The Web and I, Then and Now

Things have changed a lot since I first published something online. If you were like me, you scouted around what was the Internet right when it first popped up and if you did, you remember what things looked like and how they evolved, from animated dogs running across screens, massive table layouts (which were in fact, believe it or not, already the next step in the evolution of the Web), transparent and adequately stretched one-pixel images to create layout spacing, to the first timid steps of web typography and somewhat aesthetic approaches to web page layout.

Then standardization began to take root. David Siegel, for example, had already tried to get everyone to use the same two link colors (blue and red) and attempted to get people to adopt an altogether more unified approach to web design, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) popped up, a group of “Standardistas” appeared on the scene that effectively forced browser developers to stop coming up with ever-more creative proprietary solutions to simple problems and get with the program, Internet Explorer was beaten down, and once everyone had risen from the ashes that were “Web 2.0”, things started to become more serious.

If we jump to the end of the timeline, what we have today, for better or for worse, is the “mobile” Web. Most people around me access the Internet on anything but an old-fashioned desktop PC and sales of those seemingly antiquated machines (of which I still own one and do most of my work on, thank you), as most of you probably know, have been dwindling these past years, much like those of books and CDs.

Today you stream, you swipe, you tap, you skim and you tweet.

For me, this development has also taken all the fun out of trying to come up with my own take on design.

Why?

It has just become too damn complicated. Whereas, in the past, people were able to translate an intricate Photoshop design into a more or less pixel-perfect web replica within a reasonable time frame, today this approach does neither apply nor work anymore. And, I agree, neither should it.

“Mobile first” is still a hotly-debated topic in some circles, but most people I know have adapted to the new ways that expect you to be able to design and program for anything from  tiny mobile phone screens and touch pads on refrigerators to 30-inch Apple screens, all at once. You can imagine that this kind of approach demands both a lot more effort and programming skills.

As Danny Glover said so poignantly in those “Lethal Weapon” films of long ago:

“I’m too old for this sh*t.”

I don’t have the time either.
I actually have a day job far removed from all of this.

I know quite a few people in what I would term the IT business, a term that doesn’t even begin to encompass the variety of activities going on there, but they all have one thing in common: they are part of a rat race that is impossible to win. Constant learning, constant changes in approaches, constant realignment of aesthetic considerations, often forced to follow the latest fads, especially if they want to earn some money.

I admit that this is an almost Darwinian thought, but I have seen far too few people able to adhere to their design principles AND earn money. Some succeed, many fail … others barely scrape by and hang on by the skin of their teeth.

Sad, but true.

[snip]

After some timid experimenting, I decided to take the easy way out for my comparatively tiny and, in the grand scheme of things, absolutely minor web endeavors.

I could have just quit. There were points on the timeline at which the enjoyment had evaporated or turned into an insignificant trickle, but, much like my rather eclectic musical tastes, things always snuck up on me again and bit me in the rear end.

Yes, I like “doing” something on the Web and, as I have often stated, that “doing” offers me reprieve from a rather stressing day job, a way to focus on something completely different and to step out of my usual comfort zone. All that, and more.

So, I decided to take advantage of all the reading, searching and watching I had done these past years and reboot most (not all) of my tiny sites into more modern times, responsive, adaptive and liquid. Pick your term. For us consumers it does not really matter what we call it, as long as it shows up on our phones, desktop screens … and refrigerators.

So, aside from polishing up the site you are reading this very moment, other small projects, some of which are only for myself, were dragged into the 21st century as radically.

As I didn’t have all that much time to dedicate to all of this, I came up with a plan last year and put it into motion, usually on the odd spare weekend:

  1. Trim the fat.
  2. Use themes designed and written by my favorite web professionals.
  3. Use plugins wherever possible.
  4. Minimize my own efforts in the long run.
  5. Streamline things.
  6. Save time. Lots of it.

Well, I am almost done. Those of you who have watched the evolution of this website are probably unaware of the fact that lots of other projects were forced down that evolutionary timeline as well, but they were. So, while you were waiting for a new post here, I realigned four other sites, from scratch, added two that I use to access important information when I’m on the road (or out and about), tweaked and twiddled, trashed and fiddled. To give you an example, and if you got this far, you should be proud of yourself, I

  • tweaked the menu structure on this site,
  • added a “Discography Websites” link list,
  • set up volkher-hofmann.de and moved (and didn’t change!) my “Anthony Vadala” memorial site,
  • got a small “Pocket Shots” site up and running, to be opened up next week,
  • am about to drag one or two of my school sites out into the open,
  • rethought many things to integrate time savers,
  • and terminated one or two total time sinks,
  • plus lots more.

So, things are moving.
Forward, I hope.

And, although it might not sound like it to you, I’m both saving lots of time and having fun again.

Not bad for a few weekends of work.

tl;dr.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and deus62.com is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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