Use new technology carefully

I recently read J.K.Rowling’s blog post on why she is going to vote #NoBorders in the Scottish independence referendum in September. Read it. It’s an interesting, measured, thoughtful post, and she writes well (maybe she should consider writing a book someday :-))

So what has that got to do with software development?  In itself, nothing. In its implementation everything. Her blog design showcases the perils in embracing new technology.

I first came across this post and read it on my Android phone. It reacted very well – I swiped up to scroll through, and all was natural.  So far, so good.

I forwarded it to my wife, and she tried to read it on her laptop.  She J.K. Rowling Blog showing lack of scroll barsread the first page and then tried to scroll down. No scroll bars.

She tried some other things then called me over to show her how to scroll.  I tried cursor keys. I tried Page Down. I tried moving the mouse to the bottom of the page. I tried moving my mouse to the sides in case a scroll bar would suddenly appear. I rummaged around in the site in case I had come in through a link that confused it. I even tried switching to Internet Explorer. Nothing worked. She eventually had to read it on my phone so she could scroll.

It looks like this website has been designed for reading on tablets, where touchscreen and swiping is normal.  I’ve just checked now, and a mouse scroll wheel also works. But both of these assume particular technology, and break the standards we have worked with for 20+ years. And that makes it unreadable on a standard platform – Dell laptop with touchpad mouse.

By all means design for new technology, and take advantage of the new features and interactions that provides.  Scrolling by swipe was a very natural interaction. But remember to cater for those who for whatever reason don’t have the new technology as well.

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