Thread: Why I hate web developers...

  1. #1
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Why I hate web developers...

    Why I hate web developers...-wd-jpg

    Why I hate web developers.
    A cautionary tale

    Disclaimers:
    1. Of course there are web developers who don't really follow this pattern. But there are plenty who do. And frankly, they are very likely the majority, judging from the web content.

    2. This is a cautionary tale not because I somehow feel my needs are above the others. But this is a cry for common sense and for a functional web in lieu of a pretty web.

    3. I don't really hate web developers. But if you happen to be like specimen AR-45/08 above, I can't answer for myself.

    So anyways, I'm starting with an anecdote.

    A couple of weeks ago, at Khan Academy, they decided to introduce a new video control bar that replaced the usual one that is displayed with the HTML5 player. This new control bar had the essential video playback controls; play, pause, volume control, a button to set captions on and off and another to make the video fullscreen or not. They also removed the HTML5 player controls and you could only use the new ones.

    This new video control bar was introduced apparently to streamline the overall look of the page. The new controls where stylized in the same general theme of the webpage where the Khan Academy displays videos.

    What obviously didn't cross their minds was how non-functional these new controls really were, compared to the default ones. Gone was the option to change the video quality format, gone was the option to see snapshots of a frame at any given point of the video. Gone was the option to decide when a video should start buffering or playing (they now played automatically and you had no idea how far ahead the buffer was at any moment in time).

    For some people, these are really important features. Over here, at ~32 USD per 2GB, you bet I don't want to be watching the hundreds of Khan Academy videos in anything other than 240p. For a rough idea, a typical 5 minute video there will cost me 5 Mb at 240p, or 86Mb at 720p. And for some strange reason, google has yet to provide the WebM container they themselves developed for the 240p playback format on YouTube (they only do for 360p and above), which would further reduce the size to somewhere around 3 Mb.

    And with the low bandwidth and expensive plans typical of a third-world countries derived from their almost complete lack of internet infrastructure, you should also expect slow connection speeds. So the ability to control when a video should start buffering and when it should start playing after enough buffering occurs, is also important for a good playback experience.

    And no, this isn't about MY needs only. Khan Academy is an educational website with far reaching impact around the world. It is particularly helpful to exactly these type of countries where the educational system is frankly so bad, even Salman Khan with his constant mistakes, leaps of logic and a panache for explaining procedures instead of concepts, makes a better teacher than most of the poorly educated high school graduates teaching in high schools (no kidding) over here. It's developed countries that DON'T need Salman Khan, despite what Bill Gates says.

    After two weeks with that pretty bar, complaints finally had them remove it. For now, Khan Academy is back at supplying the HTML5 player default controls.

    ----

    The thing that bothers me most about the general practice of web development as it has turned out to be, is the excessive focus on form over function. Web developers simply can't seem to be able to avoid it. More often than not, if some function stands in the way of presentation, the function will be sacrificed or will be presented in such a distorted way as to become difficult to use ad lose any of its practical benefits. Rarely we can see web developers putting function over form.

    It's a disease. A virus that spreads like the Spanish Flu and ends up affecting almost all web developers. They want to look at themselves as first an artist and only then a programmer. They care and boast more about some pretty effect and a nice choice of color combinations, than they will about an optimization to their bloated CSS or some new feature that breaks with the traditional format but offers an advantage to the users. In fact, breaking with the traditional format is seen as a designer sin.

    The 'B' Ark is where I want to put all web developers. Douglas Adams forgot about them. I didn't.

    But in all reality, it's not that I can blame them. Particularly the newcomers. Without proper guidance, they will just follow what they are told. And the matter of fact is that Web Development is largely practiced at a professional level by the undergrad. There's not much going on in terms of formal education concerning web development. Web developers working on companies or for themselves are essentially folks that knew how to use a search engine and had some time on their hands. The actual rules and best practices of design were lost to them and presented only in soundbites that often conflict with what they are being told elsewhere by some "veteran" (who knows jack about design) web developer.

    And so this general ad-hoc education in web development results in folks like the Khan Academy team. Trick treaters with a penchant for the visual and futile, with very little interest in practicing proper project analysis, and so can't even distinguish heads from tails before their users actually start complaining.

    I don't mean to pick at Khan Academy. This is widespread. It's in fact so bad, that many web developers who really do care to strike an healthy balance between function and form, end up having no other choice than to reluctantly give in to the pop culture of visually-oriented web development, once they get a job. And boy, is the web development world full of visual gospel! I still laugh (or cringe, depending on the day) at the discussions of what is the ideal number of words per line.

    ----

    So, hmm... right. This post had a point, other than just ranting. I can't recall anymore. Maybe it was... DON'T DO IT!
    Last edited by Mario F.; 09-05-2015 at 07:53 AM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

  2. #2
    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    Before I read this wall of text I have to ask, does this have anything to do with my two most recently started threads?

    Edit :

    Okay, I read it. Phew. It's not about me.

    One thing that I even found myself doing before Elysia slapped it out of me was, AJAX goes everywhere! I kind of felt like Oprah, talking to each web page I would design, repeatedly shouting to each one, "And you get some AJAX! And you get some AJAX!"
    Last edited by MutantJohn; 09-05-2015 at 08:30 AM.

  3. #3
    Unregistered User Yarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    The thing that bothers me most about the general practice of web development as it has turned out to be, is the excessive focus on form over function.
    A client is more likely to complain about your table's margin being a pixel too wide than they are about a missing feature that a lot of people would want, but they can do without. My guess is that it's so pervasive in the culture simply because it's bled in from pop culture.

  4. #4
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Why I hate web developers...
    O_o

    Who doesn't?

    So, hmm... right. This post had a point, other than just ranting. I can't recall anymore. Maybe it was... DON'T DO IT!
    Maybe it was "Fashionistas shouldn't be allowed on design teams."?

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

  5. #5
    and the hat of copycat stevesmithx's Avatar
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    Well, I would argue most of these crappy design choices are being made by the so called "UX experts" rather than your Joe Web Developer who writes JS/PHP/JSP/whatever.. Unfortunately, making a thing cute, rounded and shiny is becoming more important in the web nowadays than the functionality that thing used to represent. If only these "experts" learnt to think from the end user perspective rather than just pure aesthetics.. Another famous example of UI changes backfiring would be Slashdot beta. The audience made it very *clear* what they wanted in that case.

  6. #6
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Well, I would argue most of these crappy design choices are being made by the so called "UX experts" rather than your Joe Web Developer who writes JS/PHP/JSP/whatever.
    O_o

    I disagree. I see what you are saying, but I only blame the "UX Guru" lot for starting the trend.

    All the websites throwing massive slideshow banners and infinite scrolling at every page can't afford on of the "UX Guru" lot.

    The website owners are just using the flashy-first nonsense because the "UX Guru" lot give each other awards to say how awesome the design looks.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

  7. #7
    Informer -Adrian's Avatar
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    Doesn't this also apply to Desktop applications which, once their core functionality has matured, undergo weird redesign efforts that are supposed to streamline the user experience but end up being hated by productive (power) users?

    I'm currently taking an edX course and they too have custom controls laid over YouTube's HTML5 player. They also don't work properly (buffering hangs when seeking manually) so I always watch the videos on YouTube directly.

  8. #8
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Doesn't this also apply to Desktop applications which, once their core functionality has matured, undergo weird redesign efforts that are supposed to streamline the user experience but end up being hated by productive (power) users?
    O_o

    I agree; the flashy-first nonsense is frustrating no matter where found.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

  9. #9
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Adrian View Post
    Doesn't this also apply to Desktop applications which, once their core functionality has matured, undergo weird redesign efforts that are supposed to streamline the user experience but end up being hated by productive (power) users?
    Indeed. It's only marginally better. That goes in tandem with another thread I posted here on telemetry (emphasis just for you phantom ). I wanted to eventually understand the value of automatic collection of usage data as a means to perceive user productiveness, since I'm a critic of this method. But I went all wrong in the way I tried to introduce the discussion and gave up on it. Maybe later.

    I think that is one of the problems in the desktop world. Along with a series of highly debatable new controls and UI designs supposed to introduce better productivity, there's this terribly wrong idea that you get better knowledge of how your program should look like by collecting usage data automatically and running some statistics on it. Gone are the days actual observation and a more close feedback with real users was the norm.

    It is thus no wonder that in more critical environments, windows 2000-like controls or even console like environments are the norm.

    At Fedex, for instance, at the end of the day when the plane leaves for the package collecting center (in Europe this is Paris), a Fedex representative center has between roughly 18 pm and 2 am to input into the system all outbound packages it collected that day. These can number in the tens of thousands, so a highly productive interface must be built to both input this data and validate it. By 2 am, planes from Paris will be lifting off to Fedex distribution centers across the world and so by this time all packages that arrived in Paris must have been recorded on the system(*). You wouldn't expect such a mission critical system to be coded with all the latest UI fanfarre, such as WPF. And it isn't. All Fedex data entry sub-systems are coded in highly productive console-like environments in C ( for those that have already migrated from more ancient languages). An user with standard typing skills is clocked at about 20 seconds per entry. Even the data entry subsystems that are less bound to time limitations are coded in classic UIs (windows 2000-like interfaces).

    I personally always took a dim look at UI developments over the years. I honestly think we hit a sweet spot we developed what we call today the classic UI, which in addition to the console UIs really represented a boom in productivity. And since then I have seen no actual good development in productivity with the new UIs developed since then. And the proof really is the mission critical businesses that have clearly not adopted any of them.

    A note also to touchscreen interfaces... these do seem to represent an important development. Unfortunately none of what we see being done seem to make them particularly attractive. Vertical positioned monitors have a tendency to tire the user quickly by forcing his arm(s) to be constantly moving. I had the opportunity to participate in an experiment when we embedded a monitor in a desk that was cut to allow it to sit on a 10 degree angle with the desk surface and the experience was fantastic. Another problem is that touchscreen interfaces tend to abuse of whatever new UI gospel you have at the moment. So no dice if you are expecting a fast productive interface. Finally, for some reason, it has became mandated that touchscreens shouldn't have keyboards. But the fact is that a keyboard tactile experience (particularly how we can feel the gaps between the keys) is one of features most responsible for the ability to fast typing and develop a more accurate muscle memory. On that experience that we ran we had a small keyboard in front of the user and the laid down touchscreen in front of the keyboard. I must say it worked wonders and the ability to fast type and take advantage of touchscreen features without that horrendous virtual keyboard was a blessing. Now... if only people cared about building good and really productive touchscreen interfaces...
    Last edited by Mario F.; 09-05-2015 at 03:45 PM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

  10. #10
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Finally, for some reason, it has became mandated that touchscreens shouldn't have keyboards.
    O_o

    I might honestly kill for a mobile using the design of the early offset-flips with simple slate top and a physical keyboard bellow.

    The Kyocera vendor was even going to make one before they sadly went with a touchscreen for the keyboard.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

  11. #11
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    I might honestly kill for a mobile using the design of the early offset-flips with simple slate top and a physical keyboard bellow.
    I have yet to buy my first smartphone after all these years. I stubbornly cling to the past. The one thing that saddened me greatly was that right before the smartphones, the classic cellphones were becoming increasingly sophisticated. Their operating systems and the software was becoming top notch. Some of these phones are still amazingly productive and useful today. The Motorolla E1000 or the Nokia E70 were great phones that I remember and used. But they are gone. You can hardly find them anywhere, discontinued as they are. And the cellphones being done today are a mere shadow of the past; technologically much inferior. My current phone is a Nokia something. It doesn't even display it's model name unless you take the battery out. It is also a piece of crap. The only thing going for it, I only need to charge it every 5 days. But I still refuse to buy a smartphone.

    There are a few keyboard smartphones. But they are crap. At least the ones I tried. Motorolla has the Droid line, but every single one of them was bad. My brother got one for himself some years back and it just broken down on him after 1 year. Maybe newer models are better, I don't know. But the brand has dropped tremendously in quality, so I wouldn't expect it. The current portable phone scenario is a complete disaster from a consumer point of view. Smartphones are of subpar quality compared to the later cellphones, have a much smaller life expectancy, their batteries get consumed at a much faster rate, they are much more expensive (you really buy cellphones today at a much higher price than you would buy a blackberry then. It's nuts, when you consider not many people had blackberries because of it) and the added connectivity and the operating systems have become disastrous from both a security and privacy point of view. It's really that in terms of portable communications we are worse today than we were in the past.

    And don't tell me you can read emails on your cellphone or connect to netflix, or talk to your lover on Ashley Madison or whatever crap. We endured life pretty happily without any of those things. A desktop, a laptop, even an iPad is today always just a few minutes or hours away. Saving the rare exception, we don't really internet-ready cellphones in our lives. It's a constructed need. A false need. I manage a moderately successful business, family and friends who love me and I love them back, without a smartphone. And even if we did need it, there was nothing stopping classic cellphones to have it. They had. But in our rush to buy the new toys and make them popular, we didn't realize we were being herded towards a much worse level of quality. And we destroyed the great models of the past in favor of this crap they are selling today.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 09-05-2015 at 07:17 PM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

  12. #12
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    But in our rush to buy the new toys and make them popular, we didn't realize we were being herded towards a much worse level of quality.
    O_o

    The dash for the bottom hits everything!

    You only have to look back a few years to find a Thinkpad with incredible durability and an extremely pleasing keyboard.

    I haven't replaced a now ancient laptop with a bleached screen because every keyboard feels remarkably off and the paraphernalia feels fragile even if the actual case feels solid.

    *shrug*

    You really shouldn't even get me started on televisions. Why in f..k do I have to patch my television to... watch television?

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

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    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    Mario, my 84 year old grandma just bought an iPad. Step up your game, bro.

    Actually, smartphones are incredibly amazing for a few features.

    PDF renderer. You can read PDFs on your phone. I literally have all my meshing research (various academic papers) on my phone at all times now. If I get bored I can just whip out my phone and start reading about how CGAL approaches parallel triangulations or how someone devised a clever order to points for mesh construction.

    Check your email from anywhere. This is useful.

    Navigation. Navigation apps are so amazing it's absurd. If you think a paper map is better, you're deluding yourself. The fact that you can just have an app calculate your route for you is kind of amazing. Granted, I'm the type who gets lost easily...

    I guess that's about it, actually. I have some other apps for trolling Reddit and GameFAQs but that's about it. Texting is nice on a smartphone but I agree, the keyboard is horrible and my fingers are fat.

  14. #14
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    PDF renderer. You can read PDFs on your phone.
    O_o

    You think a reader for PDF files is "incredibly amazing"?

    o_O

    I can read PDF files on my arguably ancient Nokia I keep around for demonstration.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

  15. #15
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    Mario, my 84 year old grandma just bought an iPad. Step up your game, bro.
    I'm sure she will make a great use of it. (yes that is sarcasm)

    Actually, smartphones are incredibly amazing for a few features.
    There we go...

    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    PDF renderer. You can read PDFs on your phone. I literally have all my meshing research (various academic papers) on my phone at all times now. If I get bored I can just whip out my phone and start reading about how CGAL approaches parallel triangulations or how someone devised a clever order to points for mesh construction.
    You should also try a Playboy subscription. Less boring.
    I do all my PDF reading on a mini tablet that cost me the amazing price of just 90 USD. The screen is bigger, I can actually read and don't have to zoom in and keep dragging my finger inside a single page to read it. So your apparent habit of reading technical papers on your smartphone is actually something I laugh at. Your first amazing feature isn't convincing. Moving on...

    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    Check your email from anywhere. This is useful.
    I can check emails on my non smart cellphone. So, this amazing feature isn't cutting it either...

    But by the way, exactly what use do you make of your email that makes it useful to read it at any moment and at any time? One of the things that we have been witnessing over the years, wth all this crap about social web is that the email is a dying species. It mostly serves as a means to get notifications when your boring facebook friends post new boring pictures of them wearing a new set of boring clothes. Communications are otherwise being primarily conducted through the social web. Even I who conduct a business, rarely have a need to be notified in real-time of some email. And I'm one of the rare few that still uses it, other than business, to actually talk with people (being that I don't use the social media).

    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    Navigation. Navigation apps are so amazing it's absurd. If you think a paper map is better, you're deluding yourself. The fact that you can just have an app calculate your route for you is kind of amazing. Granted, I'm the type who gets lost easily...
    ermm... I... well,.... Amazing feature number three is actually useful, because you don't have a mouth to ask for directions.

    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    I guess that's about it, actually.
    I'm disappointed. I thought you were going to talk about amazing features that would justify negating all that was said before.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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