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The Slow Web

Photo of a snail

Slow yet delicious

I was having a chat with one of our clients a few weeks ago when he sprung the term “Slow Web” on me. I’d never heard it before but apparently it’s becoming quite the thing – there’s a even a whole “Slow Movement” culture that encapsulates it. Skeptical at first, the more I read about the Slow Web movement, the more it makes a whole kind of sense to me.

Not to be confused with the “Deep Web” (which is for pedophiles and hackers – yeah, I watched House of Cards too), the Slow Web is all about, y’know, slowing things down. It’s best described as the exact opposite of “The Fast Web”, in which every web site, every interaction, every notification, every single iota of feedback and communication is flung at you as fast as possible, all in the name of instant gratification. Click this, tweet that, share those, respond right now – The Fast Web demands from us constantly in a fashion that’s often random and unpredictable.

The Slow Web concept is the antithesis to this approach and tries to promote thought and interaction over speed and habitual feedback. It’s about taking time to appreciate what’s going on around you; reflection as opposed to efficiency. It’s about fully absorbing yourself in what you’re doing in order to produce a more satisfying result; the journey not the the destination. It’s about quality over quantity; doing things well instead of doings things fast.

As someone who can’t keep their hands off their iPhone or nose out of their email for more than 15 seconds, I find the notion of The Slow Web incredibly appealing. I want to slow down. I want to take more time to think about my actions, both in my personal life and my professional. It’s also why I love the full screen feature in OSX, software like iA Writer and sites like Medium – anything designed to help me block out the demands of the world around and just focus on a single item without distraction. Unbeknownst to us, this embodiment of The Slow Web was also something we emulated with PoetryZoo (the site of the aforementioned client) when we designed it with the idea of removing every distraction possible from the writing UI. Originally we regarded it as a brave decision; twelve months later and it just seems sensible.

The culture of the Slow Web is something I wish more sites would embrace. It’s a hard battle to fight, of course, because it’s such a strange concept to us what with the seeming constant demands to shove calls-to-action everywhere, gorge ourselves on functionality and hammer in social media features until the cows come home. In such a fast paced world, the idea of spending longer to accomplish more seems very alien indeed. And yet, when our attentions are vied for so strongly, it seems more important than ever.

Happily enough, the Slow Web seems to be gaining traction and if sites like Medium and software like iA Writer show us anything it’s that the confidence to just let people get on with their actions and digest the information presented to them without being constantly pestered has great rewards. And it’s proving popular. Maybe after the trend of constant communication, instant feedback loops and social media bombardment wears itself out, we’ll see the decline of the Fast and the rise of all things Slow.

Image credit: David Stewart

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.

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