributing to open-source projects, being a part of the Mozilla Community and working there for three and a half years, and now being one of the members of the MDN Product Advisory Board and working at Google with Developer Relations around the web. I have given presentations in 42 countries and spent the last decades working with developers, communities and companies all over the world.
And the reason I'm telling you this is that I believe I have a fairly good insight into what developers are struggling with, and the trends I'm seeing. And what I see is that there is a big knowledge gap and split between top developers and all the other regular developers, which I think is bigger than ever before. Building really good experiences on the web has become gradually harder for each year that has gone by.
There's this mindset that it's supposed to "be hard" to build things. You should earn your scars, it should hurt like a b… rowser. And talking about browsers, you should know the ins-and-outs of everything in them and how they render things to be a truly good developer. And any tool, if it's not technically excellent in the eyes of the elite, is frowned upon and mocked. From FrontPage to Dreamweaver to WordPress to jQuery to [current framework fights]… you name it. I'm not pretending that I've been any better in this aspect. For instance, when a Swedish travel site with not the best technical results won the Sweden's Best Web Site award I said I should emigrate…
But I just don't agree with that anymore. I think if you are in the top 1% and know all of those details and have worked on the web for 20 years, great! But I think it is critically important for anyone else who doesn't have that experience – or time, team resources or privileged environment to gain that knowledge – to have just as big of a chance to offer good experiences and do business on the web as well. We have to make sure the web offers an even playing field for everyone.
I see way way too many examples from all over the world where the web is disregarded because it's too slow, too hard to build for, too hard to get started, and where closed platforms like Facebook or well-lit paths for native app developers instead becomes what they opt for.
Which leads me to AMP (*gasp*). I've had the same general concerns as many other people about the Google URL and the Search carousel featuring, but knowing that team well and discussing with them on a regular basis, and seeing what they are working towards, I believe they have the best of intentions. With the URLs, as outlined in Improving URLS for AMP pages and statements from Malte Ubl (the creator of AMP), I see this as a matter of time before it is sorted. And with the announcement of Using page speed in mobile search ranking and Malte's discussion on it I personally believe it's all moving in the right direction.
At the same time, I'm really interested in the positive technical benefits AMP has offered developers and companies around areas like ease of developing and ensuring a really fast user experience. In particular, companies with small teams and/or not a super deep technical expertise are suddenly able to ship and build businesses! They can focus on the gist of what they want to create and communicate, and not get bogged down in granular API discrepancies, image optimization, feature detection and continually more and more complex tool chains.
I've also seen a lot of data for developers having built AMP experiences which are a lot faster and help them make a lot more money than before. And that is something I believe is good for everyone.
So, looking forward, I just don't think we should think about how to make it easier for everyone on the web, I believe it is our fundamental responsibility. There will always be room for expert carpenters and wood workers, but that doesn't take away the fact that most people will be happy with IKEA, and it will offer all they need.
And I don't know if AMP will be one of the solutions going forward, or if it will be something completely different, but I do believe we need to acknowledge what opportunities AMP has brought developers and seriously consider how we can offer that on the web as a whole.
We can't be experts in our ivory towers with tons of hard-earned expertise, we need to listen to developers from everywhere and all kinds of different contexts, to truly learn what they need and not what we want to build.
I sincerely hope that as we move forward we create a web that it is easy and inclusive for anyone to develop for, taking all varieties of needs and challenges people face into account.