How This Site Works (p. 2)
In this article I’ll talk the design of the site and how I did it. For technical implementation details, check out part 1.
I’m not a big fan of CSS. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is the current web standard for the look and feel of a site When I used to work as a web developer, I tended to avoid all design tasks like the plague. Nowadays I work on the backend of the backend, so designing a website ends up feeling like a daunting task. Frontend work is full of wishy-washy decisions and hours of testing on multiple platforms. When I first started making websites, people put styling inside HTML tags and we liked it. Nowadays that is horrible practice, and I want to follow best practices wherever possible.
So I know that I needed an off-the-shelf template for the visual design. I wanted something that followed best practices so I wouldn’t have to figure them out, or embarrass myself by reinventing the wheel.
This site is an attempt to parrot the work of Edward Tufte, a champion in the field of information design. If you’ve never seen his work, I can’t recommend him enough. He uses very simple design, copious whitespace, and tightly-coupled images to present a ton of information in a very digestible way. His most famous work, his book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, is a wonderful guide to presenting complex information using graphics, charts, and tables. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves data, infographics, or appealing graphic design.
My books are self-exemplifying; the objects themselves embody the ideas written about.
If you flip through that or any of his other books, the design of this site might feel very familiar. I am using an incredible project called tufte-css, which is a CSS stylesheet designed to emulate Tufte’s handouts. I can’t thank them enough, they’ve made my job so much easier.
What appeals to me about about this design is that someone has provided me with a set of opinionated “best practices” for design. I’m sure I’m going to break the rules, but at least now I have rules, which is an issue I have with web design in general.