Sibyllae posted up some very interesting insights into design recently that definitely hit home with me.
I have now viewed over 782 “best of the best” (as they are titled) website and blog designs for CSS. They are all remarkable and well done. Since I am not a designer, I felt lost and out of place trying to meet the demands of the constantly evolving array of web standards. I felt frustrated. Then I looked closer and I asked myself the SAME question every time I saw something I liked at first sight, but knew I could not imitate in any way for lack of skills to do it; and the question was: “Let’s just assume you could build something like “this snazzy thing over here”. Can you look at this regularly or daily and work with it? Does it suit your purposes?”
Surprisingly, my answer was NO every time.
This echoes my recent revelations on how I want to be real. Simply put, no matter what cool design layouts I saw out there, none of them connected or resonated with me. Thus in trying to emulate them, I was only putting a mask on myself and not really representing who I really am which in turn resonated this “wrongness” within me. Therefore, I knew that I had to stop trying to emulate others and instead just be myself. Easier said than done. For now, I’ve gone back to my Working Late design that I made for Squarespace (but with a few adjustments to it). I like it but it still really isn’t me, as it’s a little too clean. I definitely liking Sibyllae’s new header image though, as it has a real grittiness and texture to it, something I’d like to add to my own site to give it more of a ‘down to earth’ feeling to it.
And from this I learned that one of the most important things about using the web as a medium for any form of expression is: IDENTIFYING YOUR PURPOSE. So through trial and error I identified the following: I am not selling anything, I am not Apple or Microsoft, and I am not a professional designer seeking work. So what does that mean? That means that I can create and re-create my own personal space as the whim suits me. It is OK if it it’s not perfect and doesn’t validate W3C every page, it is OK that it is not pixel perfect. It is ok to violate (which I probably do and I am sorry), every design principle. WOOHOO! 🙂 Maybe the concept here is not just relevant to creating a personal “space; ie: feeling good about your own means of expression… words to live by in other areas of life?
Totally agree. Even more so, I believe this is applicable to professional designers as well. For example, sure follow the rules for layout and functionality, so that your site is usable and accessible but go crazy with your creative juices and do something different, something risky. That’s my current problem. I keep looking at all of these designs elsewhere and while they are nice, some even beautiful, there is no emotion or feeling to a lot of them. They just feel perfect, polished, and empty. Again as noted above, I want this grittiness and texture to my site (in certain areas) and yet also this defused softness as well (in other areas). So I guess a kind of tao ying yang sort of thing.
Anyways, Sibyllae in researching bad design eventually stumbled across Lings Cars and Ling’s WebSite Advice. I won’t go over the various website advice of Ling (as you can read it yourself) but I will say that I was definitely surprised by a lot of what she said. Not in the sense that I thought it was wacky but in the sense of how much I connected with a lot of what she said at a deeper level. In a nutshell, it’s about stop trying to be perfect and start being yourself. When you do this, people will see you as someone who is genuine and thus can truly connect and trust you. Again a lot of it has to do about the feeling you emanate or resonate to others (i.e. “Talk normally, express emotions.”).
One final thing that I really found interesting is Ling’s advice about creating a site that is “alive”, as I’ve been thinking about this for a while actually. For example, so often people get upset about their sites because their designs are so static and never changing (which is why people, like myself, change them so often). This is nuts because it doesn’t truly represent who we are as individuals. Yes, I can create different moods for different sections of my site but it doesn’t really go as far as I want. Instead the idea is to create a living design that is able to change with your moods, seasons, or even holidays. Two great examples of this would be the various alternating designs within Vox as shown below (Autumn Kyoto Moonlight, Midnight, Setting Sun) as well as Hybridworks (with it’s little ever changing pixel world that you have to see to believe).
To be honest though, I’d love to push this down to even the post level. So if I was writing a post at night, in a certain mood, that feeling could be conveyed and carried across when you read the post on my website. Don’t really think this is possible yet though, as you’d have to include those variables within each post somehow. I mean I could encode the CSS within each post but that’d be pretty messy, especially for the longevity and sustainability of the site.
Anyways time to stop, as I’m starting to ramble. All said and done, I’m glad Sibyllae posted her thoughts and discoveries on design because it has definitely given me a lot to think about and potential directions to take with my own site design. Thanks Sibyllae!