Lucky number fourteen

When I first learned to make websites, design didn’t even cross my mind. I made it up as I went along, writing HTML in a stream of consciousness. Like a kid playing with Legos, these seemingly limited building blocks let me rapidly express the impulses of my imagination.

Eventually, that playfulness is forced to contend with “real world” concerns. We become more sophisticated, involuntarily defining our trademark sensibilities based on whatever details we’re drawn to. We learn to appraise the success of our work in the hands of the user, our subjectivity waning as our experience deepens. We adopt creative processes so that we’ll be more reliable and prolific. If we’re smart, we change them often.

I had dinner the other night with Erik Jung, a designer I work with who I’ve known since college. We talked about all that’s changed in just a few short years, particularly how exhaustive our visual design process used to be. Every detail of every page would be rendered in Photoshop before a single line of HTML was written. The goal was always “pixel perfection.”

Perhaps arrogantly, and often in defiance of our aspirations, we treated our browsers like printed pages. We celebrated our progress as we widened our minimum design widths from 750 pixels to 960. Websites were often judged on their consistency browser-to-browser.

We were way off. The “purity” of our designs was a distraction. The web is most beautiful when it tolerates the diversity of its audience more than the whims of its creator.

This redesign is the first public iteration of my effort to embrace that fluidity. It was designed almost entirely in-browser. It uses CSS media queries to respond to different resolutions. Visual touches that rely on certain browser capabilities have not been suppressed for the sake of consistency. Internet Explorer 6 is no longer supported. Sections have been trimmed, consolidated and simplified, and font sizes have been boosted to promote readability.

I’m sure I’ve gotten some stuff wrong. Mobile First arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and I very nearly halted progress to re-factor everything (again). Luckily, I was in the middle of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography at the time, so the “real artists ship” mantra ended up winning out.

The truth is, it will never be perfect… the web moves too quickly for that. Our assumptions will always misfire. All we can do is observe, iterate and learn.

I think playfulness is making a comeback.

Responses

Vin Thomas says

Lools really great bro! Even from my iPhone. Can’t wait to check it out on my iPad and laptop too!

Congrats on an awesome redesign!

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Tyler Sticka says

Thanks so much, Vin!

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Alex Williams says

Looks good Tyler

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Erik Jung says

Really nice work! The thought that went into it is apparent in the many pleasing little details throughout the site. A shining example of progressive enhancement, my friend.

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Tyler Sticka says

Thank you, Erik, both for your kind comments and all of the shiny new ideas and techniques you introduce every day. It was fun getting to borrow so many of them!

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Gary Foubister says

Looks great! I love the “Read later” integration. Nice touch.

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Tyler Sticka says

Thanks, Gary! I’m a heavy Instapaper user, and since most of my posts tend to be on the verbose side, I thought readers might appreciate it.

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Jonathan Simcoe says

Impressive work Tyler! I love the illustration style and feel of your website and the playfulness between flat interface elements, big type, and subtle textures. Always awesome seeing more of your work. Congrats man!

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Faye Ackeret says

Tyler – this is lovely.

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Tyler Sticka says

Thank you everyone (those I’ve already thanked plus Alex, Jonathan and Faye) for the words of encouragement. Truly appreciated!

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