Net Neutrality: What it is, and Why Great Design is More Important than Ever

By now you’ve heard the buzz…

You’ve seen the notifications on Amazon, Google and Facebook…

Net neutrality protections are on the chopping block in the U.S. And the future of online access is increasingly uncertain.

But what is Net Neutrality? And what does it have to do with great design?

Net neutrality refers to the idea that all content on the internet should have an equal opportunity for visibility. 

This means that internet service providers, or ISP’s, should provide equal access to all websites on the world wide web. And, equal download speeds regardless of a website’s ownership, affiliation, or how many ad’s they’ve purchased from a particular company. Websites are treated with neutrality in terms of access, whether they land on the 1st page of search results, or the 10,001st.

In the U.S. and E.U., net neutrality has been protected through regulation and legislation.

Man reads about net neutrality and great design while at the office.

President Obama pushed through his “Plan for a Freeand Open Internet” in February 2015, when the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C) voted to formalize strong net neutrality regulations. And the E.U followed suit, passing legislation in November 2015. These regulations prevented ISP’s from “throttling”, or slowing down services, and from “blocking” webpages all together. Net neutrality proponents rejoiced, and an equal-access internet seemed assured for the future…

Until now.

On May 18, the F.C.C voted to roll back net neutrality protections, asking instead that ISPs regulate themselves however they see fit. This opens the door to a variety of scary scenarios! ISPs could very well impose a tiered-pricing structure, only offering access to certain websites if you buy a premium package. Or, they could “throttle” the download speed of any competitor’s website, effectively eliminating competition. They could even block websites altogether, choosing instead to only make sites available which they themselves own.

Yesterday, a group of grassroots organizations responded.

Partnering with thousands of tech companies large and small, they protested the proposed repeal on net neutrality protections. Companies like Spotify, Snap and Reddit joined tech giants Amazon and Google to re-direct traffic to notifications. They left comments on the F.C.C’s web page, and blasted out net neutrality information in an effort to let users know how the changing legislation will affect you.

Which brings us to the question you may have been wondering…

How will the uncertainty around net neutrality affect your business’ website?

The short answer is, we don’t fully know. The effects of ISP’s potential power will be determined by a variety of factors. For example, whether they chose to implement a tiered pricing structure and force companies to pay to be included in their lowest priced plan. Or, if they chose to do nothing at all! What we do know is that keeping viewers engaged and active on your site will be vitally important in an even more competitive space. This is where great design can help!

Well designed visuals are key to maintaining engagement in the midst of net neutrality uncertainty.

Images with great design will draw your user in, engage them in a relational exchange and and make them want to learn more. This is especially true across social media platforms, and when sharing a presentation. In fact, a recent study by BuzzSumo found that Facebook updates with images had an incredible 2.3x more engagement than those with only text. And, infographics have been shown to be 30x more likely to be read than text-only articles.

Woman brainstorms net neutrality and great design on a white boardPerhaps most impressive is SlideShare’s phenomenal internet presence, with nearly 160 million page views per month, and 70 million unique users. This is an incredible opportunity to capture your target audience within the broader channels of SlideShare, Facebook, etc, and to drive that traffic to your own site through captivating, well designed visuals. And as obstacles to internet access in crease, capturing your audience at its source will become increasingly vital.

So, this is what we know – the fight over net neutrality is causing the landscape of internet acess to shift in unpredictable ways. But, you can get ahead of this shift by optimizing your content with attention-grabbing, shareable graphic design. Whether through a SlideShare presentation or a social-friendly infographic, now is the time to engage your audience with great design!

We’d love to hear from you! What strategies is your business taking to prepare for a less regulated internet?

Want to learn more about the fight for net neutrality? Check out these great resources: