How This Site Works (p. 2)
In this article I’ll talk the design of the site and how I did it. For technical implementation details, check out part 1.
I’m not a big fan of CSS. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is the current web standard for the look and feel of a site When I used to work as a web developer, I tended to avoid all design tasks like the plague. Nowadays I work on the backend of the backend, so designing a website ends up feeling like a daunting task. Frontend work is full of wishy-washy decisions and hours of testing on multiple platforms. When I first started making websites, people put styling inside HTML tags and we liked it. Nowadays that is horrible practice, and I want to follow best practices wherever possible.
So I know that I needed an off-the-shelf template for the visual design. I wanted something that followed best practices so I wouldn’t have to figure them out, or embarrass myself by reinventing the wheel.
This site is an attempt to parrot the work of Edward Tufte, a champion in the field of information design. If you’ve never seen his work, I can’t recommend him enough. He uses very simple design, copious whitespace, and tightly-coupled images to present a ton of information in a very digestible way. His most famous work, his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is a wonderful guide to presenting complex information using graphics, charts, and tables. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves data or infographics.
My books are self-exemplifying; the objects themselves embody the ideas written about.
If you flip through that or any of his other books, the design of this site might feel very familiar. I am using an incredible project called tufte-css, which is a CSS stylesheet designed to emulate Tufte’s handouts. I can’t thank that project enough, it’s made my job so much easier.
What appeals to me about about this design is that someone has provided me with a set of opinionated “best practices” for design. I’m sure I’m going to break the rules, but at least now I have rules, which is an issue I have with web design in general.