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Undesign

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2003

Liz Bailey recently wrote an article called Lo-Fi Allstars (PDF) for Graphics International on the trend toward simpler, more usable web design. The article includes a few quotes from me about weblog design. Here’s part of a rambling email interview I did for the article:

Weblogs have definitely affected the look and feel of the overall Web. With weblogs, the design doesn’t matter so much. It’s not even really design, not to the people who just want to get a blog online so they can get their voice out there quick. All they want is something reasonably readable and distinct (and even the distinct part is optional…there are loads of BlogSpot sites that look exactly the same).

The explosion of zero-budget amateur publishing (nearly impossible before the Web) we’ve seen with weblogs, has resulted in a parallel development of zero-cost amateur Web/graphic design. Everyone is a writer. Everyone is a designer. As opposed to the design of personal home pages in the mid 90s where people were designing pages that expressed their individuality and personality, weblog design is much more functional in nature. There’s so much content flowing through the site that the design is almost a non-factor. If people can read the posts and if the design isn’t getting in the way too much, then it’s done 95% of its job.

Weblogs very much embrace the idea that the Web is ever in flux. In the late 90s, many Web design firms developed a ‘prototype, test, reiterate’ approach to information architecture and Web design, with various degrees of success. Webloggers seem to have developed a similar system on their own. The content they post is so fleeting that the weblog is always a work in progress. The writing is never done so why would the design ever be done either? Everything is malleable. Get a bad design up…if it works, tweak it using the feedback from your audience, and if not, throw it away and start over. But quickly, there’s writing to do.

Best practices are huge. If someone else is doing something that works, why change it? If you load up 10 weblogs at random and squint your eyes at the screen, they all look about the same.