Folks, when I first got into this web design thing, I must admit I had stars in my eyes. Now I have discovered that those stars are rather pointy, and also obscured the ugly truth behind ALL WEB PAGES! Read on for my shocking expose The Evil Behind That Home Page.
Look at Amazon, an absolute behemoth of ecommerce design. The most successful selling machine on the web. I’ve always marveled at the ever-changing array of goodies on their home page, and the way you can actually complete your purchase before you know what you want to buy! Here is the way they want you to see them:
Looks good, eh? Well, it’s NOT REAL. All those fancy products ARE NOT THERE. Here is the ACTUAL PAGE without that thin veneer of respectability plastered over it.
Wow! Can you picture anybody buying ANYTHING on this turkey? They should fire all their 2000 developers, right away.
Then, another popular destination on the web is the New York Times. All The News That’s Fit To Print. Here again is what they want you to see:
Looks like The News Don’t Fit here when you see the same page, but in a way they don’t want you see! Well, maybe the Army Reserves are happy about this.
OK, so maybe it’s unfair to target these sites. After all, they are utilitarian on purpose. Amazon’s goal is to get you checked out with anything as soon as possible and the New York Times is supposed to look like an 1890’s newspaper. Except you can’t line the birdcage with it.
I found this website called 20 of the Best Website Designs to Inspire You in 2019. These sites are supposed to be beautiful and inspire. They are like web page models prancing back and forth on a runway, looking all seductive and showy. With good ‘bones’.
Alright, let’s get a good look at these beauties. This is a product designers site. It sure does look good! Take a look:
Very nice! Unfortunately, it is but a trick. When you remove the obscuring veil from this site, all the awards turn to pumpkins.
From the same article, here’s a dreamy mindscape type site. Or, is that Uncle Louie smoking another Camel?
And, as happened with the others who have gone before, the smoke clears, revealing the syllabus Prof. Sudafed posted on the college assignments inter-web.
OK, you are probably wondering what the heck I’m going on about here. These images are all genuine screenshots of each website. Each two views are exactly the same web page, EXCEPT for one tiny, huge difference. The second image of each site has it’s Style Sheets TURNED OFF.
A style sheet is a file which tells a browser how to render a page.
Style Sheets are what make website design possible. They are the thing that tells the web page “Put that smoke-filled room here, and make it full screen.” “Put that bunch of news stories or products right near the top.” “Put all those products in that idiot’s basket and check him out before he looks at his credit card balance.”
Well, maybe not that last one.
One of the greatest advancements in web design was Mr. WordPress’s (I believe that was his name) idea that content and design should henceforth be separate in websites. So, what you are looking at in each 2nd screenshot above is the image and text content with no design, no stylesheet. Without style sheets, this semantic content can be much further down on the page where the average few seconds a visitor spends in utter confusion will prevent them from hanging around long enough to see it.
In WordPress, these designs are called Themes. The great thing about them is that they can be changed rather quickly to produce a radically different look to a site. For instance, I could change the way my site looks in just a few minutes. How about a jungle Theme with bamboo paragraph text! I just changed it, but I changed it back. Too hard to read bamboo paragraphs.
Of course, making, editing and customizing Themes (which is what I mostly do) takes a bit longer than just switching Themes 😉
Anyway, I hope I have not offended any of the owners of the websites mentioned above. All in jest and all that. Thanks for being good sports. (There goes my Amazon job.)
Happy browsing, folks!