There’s a change coming. Google Fiber is set to do for Internet speed what it’s done for everything else, completely changing the way that we think about technology and the way that we interact with it. The impact will be felt everywhere, including in web design. Just as the move from dial-up to broadband changed the way that designers created content, so too will ultrafast Internet cause a massive shift in the Web design.
What is Ultrafast Internet?
Ultrafast Internet that comes through fiber optic cable rather than through the phone line or cable cord. How fast is it? How about one hundred times faster than what most Americans currently have. We’re talking one gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second, for both download and upload.
Google Fiber has been the undeniable leader, in particular because it offers these services at such a low cost, making it readily accessible to a greater amount of people. Google’s rollout began in Kansas City and is set to follow through to a dozen additional cities in coming years. Though they were the first to offer this service to the masses, Google isn’t the only game in town anymore. Comcast and AT&T are hot on their heels, rolling out their own fiber optic Internet services at accessible rates.
How ultrafast Internet will change Web design
It’s all well and good to be able to download whole movies in minutes and not to have to wait for websites to load, but the real question for Web designers is how this will affect them. What’s it going to mean?
There’s currently a great deal of time and energy spent on minimizing the size of everything. We compress video and strip images of extraneous information. It takes an extraordinary amount of work to optimize load times for a seamless user experience. Web designers realize that if the content doesn’t load quickly and easily that users will click away in an instant.
This is where ultra-high speed connections are set to make life a great deal easier for Web designers. With superfast load times, designers will be able to worry less about the back end mechanics of load times and optimization and more about user experience.
Super high def
Grainy, sticky, slow loading video is ready to be gone forever. Google Fiber doesn’t have any caps at all on its service in terms of usage. Not even for rivals like Netflix, who it could have easily shut out in favor of its own services like YouTube and Fiber TV. Setting that precedent is an important piece of this puzzle, because it will likely mean that no one has to wait, which will allow companies to offer even higher definition options for streaming users.
How much higher def? Currently users can stream a good deal of content in standard HD, though even that is still limited due to the constraints of net speed. With fiber optic data, it will be possible to move to the next level beyond standard HD to 8K resolution. 8K images have sixteen times as many pixels as the current standard HD images.
The move to 8K, and to higher resolution in general, will allow Web designers to create much richer and heavily immersive experiences for users. Just as we’ve seen a dramatic rise in images on the Web in the last several years, expect to see that trend continue and extend so that Web design becomes, even more, image and video rich, with those videos and images being increasingly stunning and riveting.
When that superfast Internet does come, it’s going to bring with it embedded video in the same way that broadband has brought embedded images. Instead of snapping a pic to share with a friend, you’ll be able to throw up a quick video.
Yes, today we do have Skype and Face Time and Google Hangouts, but those are all admittedly clunky and slow and cannot be embedded into websites. Most major companies now offer real-time chat support right on their customer services pages. When customers have a problem or need some assistance, they can pop open a chat window and get the answers or support they need. Now imagine that chat window is an audio window or even a video window and you’re on the right track.
It won’t be long before Web designers are compelled to include real-time audio and video communication into their designs in the way that chat windows and email pop-ups are currently provided. That kind of seamless integration of communication will change the way that people interact with one another online. Web design will have to follow.
Super high-speed internet brings with it rich Internet experiences. This is perhaps the biggest change that is coming as it is the most fundamental to the user experience. As speeds increase, Web designers will be called upon to create Web environments that are akin to desktop or gaming environments. They’ll have to deliver the same level of functional and feature rich kinds of experiences that are currently only available through downloaded applications or installed software. Rather than that information being housed locally, the move will go towards full integration with the Web.
The Web is already trending in this direction, though it’s incredibly limited by the speed of the connection. Look for designers to be compelled to create content accessibility that’s not so much like surfing a website, but instead is like interacting with a piece of software.
It’s important to note that this will be a long game. While all of these changes are amazing, until both ends of the connection have these super high speeds, it won’t mean much to anyone. It’s great to have embedded communication ability in websites, but if only one side is running at super high speed, then there won’t be much communicating going on. It’s not fun to have the ability to send a holographic postcard to someone who can’t open it.
The great news is that it is actually coming. The momentum that Google began is spreading to other companies and the marketplace is set to get hot in the next couple of years. Hold onto your tablets folks, because the revolution in Internet speed is coming. When it does, designers will once again be forced to adapt or be left behind.
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