Stephanie's Design and Technical Musings

Pushing the future of the platform forward with The Web We Want

Last year I joined my co-worker Aaron Gustafson in kicking off an initiative called The Web We Want that focuses on identifying pain points or gaps in the web platform as identified by developers and web designers.

This project has become something I'm incredibly passionate about. It's a cross-platform effort with many browser vendors involved and looking at the problems that have been submitted so far.

But we're not done yet! I'm looking forward to running this at a few events this year. I'll be at the SFHTML5 meetup in March and Smashing Conf San Francisco in April to moderate the session.

The most important part of this initiative, for me, is community participation. This year I would love to see more of the community and event attendees presenting their submissions in the session.

We've successfully presented on behalf of folks who couldn't attend – we definitely don't want the inability to attend an event to be a reason why a submission isn't shared – but the most compelling submissions have been the ones where a community member was able to present their idea either in person or via a recorded video.

These are ultimately your pain points and you know them well and seeing the thoughtfulness that has gone into each video or in-person presentation has been incredibly rewarding and inspiring. There's a lot of passion in this community and I love to see it.

How does The Web We Want work?

We would love to see more participation this year: more submissions and more videos or in-person submissions. I'll break down how the process goes leading up to a session, to the session and what happens after.

1. Think of a problem or feature gap in the web platform

Start off by thinking of something you constantly have to hack around. Do you have to build something custom when you think there should be a native way or element for that thing? Maybe there's a feature missing in the browser DevTools that isn't there. Maybe there's an API you've thought of. Whatever it is: it can be extremely broad or very specific. Browser vendors want to know!

Need some ideas? Here are some of the submissions from past events:

2. Submit your idea

Head on over to the Web We Want website and fill out the form. If you're interested in having your idea shared at a specific event, select that from the dropdown or select "I'm not attending an event, but am open to my submission being shared at one."

Once you've submitted, it may take a few days, but you'll get an email either letting you know if we need more information before we can post up the "want" on the website or a confirmation or rejection with more details.

To avoid getting rejected, my biggest tip is this:

Avoid broad and general complaints like:

  • "Fewer differences between browsers"
  • "Just have great tools"

These don't focus on specific problem areas and we can't do a whole lot with it. I'll say we've had to reject very few of the items submitted. So thank you the web community for submitting what you have so far.

3. Leading up to and at a live session

Depending on the number of submissions for an event session and who is running the event session, we'll assess the "wants" submitted and if the conference audience is the right audience for the "wants" submitted. Someone will reach out a week or two in advance of the event to see if you're coming to the event or will be able to provide a pre-recorded video presentation. We're looking for a presentation that is 3-5 minutes about the problem or feature gap you submitted.

This is a great opportunity to dip your toes into public speaking if you've been thinking about it!

At the event, the session has a few different components:

  • A panel of 3 industry experts
  • 4-6 lightning presentations about each individual "want" that was selected
  • Community voting and the judges' choice

I've emceed a few of the sessions so far and it's been a blast. I introduce the session, our panel of industry experts and then we kick off the lightning presentations.

In between each of the presentations, our panel of judges will discuss the problem or feature gap presented and offer their thoughts on each one. (There have been some great and thoughtful discussions that have occurred during the events so far.)

At the end of the session, the judges deliberate to pick which of the problems or feature gaps they think is most pressing for browser vendors and/or standards bodies to work on.

The session audience also gets a chance to vote on what they think is most pressing so we end up having a community winner and a judges' pick winner.

4. After the event

After the event session, we take the two winning items back to the appropriate folks: browser vendors or standards groups. Some other work needs to take place before we do anything on the browser vendor side and that's where we're at now with the winning wants from last year.

We're working to validate these problem spaces and gather more data before creating a backlog for our engineering teams. We're hoping that later this year we'll start to see some of these things be worked on by teams.

5. I submitted something and it didn't win or it didn't get presented, now what?

If you're incredibly keen to present and will be at one of our upcoming events but didn't specify that event, please reach out to me on Twitter or shoot me an email.

If you presented your idea and it didn't win, that's still okay! Aaron setup a voting mechanism on the website so folks are able to upvote the items that are most important to them. We'll be keeping a close eye on this overtime to track those upvotes.

The Future of the Web Platform

I've been on the browser team nearly 4 years already and I've slowly gotten involved with working with web community. I can only speak for what I've seen on the Edge team, but with our work on adopting Chromium over the last year, we have become so much more focused on feedback from the community.

The beautiful thing about The Web We Want is that it's a cross-browser and standards group effort. This is a collective effort by the folks who build the browser to listen to where those who build for the web think we should be focusing our time.

And if you're thinking, I want to be more involved though! Rachel Andrew has a great source for getting involved with the web platform. There are so many different ways to get involved.

Do you host a meetup or a conference?

One final note, if you run a conference or a meetup and are interested in running this community focused session, please reach out! We'd be happy to see how we can support running The Web We Want in more locations.

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