The reason for this advice was simple: in the early days of the web, everyone was limited to a dial-up Internet connection which was really slow. Shoot, it took a few minutes just to connect to the Internet, let alone access a website. Hit the “Connect” button and go make some coffee or grab a smoke because it is literally going to take a few minutes. So, in that sense, it’s perfectly reasonable that the key principles of building a good website in the mid-2000s involved making the site small with solid fallbacks for content.
I miss those days a lot. In my opinion, those constraints made the web better. But, as time wears on and the service provider technology continues to improve in the U.S. with broadband (and eventually fiber), the constraints are no longer viewed as an issue anymore.
My all-too-familiar experience browsing the web on a mobile device.
Angry, I went to Twitter and posted my outrage.
I got some pretty awesome responses showing me that some sites actually do handle constraints really well, like traintimes.org.uk and the text-only version of NPR. YES! Why don’t they provide a text-only version of the outage page so when people actually need that page of the site, they can use it even when the conditions are the worst?
My power-outage scenario is a one-off type of situation, but there are people across the U.S. and the entire world who live with unreliable Internet because there is no other option available to them. NPR published an article covering the struggles of trying to teach students during the pandemic in areas where communities have unreliable Internet and it’s hard to believe that this is the current state of Internet availability in any part of the U.S. But, the fact remains that it is.
It’s clear a lot of people would benefit from the constraints of the early days of web development. The beauty of websites built before broadband networks were available (like the infamous Space Jam site from 1996) is that they can load on any kind of device from anywhere under almost any circumstances because they were built with these constraints in mind. Hopefully, all developers start employing an adaptive loading strategy that provide solutions for users on slow networks or low-end devices.