The Wild West… so named for the lawlessness seen across the American Midwest in the late 1800s. From gambling to gunslinging, and everything in between, it’s a world we find difficult to imagine today. Why? Because we’ve evolved. We’ve matured. We’ve developed rules that keep society running (relatively) smoothly. Isn’t it time we developed the same sort of rules for the web, too?
Much like the Wild West, the web has long been a place where anything goes. Anyone with a computer has been able to build a website and show it off to the world. Regardless of its content, its quality, its accessibility, or anything else.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. After all, the internet was invented to be open-source and accessible. On the other hand, due to the lack of web standards, the opposite is often the case with many websites being slow to load and difficult to use.
But thanks to Google, things are beginning to change.
When the inventor of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994 his vision was standardise how websites were built so that the content would be available to as wide a population of the world as possible.
However, even though W3C developed the Web Standards Project they have never been able to enforce their recommendations. There’s no direct benefit to complying, nor is there any significant risk to not complying. After all, the internet is difficult to police – if you’ve got a user in Ireland looking at a website for a Dutch company hosted in America, which government would be responsible for standards?
The good news is that Google is taking matters into its own hands. It’s giving website owners a reason to listen – a reason to abide by best practices in web design – through Core Web Vitals.
Launched in 2021, Core Web Vitals are, in Google’s own words, a ‘set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page’.
There are three web vitals in total: largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. Together, they look at how long sites take to load, and how loading impacts the user experience.
The intention of Core Web Vitals is to ensure that every website out there is being built to the same high standards and offer a great user experience. No overwhelming animations. No over-the-top bells and whistles. Nothing that slows a site down to a point where it becomes frustrating and unusable. This isn’t the Wild West any longer. The web isn’t a free-for-all. We’re better than that.
A question you might be asking right now is this: ‘How is Google motivating website owners to abide by these new standards?’. And it’s a very good question. The answer is that the search engine giant is incorporating Core Web Vitals into its own ranking algorithm. According to Google, this would ‘introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience’. So what exactly does all that mean?
It means that the metrics within Google’s Core Web Vitals are now taken into account when determining a site’s position in the search engine results pages. Essentially, if you’re not building websites like Google wants you to, you’re going to struggle to maintain your site’s ranking.
It’s a shame that Google is doing this rather than the government. But then, Google is well placed to make a difference. Sites that depend on search – which, let’s be honest, is most of them – will have no choice but to improve as a result of Core Web Vitals if they want to remain visible.
Core Web Vitals are helping to build a better internet for everyone. And I’m personally proud to be embracing these new metrics, developing great sites that offer a great user experience.
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