Shiny, Lightweight, Universal (Pick Two)
When in doubt, make it in Flash, apparently.
Mini-rant today, this one in response to another longform piece from Neocities user elaboraet. I can't tell you what it's actually called, because it's named three different things, but here's a link to it. It's ostensibly a rant about the ever-increasing weight of websites and how "all modern design looks the same". Kind of a muddled mess, but I vaguely agree with its point. Sites are bloated, and a lot of them probably look a little too cloney for comfort.
At the same time, some of its proposed solutions are pretty amusing, and it definitely reeks of roses and nostalgia. Take, for instance, the way it glamorizes Flash websites.
Adobe Flash, in its prime, enabled developers to create sites that were incredibly exotic, dynamic, were very interesting and overall appealing and fun to use or navigate. Now, this is not to say that every single site made with flash was a beautiful, unique work of art, and also not to say that sites made with something like Bootstrap are all mundane, redundant and boring, but what I am speaking of here is a general, noticeable, predominant pattern. Flash, unfortunately, nearly died and was almost wiped out due to lack of widespread mobile support. We have become a media culture that prioritizes mobile devices as #1.
Listen, I know we all love to glamorize the past, but Flash websites were absolute shit. Flash died because it was a security hazard and web standards grew to the point where we could implement all of the animation and media content that Flash enabled in-browser rather than using a plugin. This is a good thing. Flash websites were the Bootstrap sites of their time; they might not have been heavy, but they weren't user-friendly, machine-readable, or accessible. Flash content was not responsive; if you had a big monitor, that site would still be 640x480.
Why you'd ever hold up a Flash site as being a high point of web design, I have no fucking clue.
I also don't quite understand why people have an issue with phones being the dominant way people access media. It sounds like some old person "back in my day" shit, as if having a super powerful, super portable device to access any content you fancy at any time is something to bemoan. Phones have made internet access ubiquitous, globally (not that I especially agree with globalism), and while they haven't replaced my desktop, I use mine every day and I've made sure my site works well on it.
Every time I see a woke computer kid describe their site as "not mobile friendly", I get a tiny bit annoyed. It's pure laziness. Media queries allow you to have a functional, lightweight site on both desktop and mobile, and these people can't be assed to test on other browsers, let alone test on other devices. Why even bother pretending you have some passion for web design if you're gonna tell a varying amount of your potential audience to piss in a wall outlet?
No really, here's my stylesheet. Lightweight styling for mobile, unique layout for desktop. One media query. You have no excuse.
The other solution the essay seems to propose is...no styling whatsoever.
Sites that I would consider role-model templates for optimal information-viewing or serious, no glamour sites intended for quality reading (although do not necessarily have an opinion on their content) are lite.cnn.com or text.npr.com. These seem to be official HTML-only versions of the popular CNN and NPR news websites, whose parent sites (cnn.com and npr.com) are notably heavy. Sites like these are of those that prioritize information to the visitor rather than the illustrations, animations or visuals.
It's a total rejection of all the wonderful things the web has brought us to say there's no way to have a usable, informative site without going full 1994. Both the NPR site and the CNN site are dreadfully boring to look at and annoying to read; the text takes up the full fucking width of the viewport. There's barely a margin. The solution to sites being heavy and samey is not to make them vanilla and samey. Layouts are not the enemy.
We, for the first time in web history, we have the ability to make a shiny, lightweight site that works everywhere. Why elaboraet is keen on picking two and only two, I don't know.