In Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, an intriguing character introduced as The Whether Man tells the protagonist Milo, “Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you’re going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along, whether they like it or not.” While Expectations is an actual locale in a children’s novel, web developers and designers should similarly go beyond Expectations, although the Whether Man is right in that some never do. In order to do so, one must recognize that in today’s market, user experience reigns supreme. The most direct way to surpass Expectations is by delivering a user experience via a mobile web app but that feels like a native app (such as an iOS application that you purchase through the App Store).
I had an English teacher in high school who said that you need to hold your reader’s hand through an essay, meaning your writing should be clear and easy to understand. Similarly, an application should deliver a user interface where a user can move intuitively and fluently through each piece of the application. That being said, that experience can only be as good as the tools that are used to create it. At DockYard, these tools include design strategy and Ember.js as our client-side framework to build the single page applications that we design and develop in-house.
Single page applications, also known as client-side applications (as opposed to server-rendered applications), are web applications that upload to a single HTML page, dynamically updating the experience as the application is in use. Because of a client-side configuration, an application can respond to its users instantly. The design supports self-directed navigation, and the process is not disrupted by the reload of a page, which creates a more native feel. Further, these web applications cater to all variants of operating systems, and the framework we use to build these applications—Ember.js—is backwards compatible, meaning there will be support for the long haul. Ember.js is also a versatile framework, so it can also be used to build can be used for hybrid apps, which live within a native app “shell” but can be launched within a web browser (e.g. LinkedIn, Groupon, and Yahoo use Ember.js).
By design, these applications help to alleviate information overload and simplify navigation, which allows users to easily understand content. Users are therefore encouraged to engage further, whether they are aware of it or not. Before I started working here, I didn’t really pay attention to UX. Now, I’ve noticed that users, including myself, become frustrated with longer-than-needed loading times and poor design. Importantly, applications that have faster response times yield higher conversions, so you get a greater return on investment with a single page app. Additionally, according to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again.
When you think from the perspective of the user and strategize production with them in mind, you set yourself up for the greatest chance of success. You can ensure that your product is user-driven from the beginning by engaging design strategies, such as user research and prototyping, which can allow you to test initial hypotheses and create a product development roadmap. In this way, you can build reliably and save yourself time and frustration in the future.
When applications are built well, its users have more agency to interact with the application more deeply. The single page web app model is at the forefront of mobile and web design and development, allowing both designers and developers to consider unique solutions. Please be advised: if you’re not paying attention, you can quickly find yourself in the Doldrums, and no one wants that.