The evolution of the web and user experience

It’s interesting to read about the evolution of computers and the web that was in the Digital Literacy for Technical Communication reading.  I think we forget with the modern technologies we have and how fast paced our lives have become that we used to have bulky desktop computers that allowed us to check email via dial up, and had to read a printed instruction manual instead of Googling something and finding a YouTube video on it.  An example of this is when I was trying to figure out how to change the air filter in my car.  I took my laptop out to my car and followed along to a YouTube video of someone doing it.  It’s hard to believe the Internet wasn’t always a thing and wasn’t super fast, just a few years ago.  Now it seems like we rely on the web for everything.


This is why user experience is so big today.  Companies spend a lot of money and are constantly working on their website to make it inviting and customer friendly.  If people can’t find anything on your site or don’t find it appealing, they’ll go to another site they do find easier to use.  The web competition is huge.  I think this is why we’ve seen an evolution of graphics and images on the web.  For example, when people are shopping on the web they want to be able to see a zoomed in image of the item they’re looking to buy so they can see the quality, color, material, etc.  Take the image below for example, who really wants to spend time on this site to do anything?


I had to laugh when I read in the section in the Qualman reading on who cares what I’m doing?  I think that often when something happens in my life.  I think who cares, why do they want to know?  But social media is a way to keep in touch.  So while people might not care if I went to Starbucks today, they care that you had a nice dinner with your family to celebrate something.  I also liked the point of using social media to kill time.  I find anytime I have to wait somewhere I use my phone to pass the time.  I noticed even while waiting for a table at a restaurant, parents will have their kids watching TV on a tablet to keep them busy.

We’ve become such a digital world.  I’ve seen that in my time as a technical writer.  We had to transition from sending printed documentation to building an online knowledge base.  People expect to be able to use the Internet to find what they want, whenever they want it.

Posted on September 29, 2013, in Social Media, Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. evelynmartens13

    Yes, you are so right about that web site! Too much noise.

    I read that sustained example of how people in the grocery store “kill time” using their electronic devices with interest. I was somewhat skeptical that all people are actually being quite so productive, but I admit it made me think twice about how I’m using my OWN time and how I might be more productive (even if “productive just means “engaged” with my friends and family) if I made better use of my smart phone. I’m planning an outing of grocery shopping and whatnot this weekend, and anytime I find myself waiting, I’m going to engage with my phone in some way. I’m trying not to think about it too much ahead of time so I don’t seem too rehearsed.

    Your mention of “dial up” reminded me of a comedian (can’t remember who) who used to do a routine about how our expectations about what technology can do for us lowers the threshhold of our level of patience level. His example was the microwave oven. 100 years ago, we would have thought it science fiction that we could cook a meal in 5-10 minutes, but now we stare at the microwave and yell, “what’s taking you so long? I don’t have all minute!” That’s been our evolution from dial-up to wireless. I get so impatient if my computer is at all sluggish, but it would have seemed divine to me just 10-12 years ago to get the performance out of my computer that I do now.

    • I find that example of people in the grocery store using their phone while waiting on line described me. I also go for allergy shots twice a week right now. After each shot I need to wait in the doctor’s office 20 minutes so the doctor can treat me in case I have a reaction to the shot. I spend that 20 minutes switching between my personal and work cell phones to try to make the best of my time. I look around and see everyone else doing the same thing. I wonder if I’m missing anything sometimes being so attached to my phone, but then again, what else would I be doing on line at the grocery store or at my allergist’s office? It seems like I’m being more productive than just standing there staring at the wall.

      I love your example about the microwave and our patience, it’s so true! I really think technology today has slashed patience levels drastically. We’re so spoiled that, like you said, we get annoyed when our computer runs a little slow but don’t realize that just a few years ago we didn’t have any of these capabilities.

      • FYI…not one to pooh-pooh an opportunity to use your cell phone and technology, but you might consider allergy drops – you do them at home and they are safer than shots!

        Sorry, have to do a small plug for my company and our clients! 🙂

        More info available at

        • I did research before starting allergy shots and didn’t think the drops were an option in the USA yet. Good to know they are but I’m already a far step into the shots! I hate needles!

          • Yep, they’ve actually been in the U.S for over 60 years. They use the same FDA-approved antigens as allergy shots, but the route of administration is different (sublingual vs subcutaneous) so they are considered off-label. 1 out of 5 prescriptions are off-label so this is a normal practice of medicine.

            The “nonavailability” of allergy drops in the U.S. is a misnomer that many allergists (and their professional organizations) proliferate because they are afraid of change and losing revenue generated from shots. The sad thing is that they actually would be able to help more patients (fewer than 5% of the allergic population opt/able to do shots). That’s million of people that aren’t getting treatment! More patients = more revenue and greater word-of-mouth marketing.

            Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now! I get a little passionate because there are so many people out there who need help and have chronic conditions because of allergies.

  2. I think you’re right that the increasing reliance on the web for everything and the continual emergence of more advanced technology has resulted in the user experience on the web becoming extremely important. I definitely find that if a website is too busy or unintuitive, I don’t even give it a second thought before looking elsewhere. If a website is neatly designed, however, I probably look at it for longer than I actually need to.

    I spend a lot of time in my job thinking about the user experience for our web applications as I write all of the documentation and also play the role of customer advocate. I’ve found that all of the functionality in the world isn’t worth much if users don’t understand how to navigate and use the application. I think as we continue to be spoiled with new and improved technology, this trend will only intensify and online user experience will become even more important.

    • I agree user experience is going to become more important than it already is. People have no patience, so if they can’t find what they’re looking for they’ll move on to somewhere they can. It’s funny you mention that if a site is neatly designed you’ll spend more time on it than you need to. I find that’s very true. A site can draw a customer in or push a customer away. It is the age of the customer, it’s critical that customers are satisfied or they will take their business elsewhere.

  3. I remember seeing websites like that when I was a lot younger. I’m so glad we’ve moved away from that.

    We are surrounded and immersed in technology. I see people looking at their phones all the time and I used to be one of them. I have an iPhone, which I enjoy and get a lot of use out of. When my daughter was born, I took a pretty harsh look at how I spend my time, especially around her. I remind myself, “there is nothing on your phone that is important as your daughter”. I’m trying each day to be a little better, and thankfully my wife and I are on the same page. We’re attempting to fight the growing norm and unplug around our children. It might not be possible to raise them the way we grew up, but we’re going to try.

    • I see what you’re saying that raising kids must be a totally different experience now than it was just a few years ago. I see people on FaceBook constantly posting pictures of their kids. It makes me ask the question, are you living in the moment or are you too busy using social media? Of course, parents want to show off their kids and people want to see updates about their family or friend’s children, but like you said it’s important to be around your children and give them your attention. They grow up so fast it’s important to spend quality time with them.

  4. How funny. I just spent the afternoon discussing YouTube with my composition students and asked them to share, instead of viral videos, examples of “How To” videos or moments on YouTube where/when we can actually learn something. My fav was

    because of the humorous way it addressed the need to know the grammar rules and make corrections. I would think your video was of more use to you than this one, but figured you all might appreciate it! 😛

    • I did like that YouTube video! It reminds me of one time I argued with someone on the Internet (which is silly but I think most of us have done it) and I said “grammer” instead of “grammar”. That got me real far :). It was probably in 2005 and I still remember it!

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