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Building a Better Web with Automated Testing on Real Devices

This article was originally published on Medium.

My work is entirely dedicated to that of helping people build better, faster and more accessible apps and websites. Running Calibre has given me a lot of insight to the challenges that teams face while building and maintaining their little slices of the web.

Something that has really struck me this past year is how little we as a web industry know about the ways in which people (yep, real people, not other web developers) access the Internet, and tangentially, how antiquated our methods of delivering content to users really are.

Sure, we’ve had some major advances in the last couple of years that are dramatically improving how quickly we can push content down to devices, but ultimately as an industry not much has changed from the core premise of “load the HTML, find the other resources, then load them too.”

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Dinosaurs fighting: "Eat Your Vegetablesssss!"

Left: Web developers, Right: Internet users.

Today, global Internet access is somewhere around 46.1%. That is, only half of the population on this beautiful blue marble that we call home will have a rough idea of what ‘pull to refresh’ means. The rest? Well, they’re not connected, so they probably don’t.

If you investigate the growth of the web over the last three years, it won’t take very long to find that Internet access in India has been growing at a rate of which we’ve never seen before.

In 2016 alone, India introduced 106 million people to the Internet, for the first time. To add some perspective, that’s around 290,000 people every day.

That’s growth of about 30% from 2015, and if those numbers are matched again in 2017 (this is highly likely), that’s another 140 million people.

Indeed, only 35% of Indians are online today, and the population is 1.2 billion.

We’re set for tremendous, unprecedented growth for the next few years.

Inconceivable!

Mobile usage surpassed desktop usage some time during 2014 — 51.3% of devices with an Internet connection, are hand-held. Being that hand-held devices are generally far cheaper (and often just as capable for everyday tasks as their more expensive and less portable counterparts, desktop computers) this does not come as a great surprise.


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Data and Connectivity

Last year I did some research to calculate how much mobile data cost in a number of locations around the globe. Taking the local minimum wage, finding the carrier with the largest market share, and finding the best value for money prepaid plan that had at least 500mb of data.

Number of hours worked for 500mb of data: India 17 hours; Brazil 13 hours; Indonesia 6 hours; Germany 1 hour

India topped out the leaderboard. More than 2 days of full time work to get a data plan that we in the western world would consider “maybe ok for your parents”.

It goes a bit further than that too, because even if you can afford to have a device, with a decent monthly data allowance, do not for one second assume that it will be fast.

Average LTE speed: Germany 20.3 Mbps; Brazil 19.68 Mbps; Indonesia 8.79 Mbps; India 6.39 Mbps

Regardless of the average LTE speed, I have more, perhaps shocking news: 60% of the worlds average mobile connections, are 2G.

That isn’t just “2G speeds”, that’s a 2G connection. On your iPhone, you might’ve seen the network advertised as ‘Edge’, and everything … well, it stopped working, right?

You may be thinking, “Well, almost everyone I know has at least a DSL connection … that should be better than the speeds I’m reading here”, and unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.

The global average Internet connection speed? 7 Mbps. ?

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