Web Reliability

8. Flow as a first principle

Mitchell Kimbrough
Written June 5, 2019 by
Mitchell Kimbrough
Founder

Most of us remember our first airplane trips. Even as we became more seasoned travelers there were always those particular hair-raising flights that stand out in our memories. I remember traveling across the West Texas desert for instance, where I grew up. The air at flying altitudes tends to be turbulent due to the intensity of regional weather systems coming and going, as air pressure shifts. When your plane is caught in one of these shifting weather systems, and the turbulence really gets going, it can be quite harrowing. The plane might drop twenty to fifty feet when the turbulent air shifts. The passengers grip the armrests and pray. Then suddenly there’s lift again, and the plane bounces back up as passengers gasp and shout or laugh nervously. Usually, someone’s baby is screaming at the back of the plane. The cause of this mayhem? The lack of smooth, reliable airflow over the plane’s wings is to blame. As air flows over the wing of an airplane, lift is generated. The more reliable the airflow, the more reliably the plane stays in the air.

The Web Reliability Framework embraces flow as its first principle. Our commitment to flow as a fundamental concept grew from decades of experience in web work. When we encountered success on the web it seemed it was always wedded to smooth, consistent, dependable flow. Over time, it became self-evident that flow was at the heart of everything that worked really well and felt good. This is where Web Reliability thinking began.

So what is it that is flowing? Flowing over an airplane's wing is air. Flowing through a power grid are electrons. Flowing through a water pipeline are water molecules. So what is flowing on the web?

On a website, the molecular unit of flow is the customer. The customer has a problem, a need, a desire that must be met. The flow of this desire into, through and out of a website is our prime focus in the Web Reliability Framework.

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