Series: DenyConformity.com Redesign Journal
This is part three (well, technically part four) of an ongoing series about the redesign of this website. Spoiler alert: the new design has been live for three weeks. I originally meant for this ongoing thing to actually go on as I was working on the new site and be sort of a teaser for the new design. Now that the new design is live, though, this will just have to serve as more of an ongoing discussion. Think of it as the audio commentary track for the Internet.
So far in these posts I have talked about the way the site came about, and some of the quirks and problems in the old design. Today I want to discuss some of my thoughts on Web Theory. Just what is the Internet? What is a website? What is DenyConformity.com, and how does it fit into the world?
One major problem with the Internet is its lack of tangibility. We know what a book is and a magazine makes perfect sense, but what is a website? Books, magazines, and other more physical things are limited by the nature of what they are. For example, a book has text on pages, magazines are a certain size, and a TV show has a pretty specific box (figuratively and literaly) that it has to fit in. A website doesn’t really have anything to conform to (hey, that’s like the name of this site!). There’s no limit to the design, content, platform, format, or audience that a website can have. Yes, that’s what makes the Internet great, but that’s beside the point.
The problem is that we need better terms. We can’t just call something a website just like you can’t go around bragging about your classic muscle car by telling people you have a “vehicle.” Think about everything that counts as a website. That old Hanson fan page from 1997 is a website. Homestarrunner.com is a website. Google Docs is a website. Facebook is a website. Engadget is a website. Is there anything that is common between any of those things, aside from some underlying technology and the fact that they all run in a web browser?
We have different kinds of websites, then. Google Docs is a web application. Facebook is a social network. Engadget is a technology news blog. We have a whole new vocabulary to describe all this stuff. It just isn’t enough, though. Go to your parents and try to explain to them what Homestar Runner is - or Twitter, or Tumblr - in a way that isn’t essentially just saying “it’s a really interesting website place.”
The Internet is almost by definition a lack of format. Is it even possible, then, to come up with terminology to describe what we do with it? More importantly, does it even matter?
The Internet doesn’t operate like any other medium. It’s not like a library, where you browse through great shelves of content. You don’t just go to Internet and click on Interesting Website Place. It’s like a vast, featureless subdivision, where every house looks the same from the outside, and you can’t walk in any front doors. The only way into a house is by going through another house. You don’t just walk up to a website, you have to be sent there.
How did you get to this page? Did you click a link on Facebook or Twitter? Did you stumble upon this page? Did you come here from the RSS feed or the main timeline? How many of you typed “http://www.denyconformity.com/post/389/Design_Journal_4” into your browser? Certainly very few, if anybody did that. Even the most pure type of traffic - those people who hear about this site and type DenyConformity.com into their address bar - are still only going here because they’ve heard about the site from some other source. No traffic on the Internet is original - it’s all second-hand.
Because of this, the concept of location doesn’t matter on the Internet anymore. Your browser’s address bar is becoming less and less necessary - a vestigial organ which only exists to comfort our need for a physical metaphor. Look at Google Chrome, where the address bar isn’t really an address bar anymore. It’s a search bar, where you can just type “interesting website place” and then you get Google links to anywhere you might want to go.
So who cares what a website is? It doesn’t matter what DenyConformity.com is, because all that matters is the content. The biggest surge of traffic I’ve gotten since the new site went live was last weekend, when somebody posted a picture from my “How to Ride a Bus” guide on their Tumblr page. There was no “check out this interesting website place.” There was just a link, and that link went right to a particular piece of content. People read that content, and then they continued on to some other link to some other piece of content.
The way I see it, there are three types of websites. There are the sites I use (Google Docs, for example), there are the sites I watch (stuff like Facebook or email, which I regularly check for updates), and there are the sites I consume. I’ll read an article here or watch a funny video there. DenyConformity.com is that kind of website - a thing to be consumed. It’s the magazine you pick up while waiting for an appointment. It’s the book you read while you’re on the bus. It’s the art you hang on your wall. DenyConformity.com is here for you to take in. That’s all. Maybe it will enlighten you, or maybe it will make you laugh, but it has only one goal: to be interesting. All I deliver is regular content that I find interesting, and that’s exactly what DenyConformity.com is here for.
Anyway, that’s why I just call DenyConformity.com “a really interesting website place.”