Most people don’t use the Web. A large majority (80% plus) of planet Earth are not online. One of the reasons for this, maybe not the main reason, but certainly a substantial reason, is that computers in their current form are simply too complex and require too much investment of attention to be useful to these people. They are not interested in simultaneously having a computer experience doing useful tasks and managing that computer experience (opening windows, moving things about, managing apps, maintaining security, wrangling updates, etc.). Not because they aren’t clever enough, just because doing things on a computer still involves too much computer to be useful to them.
The Apple iPad could possibly be the first main-stream device to successfully push past this “too much computer” bottleneck and present a new paradigm in interacting with data and functionality. Certainly, a strong argument can be made that this could be the case. Will others follow if this proves to be the case? Certainly. Will their subsequent attempts outdo Apple’s products? Could well be. The important bit is the paradigm shift itself, rather than which particular company is driving it.
So, let’s say Apple (for the sake of argument) does create this shift and makes computers useful for people who are currently uninterested. Their expectation of how a computer works will be based on this new paradigm, which will be fundamentally different in a few or many ways to the existing one.
Let’s also say that the number of users who come to exist within this paradigm far outnumber the users who exist in the “currently interested” paradigm. The numbers certainly suggest this is a possibility.
What does the Web need to become to fit this new paradigm? How many of the design and functional norms that currently exist are children of the “currently useful” paradigm and simply not applicable in the new one?
Has web design up until this point been aimed at a skewed, early-adopter demographic and we haven’t really noticed?
And, if this is the case, what happens to us when everyone else arrives?