Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

How will the world remember landmark design on the web?

January 16, 2014

Jason Santa Maria, on The Pastry Box Project:

We talk all the time on our personal and periodical sites about the latest techniques for design, but how often do we break down new designs? I mean really discuss them, not just add them to a gallery of notable sites.

Jason was moved to rethink about this topic of landmark design on the web spurred on by a tweet. He then wrote the aforementioned piece and, since, others have chimed in too.

I saved them (in the quickly-being-updated-daily Nilai) so that I could write about them.

Jeremy Keith, sent this piece he wrote in 2007 to Jason via Twitter:

I’d like to humbly submit my answer. I think there is a website which can be accurately described as an iconic landmark project. That website is the CSS Zen Garden.

We’ve been fortunate enough to see the return of the CSS Zen Garden.

Then, Cennydd Bowles through in his three part Beauty in Web Design series.

That said, I think web designers should appreciate that we can play an important role in society. We’re lucky enough to work on the coalface of the most exciting innovation of modern times. We’re on the brink of wonderful things. So yes, we’ve underachieved, but given the evolution of beauty and the tools now available to us, the web is an ideal vehicle for beautiful design. We’re the generation to turn that promise into action.

I remember discussing a problem with Jason many years ago via Instant Message. The problem was  preserving the design of a URL as well as the content. Jason often thought that saving bookmarks to a service like Nilai, or then Magnolia, or Delicious, or Pinboard, would often lose the design of that URL with the passing of time. Saving a URL today may mean the content is the same tomorrow but it doesn’t mean the layout will be.

A poster, or map, or just about anything physical, as Jason refers to in his piece, can be preserved but web design seems to just go away. I know things like the Way Back Machine exist but that does a poor job of preserving a design but a better job of trying to preserve the main content.

A few decades from now, when those of us who remember the beginning of the web are dead, how will the world remember landmark design on the web? It won’t be from a CSS gallery.