Remove “Design” From Web Design

In my dream society, web design elements like fonts and colors would cease to be mandated by the publisher. Sites would send meta-data that says, for example, “this is an article” and the visitor’s browser would format it according to that person’s reading specifications.

You can already see this happening in ebooks, where I think most authors and publishers expect the text to be reformatted in seventy different ways based on user preference. Reader software puts fine-grained controls for fonts, margins, colors, leading, etc., as easy to reach as the bookmark and page-turn buttons. To some extent this is true with Twitter clients as well, e.g. Twitterific, and I doubt you’d find anyone who cares what font their tweets are read in.

Yet for blogs, magazines sites, newspapers, and the like, web designers seem intent on recreating the one-size-fits-all layout of the glossy magazine. The advantage of purely textual data is the flexibility of its representation and the fixed-format approach totally negates that. This, I think, is the worst lesson that web designers have learned from print design.

(originally posted as a comment on Coyote Tracks)

Published on Feb 13, 2014