Session Announcement: Digital Divide by Eric Mann

As developers, we are often on the leading edge of technology. We download beta software, sign up for new hardware updates months before they release, and push our clients to use as-yet-unfinished markup specifications in finished products. It is fun to be in the lead, and even more exciting to show off our new toys and tools when we make a flashy new thing.

Unfortunately, we are leaving most of our users, our customers, behind.

Two of the more popular buzz words in web design right now are “responsive” and “mobile-first.” Both refer to building your web project in such a way that it is optimized for a modern smartphone. Like most of what we do, it is cutting edge and exciting.

Mobile != Mobile

Only 30% of the global cell phone market is using a smart phone. To the other 70% of mobile users, you website is inaccessible to their device. They often have text-only browsers and have to rely on specially-built “feature apps” to use rich sites like Facebook, so your content is ignored by a huge chunk of your potential audience.

In some countries, this is the way most Internet is consumed, not on a MacBook or through Windows 8 or with an Android tablet. The end user does not benefit from your CSS media queries, HiDPI images, or user-agent-detecting JavaScript polyfills. They just do not get your content at all.

Likewise, many are unable to produce content of their own. The WordPress dashboard does not work in a text-only dashboard, and WordPress apps require a smartphone with a data plan to publish content.

I will cover the current landscape and explain a few of the tools that exist today to mitigate these issues, including a prototype I built that allows publishing WordPress posts from anywhere in the world via SMS. This will lead into an unconference where we can discuss additional tools and strategies for helping bridge the gap between WordPress and users with limited access to technology.

Feel free to connect with me beforehand with any thoughts you might have: @ericmann

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