Do We Need This?

Marc on 2020-11-04

Design is hard. Web design is even harder it seems with an unending choice of frameworks, fonts, templates, etc. to choose from. The design of this website has in itself been in a constant state of flux for almost a year now, repeatedly being expanded upon, reigned back, scrapped and rewritten, all in pursuit of making it just-right.

My previous design was already pretty minimal, black text, white background, the basics. Yet despite this I always felt that things were disjointed like every page had a unique, unconnected design. So about a week ago I decided I'd had enough and ripped out as much CSS as possible, the aim being for as few classes as possible, as few media queries as possible, as little CSS as possible.

I suppose the reason for this move towards less has stemmed from a bunch of conflicted feelings towards the direction the web is taking, more so from a content side than a technical one. My main concern being that far too much emphasis is put on the visual fidelity of a page than the actual content of said page.

Some time ago I stumbled across the concept of Parkinson's Law which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This Law has already been applied to countless other fields but I believe it firmly applies to the Web as well:

As the available network speed increases, webpages will expand to fill that available bandwidth (regardless of its neccessity.)

This is sentiment is verifiable as well given that on the average modern webpage (according to KeyCDN), the majority of any data transfer is made up of images and scripts. This majority only seems to get larger as well with the average page downloading under half a megabyte of image/script content (circa 2010), compared to the over a megabyte and a half that is typical now. An almost 109% increase. This focus on bombarding the viewer with fancy images and effects ultimately leads to saying less but with more "stuff", an issue I was starting to notice creep into my own posts.

I want to produce quality, longer-form content and the best way I see of achieving that is to remove the unnecessary components of my site that would obscure or hinder that goal. Where possible I have tried to place a far greater emphasis on visual clarity, my old design had the title section of blog posts literally fill the screen and readers had to scroll to view the post. Why? Because I thought it looked nice, and I do still have a soft spot for it, but when you're trying to read a new post only to spend 3 seconds spinning the scroll wheel before you can even see the first line that's not a good experience. So instead blog headers are now far more compact so that as much of the article is visible the second the page loads. Visual clarity has also been improved with multicolumn sections being converted to single columns as to better accomodate scrolling and visual flow. All of which is backed up with a host of under-the-hood adjustments to improve page-load times.

Ultimately this redesign has been a study in less, trying to dig deep and find out what it is I actually want for this site. A momentary visual "wow", or quality content that is worthy of your attention? I decided on the latter, with less visual clutter it is far harder to try obscure bad or shallow writing behind a veneer of pretty images and effects. Posts may take longer to write but I hope this new design will push towards content that is worthy of your time.