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18/09/2021

2021/09/18#p1
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I fell down a rabbit hole last night, well in the early hours of this morning, reading rants essays from people extolling the virtues of small, performant, simple web design. When just 7 lines of CSS can make a page perfectly readable on just about any screen and things will be completely responsive because it's only a bunch of text.

I agree that we don't need to throw every available technology at a site, the old adage "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is true for a reason.

But...

I would equally argue that just because you don't have to doesn't always mean you shouldn't.

A typical day on the blog with a few posts and comments will come in between 100 - 150kb, including a jQuery library; the Garden page I used to draft this post was around half that. Not bad. Still, the brutalists would be shocked. Okay, there's a lot of whitespace to help make things more readable but my CSS file extends to around 1500 lines. Yep, you read that right. 1500! I hear your gasps.

This site is predominantly text (with the occasional image, video or audio file) but there are some JavaScript flourishes and features to give things a little movement and character. Do they need to be there? Probably not, but what harm are they doing beyond adding just a few kB to the total payload?

I'm all for keeping page sizes small but get equally turned off by sites that look like the contents of a Notepad window as by those that are horrendously bloated. Minimal design is one thing but brutalist, raw sites are often visually jarring — an unnecessary overreaction to the current state of web technologies. It's about finding a balance.

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L says:Reply to L

Colin writes on brutalism in web design: This site is predominantly text (with the occasional image, video or audio file) but there are some JavaScript flourishes and features to give things a little movement and character… what harm are they doing beyond adding just a few kB to the total payload? Which is right. I’ve been down the brutalist/minimalist rabbit hole many times, and, while fun, it’s pretty pointless. In the scheme of things, serving pages of 100kb probably makes you lighter than 95% of the rest of the web – adding 32kb of minimised, gzipped jquery is not a crime. (Incidentally, using jquery is more efficient than React, Angular et al.) Where does web design as a discipline sit alongside architecture, furniture design, landscape design etc? I think there’s a relatively banal interpretation of brutalism which produces kitsch looking websites that make a nod to how brutalist architecture can jar – I think this is what Colin is objecting to. But viewing brutalism as an approach to designing websites could be more fruitful, as the web’s materials are inherently fluid, responsive, distributable and plastic. Working with the web’s grain could help produce more accessible web pages. What aesthetic – if any – would that approach result in?

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COLOPHON
Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog