The web is broken, and developers let it happen

Sergii Lysenko

Sergii Lysenko

August 5, 2023

Do you remember the time when it used to be so simple to just open a new browser window, type a website address into the search bar, and then wait a bit while the site loaded? You could do everything you needed with that internet resource without a fuss. But things have changed now. Hopefully, your device has a good, or even great, internet connection, so the required website loads quickly enough. However, even after that, you often still have some work to do:

  • You read some strange text and then decide whether to allow the website to use all your cookies 🍪 or maybe try to configure which cookies you want them to set. There’s no evidence that the chosen option will really lead to anything, because most of the time, it doesn’t. It’s just some odd third-party script that was added to this specific website to be “compliant” with GDPR, all because some person from marketing told a developer that it’s crucial for the website;
  • You try to close this annoying popup window that covers the entire website, not letting you see what’s on the site itself. Maybe it’s just a never-ending promotion for some “new” products or subscriptions. Perhaps it’s about the idea that it’s “better” to use a different browser or even an entirely different device to view the site. And while you’re trying to find a way to close this popup window – because the X icon is hidden quite well – you can’t even scroll, as if blocking the user’s scrolling ability is a brilliant idea;
  • Would you like to enable push notifications for this website? Honestly, we’re not quite sure what we’ll be sending you, but just in case, you know. Don’t like it? Just close this extra window, it’s not a big deal;
  • Now, if you’ve managed to win the battle against popups, it’s finally time to see the actual website. But don’t get your hopes up too high. As soon as you scroll a few hundred pixels – a new modal window pops up. Why not, right? Someone decided that you’ve had enough of the real content, and now it’s time to show you the latest promotion or just ask you to subscribe to some completely irrelevant newsletter;
  • You might want to use the footer navigation for some reason, but at this point, it’s not possible because the cookie banner is still there, covering all the important information like navigation links and company details;
  • And now, just when you’ve sorted out all these banners and popups and are ready to engage with the website – bam! The LIVE CHAT suddenly takes over your entire screen. Hello there! What can I assist you with?
  • Oh, and let’s not forget that EVERY POSSIBLE tracker was loaded via Google Tag Manager. Because someone apparently thought we absolutely needed all this analytics, tracking data, and even live screen capturing of users browsing the website;
  • Finally, you can enjoy THE WEBSITE. You’ve given up all your cookies, sacrificed your privacy, and invested your time and effort – you’ve earned it!

So, who’s responsible for all of this? Is it the person who created the task in some project management tool like Jira, Trello, or Asana? Or maybe it’s the one who implemented it? In my humble opinion: it’s both. I strongly believe that we, as developers, bear responsibility not just for writing lines of code, but for creating THE PRODUCT. We’re answerable for the user experiences. We control the amount of data users need to download to use our website or app. We’re accountable for the data collected by first or third-party scripts. Don’t let managers or product owners blindly dictate what the product should be. If you’re there, if you’re part of the team, then take the initiative. This is also your area of expertise. Don’t hesitate to ask questions like:

  • “Why do we need all these trackers?“;
  • “Is it appropriate to interfere with how our visitors use our website?“;
  • “Do we really need this massive image slider on the first page?“;
  • “How can we enhance the website experience across a wide range of devices?“;
  • “Why does our design neglect the existence of color-blind individuals?“;
  • And so on…

Don’t just rely on the expertise or experience of someone who gave you instructions. Sometimes they’re just blindly following bad examples: “If most websites have this popup, we should have it too!“. Show them the other way, find the good examples, provide evidence. We should stand up for our customers, visitors, and users. If not us, then who? So, let’s make web great again!