San Francisco, California

In Defense of a Fussy Website

Sarah wrote this great post for CSS-Tricks the other day about making fussy websites;

When a site is done with care and excitement you can tell. You feel it as you visit, the hum of intention. The craft, the cohesiveness, the attention to detail is obvious. And in turn, you meet them halfway. These are the sites with the low bounce rates, the best engagement metrics, the ones where they get questions like “can I contribute?” No gimmicks needed.

I love the examples she gives, particularly when Sarah mentions Cassie Evans’s website which is nothing short of lovely. But! There is one tiny note that I politely sort-of-maybe disagree with here. It’s when Sarah writes:

I’m getting a little tired of the web being seen as a mere document reader, and though I do love me a healthy lighthouse score, some of these point matrixes seem to live and die more by our developer ego in this gamification than actually considering what we can do without incurring much weight.

1000% agree about the developer ego stuff. I see a lot of talk about performance and sometimes it’s focused on the user but a lot of the time it seems like a bragging point, another way to make engineers feel superior to other folks. Like when people rant about how webfonts are big and dumb and silly.

But! I certainly don’t get angry about seeing the web as a mere document reader. I think what I get mad about is when people don’t treat the text with as much enthusiasm and charm and wit as Sarah argues that the UI should have. The problem isn’t the document, it’s that a website is often a boring document. They don’t play around, they’re not weird enough. The text is just...there.

I guess my point here is that I thoroughly agree with Sarah, but I think that text can also be fussy. Text is an interface; it can be just as wild and bizarre as a new font, or a beautiful illustration, or buck-wild gradients splashed about all over the place. In short: we should treat text with the same degree of fussiness.