My approach to building simple websites

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Tom Vincent’s blog

On day three of #100DaysToOffload, I’m thinking about web design and development after a brief exchange with a friend.

If you didn’t know, I’m an advocate for lightweight, accessible websites. As much as I love interesting and unique designs and admire the work on showcases such as thegallery.io, building a site that’s lightweight for people on slow connections and accessible to people with disabilities is a priority for me. As far as I’m concerned, the best designs are intuitive, functional, and fast.

I don’t know why anyone would prefer the average three-megabyte webpage with its ads, tracking scripts, pop-ups, flashes of un-styled text, and a plethora of other unnecessary bloat over, say, this minimal, four-kilobyte blog that makes my site seem a little too ornate.

The entire text of the King James Bible is four megabytes. Why should I need to download nearly that much data or more to read a 500-word blog post or news article?

My approach to building a website goes like this:

  1. I type a plain-text document that best represents the site’s primary content—a blog post, for instance—including potential header, navigation, and footer material.
  2. I add the correct HTML tags.
  3. I add just enough CSS styles to make the content comfortable to view with an emphasis on improving the readability of text.
  4. I check the site for accessibility issues and test whether it looks nice on all screen sizes.
  5. I search for ways to decrease the weight, number of server requests, and the amount of code I’ve used.

What about the ambiance? What about personality? How can you make a site your own without adding more stuff to the page?

One can do surprisingly amazing things with a small amount of HTML and CSS. Javascript and bloated content management systems are not required.

I’m not suggesting a website needs to be as bland as mine, but I believe the best parts of your individuality shine through your site’s content (i.e., your words).