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The Little Box Challenge & Overall User Experience

Tue, 29th July 2014, 14:15

Google and The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have announced that they will be awarding one million dollars to an enterprising individual(s) creative enough to shrink a big box into a much smaller box.

The goal of the competition is to create a kW-scale inverter with the highest possible power density of at least 50 Watts per cubic inch. Anyone who knows what that means and has a healthy disregard for the perceived limits of engineering, would be a great contestant for this challenge.

Google claims that they believe inverters are becoming increasingly important to our economy and environment. They believe that a main purpose for hosting this competition is to inspire much advancement in technology that we cannot even fathom today.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a professional association committed to advancing technological innovation for the advantage of humanity. The IEEE Power Electronics Society (PELS) has facilitated and given direction for the development and innovation of power electronics technology for decades. The PELS will be assisting in judging the Little Box Challenge.

So basically, both Google and IEEE are hoping this contest is able to spur innovation that can tremendously reduce the size of power inverters and produce a device that is capable of converting electricity from direct current to alternating current. With these technological advancements achieved, Google and IEEE hope that smaller inverters could potentially lower costs and increase efficiency and reliability.

Applicants considering competing in the Little Box Challenge must first register their team by September 30th, 2014. For academics that are eligible, grant applications must be submitted by September 30th, 2014 as well. More information on the contest can be found at littleboxchallenge.com.

 

Not so fast. The lowdown on Overall User Experience

 


Even the less tech-savvy internet users are aware of the importance Google places on page load speeds and overall user experience. So, we have decided to run a few tests of our own on the site where the contest is announced.

The first test we ran using Domain Tools was no surprise to us. The site itself runs on Google servers located in New York. It did however; highlight the importance of tagging images that are used for visually impaired users... even more importantly how not tagging images could affect a visually impaired using screen readers. In addition, not tagging images makes search engine optimization (SEO) much more difficult as well.

 

domain tool report on little box challenge


While Domain Tools may be great for getting the whois on a domain, there are superior tools available to measure webpages against accessibility standards (Now mandated by law for commercial websites in some locale).

Ignoring those legal implications for a moment, striving to ensure a website meets the minimum accessibility standards will not only provides a better overall user experience for visually impaired users but can also have repercussions on the effectiveness of those search engine bots crawling the web. (editor's note.. think SEO)

AC Checker confirmed the suspicions raised by our first test regarding accessibility:

 

screenshot of AC Checker test results on the Little Box Challenge website 

The WAVE web accessability tool showed similar results.

Moving on, Google has attempted to impress upon the masses the importance of page load speed for overall user experience. Numerous studies have collaborated this notion which can be summarized in the KISSMetrics Infographic showing 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.

Below is an image that explains the recent performance results for littleboxchallenge.com. The test was run using a tool called GTmetrix. As it shows in the image, the site seems to be somewhat mediocre when it comes to overall page speed.

GTmetrics report on the Little box challenge website

 

Lessons in life

So what can we all take away from this.

Not making web hosting and page load speed a priority will cost YOU in the end, and will ensure your project doesn't have the competitive edge that others in the sector do have. Additionally, that more work is needed to ensure accessibility standards continue to be incorporated into the best practices of web development.

Lessons less learned.

When offering a million dollar bounty those studies about page load speed and conversions are less applicable and that while money can't buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.

Now Dust off the Propeller Beanie and Get to Work!

 

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