Friday, August 16, 2013

Holistic WebGL

  1. Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
  2. Characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical...
Definition from Google Search

As I've established way back on the very first post on this site, WebGL is awesome. So awesome that one might be tempted to start seeing opportunities everywhere around the web to throw some 3D goodness at it. After all: when your hammer is a 3D API, every problem looks like a vertex array... er, or something like that. Now never let it be said that I discouraged the use of WebGL, but as developers we should also be aware that every technology has a time and place.

What is holistic WebGL? It's application of the technology in a way that takes in to account the entire web experience, not just the content of your canvas tag. Holistic WebGL content is considerate about it's context and respectful of the user's time, attention, and battery life. In essence, it's the exact opposite of this:

Now I'm guessing that very few visitors to this site were actively working on "Punch the Polygonal Monkey" banner ads, but it's not hard to envision such a thing. After all, we all know that "eye catching" is an advertiser's friend. What's a poor ad designer to do now that their beloved Flash is being slowly smothered? Why, hellllooooo there HTML5! What lovely WebGL you have! And now we have pages where a deluge of banner ads all rendering beautifully shaded cars, watches, and pharmaceuticals makes your battery commit suicide, your fans squeal, and your page chug.

But wait! It doesn't have to be like that! WebGL can be used in a way that's both exciting and engaging while simultaneously being non-obtrusive and (crucially) non-rage-inducing. Much of it involves simply being aware of what place your WebGL content in the page as a whole.