Earlier this year I “finished” (kill your darlings…) a redesign for the latex designer Naucler Design. This post was initiated right after that, but I haven’t gotten the motivation to finish it yet (killing another darling). The result is a hasty manifest to usability.
Naucler Design had long hoped to get a new website, but their first alternative as web designer wasn’t really appropriate. No agitation towards the original designer, everyone has their purpose in this world, but when the fundamental idea seems to be “bling-bling”, my inner minimalist gets brain-aids. The designer’s example had commercialism written all over it (FOLLOW THE BLINKING RABBIT) which in turn causes information to drowned in a sea of unintuitive design.
The other day I talked with a friend about the usability guru Jakob Nielsen. He usually knows best regarding design, accessibility and such, which many Web 2.0 fans forget about. He is a constant reminder that websites should be adapted for people who are blind, disabled, epileptics and deaf as well as search engines. Also the site should work for ordinary sheeple (IE), fashion bloggers (OMG PONIES!!!) and CEOs (iPhone) – all without giving the webdesigner brain aids.
Myspace is a good example of a site which has tried hard to ignore all critera for good usability. Not even the bands who use the site could possibly think it’s easy to use or even usable.
But I digress, back to Naucler Design. Their first alternative was to use Joomla!, a free and GPL’d CMS (Content Management System) which can do just about anything. The problem is that the general feeling I get is “hack upon hack” and in the end you have the world’s most bloated CMS. The administration is confusing and horribly inefficient and the codebase is generally slow. It’s my strong opinion that a content manager should manage content and not much more – am I wrong?
Personally I prefer WordPress for just about everything but static pages. I share their philosophy, the developers write beautiful code and they try hard not to add bloat. The design – both appearance and administrative – is also easy, concise and appealing. By contrast, Joomla is kind of like a xenon filled Hindenburg driven by a coal power plant and has to be modified with a blowtorch and sledgehammer.
True, there are many plugins for Joomla! which allow you to avoid the heavy tools. But the fact of the matter is that just about every single plugin is even worse than the original codebase, as well as they often promote Flash and other bloaty, proprietary technology. The bling-bling is also there in the background no matter how much you peal off. That’s what Naucler Design appreciated did not exist with WordPress’ standard design and philosophy. This simplified my task immensely.
(With that said, Naucler Design uses osCommerce for their webshop. osCommerce is old and stable but has an incredibly patchy and ugly codebase, by far worse than Joomla! But there are really no alternatives in that department, neither free nor proprietary software. So let’s leave that aside for the sake of this post.)
So please, people who are about to create or remake a website. For a greater good – including web standards and such – please choose a solution where you choose rather than remove components. If you find yourself “adding too much” – despite a site engine like WordPress – you’re already doing it wrong. Remember that the information flow on today’s internet is huge and that people ignore most of what they see – especially advertisement. So make sure what you’re offering is clean, simple and informative.