Three takeaways for web developers after two weeks of painfully slow internet access

This writeup on Medium is a great article for app and website developers. Like designing for accessibility, considering and designing for slow data access can vastly improve user experience.

I had to use tethering to get work done over the last month due to a very flaky wi-fi access point at a work location. Because of that, I managed to hit my data cap before the end of the month, and spent over a week with horribly throttled access that rendered anything without an offline mode or a robust low-data mode basically useless. Most syncing worked — slowly; most browsing or even non-text Twitter didn’t.

Third-party apps fared the worst. I could get pages to load in Safari on my iPhone that Tweetbot was unable to display. This experience, not long after the announcement of Safari View Controller across apps in iOS 9, made me fully appreciate just how big of a change more open developer access to Safari will be. Developers won’t have to write their own browsers, and users will get access to all of the caching and performance tweaks implemented in the system browser. When you’re running at 0.12 Mb/s up and down, you really, really appreciate optimizations and performance fallback modes.

Kanjilicious

Kanjilicious is a game/study tool looking for funding on Kickstarter. He’ll be using the funds to buy rights for assets like music and illustrations, as well as paying some people for app-related work. I’m personally not a big fan of gamifying study. I get better results by working alone most of the time (shocker), but I’m not most people.

The huge popularity of games like Words with Friends and Letterpress show that a lot of people like competitive word/puzzle games. I think he’s going about it in the right way, by setting up a base that he can build on for future games and kanji sets.

Kanjilicious has a learning tool at its base, and even anti-social humbugs like me may find that the social gaming feature of the app gets them to open the app and review more often, whether they actually engage in game matches or not. My son will very shortly be getting to the point where he could really use bilingual learning tools (he’ll be turning 4 in a couple of weeks) and this might be an app that he’ll use for learning to read in Japanese.

I’m in for $25 because I think this is an interesting approach — and having only the first set unlocked would make it really, really pointless for me. The game aspect will probably make it appealing even to people who only have a casual interest in learning Japanese, which I think is a Very Good Thing. Demystifying a subject for people is nearly always positive, in my experience. If you have even a slight interest in learning the Japanese writing systems, backing this project would probably pay off for you.

I’ve used iFlash on my Mac from around 2005 for learning Japanese vocabulary and kanji. I also have used the free Japanese dictionary imiwa? since I got my first iPhone, back when it used to be called Kotoba!

I’ve tried several other apps for making study more fun or ingraining habits, like 30Day Japanese Words and similar structured study apps, but the ones I’ve found most “sticky” are ones that were multiply useful. imiwa? has a Favorites list that I can export and use to make a personalized deck of words which I’ve had to look up recently. iFlash is a venerable tool that I’ve used for memorization practice for years, and the creator set up a deck-sharing feature that I’ve found interesting; I recently downloaded a Russian cyrillic letter deck, for example.

I won’t know until I actually use it, but it looks like the kind of app I’ll find useful enough to launch on a regular basis.