ffog: what not to do on a website

bopbop

For most people "the web" these days is a platform where they spend much of their time, such as Facebook/Instagram. However, many individuals and business have their own sites outside of platforms. In the 1990s it was possible to create your own page from scratch, put it up on a host service, and have search engines find it. Now most people use professional designers, or their page hosts offer templates created by professional designers. Gradually over the last ten years two factors have changed the look of web pages. First, those professional designers like to use "scripts" such as javascript to build browser-readable pages (even though a simple HTML page is all that's necessary to be public). Secondly, more and more people have employed smartphones rather than desktops to access the web, which has necessitated changes in page design.
What's emerged is a horrible style of web page that features empty space, big blocks of color and endless scrolling: infantilizing masquerading as tasteful. It's increasingly the standard look for media publications as well businesses and individual pages. One might hate this style but lack the vocabulary to critique it, because professionalized tricks and jargon have become more opaque and intimidating over the years. What are these design Morlocks doing exactly and how did we get here?
Fortunately ffog (with assistance from fanfare) has made a page called what not to do on a website which gets into the minutiae. Some bullet points are tech-related but mostly they're just common sense design critique.
Below is ffog's list (a work in process) of things not to do (which are in fact being done everywhere):

  • advertising business model
  • dark patterns
  • unrelated content
    • reddit "More posts ..."
    • youtube "Recommended for you"
    • news sites that load another article at the end
    • youtube autoplay. soundcloud neverending music
  • trend-copying design
  • peek-a-boo elements examples
  • large sections with bountiful negative space that look nice but have no real content
    • example: every startup website on the internet
  • endless scrolling
  • 5 min. read
  • change default scroll behavior whatsoever
  • intercepting native copy-paste
  • mindless humor bereft of biting truth used in an attempt to not seem stuffy
  • indulgent explanations of basic concepts instead of just enough detail
  • exclamation points
  • social icons
  • most modals [see wikipedia modal window --tm]
    • medium.com aggressive signup links
    • dimming window showing anything
  • sticky headers
  • almost all comments sections
  • conversational titles
    • "Yes, ..."
    • "... Here's Why."
  • unhelpful 404 pages
    • cute oopsie messages
    • anything alluding to the user having done something wrong
    • error pages that don't try to figure out what the user was looking for to help direct them
  • circle avatars
  • anything with mustaches, bacon, ftw, coffee, beer, chuck norris, etc
  • made with <3 in toledo
  • pop-ups for a tour of features you can't exit
  • gamification
  • transition animations everywhere as you scroll
  • intentionally buried or hidden settings
  • forced features
    • twitter moments
  • misplaced ai
    • twitter, facebook altered timeline with no options
  • mention blockchain

wikihow

screencaptures: fanfare

20 years of blogging

My first blog post appeared on February 21, 2001, so today is my 20th anniversary.
I launched on Digital Media Tree (still alive and kicking), a platform created and maintained by Jim Bassett, and continued near-daily blogging there until 2007. I created tommoody.us in 2004 as a side project and made it my permanent home in July 2007.
In the early '00s many writers started blogs and used them as platforms to get noticed by major media. My trajectory was the opposite: I had "done" institutional writing for many years and wanted something more freewheeling.
The blog took my life in many unexpected directions and I'm still bullish on the form, even though the career-minded fled long ago for "social." Silicon Valley's reconstitution of the blog template into enormous silos of content struck me from the beginning as another form of institutional straitjacket.
So here I still am.
From 2001-2007 I had comments enabled and the resulting conversations helped build a readership. Many never forgave me for closing comments in '07. In 2001 there was no comment spam and anyone could chime in; after a certain search engine "monetized" content, giving spammers an incentive, I would have had to add a moderation plugin such as Akismet and I opted not to do that, not wishing to deal with the daily drip of "why didn't my comment appear?" questions. I was also frankly tired of people getting up in my face -- I had spent years writing for magazines without the joys of immediate feedback (except from editors) so I just went back to that as my default position. I learned that if readers are annoyed with my content here they usually find a way to get that message to me. (It's still happening.)
Another large change was dialing back political content. In the '00s I suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome and sounded off every time Dick Cheney did something horrible.
Post-Snowden that kind of editorializing felt more problematic. I didn't stop having politics but began looking for ways to implement them that didn't result in a Stasi-like dossier of personal foibles. Fortunately most of the Bush ranting just seems quaint now.

around the web: computers-R-stupid edition

Pepe Escobar on AI predictions in the 1980s.

• Maciej Ceglowski on The Website Obesity Crisis (hat tip John Romero). Published 5 years ago and sites have only gotten fatter and slower, tommoody.us included. One of my New Year resolutions is getting a WordPress theme that doesn't use fonts from Eric Schmidt's company (how did that happen?). The font files aren't that large, I don't think, but there's a slight hang while they load that's annoying. I also don't think a page like mine needs all these damn scripts. I do remove embeds once they drop off the front page, because I hate embeds.

retired CD-R design

recombinant_youth_cd1

The MAM-A company (recently sold to an outfit in Chattanooga called WTS Media) changed the design of their CD-Rs and no longer offer an edge-to-edge white printing surface on their gold discs, as seen above. Now there is an obnoxious, bling-y 3mm gold rim around the white. I am rethinking my CD-R design for future releases, since I won't be making more copies with that design.