disassociated.com takes its origins in what now seems a primordial desire of mine to be a web designer. That I had no knowledge, or for that matter, experience, in the field was irrelevant, a mere detail. I made it, for a time, but soon realised I was really looking for a way to publish online, rather than build online.
Still, it all remains a reminder to me that anything is possible, should you set your mind to it.
I’ve been reading the articles of New York City based web designer Jeffrey Zeldman for near on seventeen years. Zeldman, also known as the godfather of the web, has been designing the web, and writing about it, for twenty years now. Time is passing.
Maybe Gates said he didn’t believe in easy on the eye web design instead, if the inaugural front page of the Microsoft site, above, is anything to go by. Mind you, he wasn’t alone in that regard, that’s what much of the web at the time looked like.
It was the date of this article, or the year it was published, 1999, that caught my eye. To my mind 1999 is possibly a point in time that inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance, almost as if it were the temporal junction point of the entire space-time continuum. Whatever. I thought I’d link to it anyway.
A list of the top ten web design mistakes of 1999, compiled by the much reviled, at the time at least, web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen, who, way back in 1999, was concerned that web designers weren’t giving much thought to the way information was archived on a website:
Old information is often good information and can be useful to readers. Even when new information is more valuable than old information, there is almost always some value to the old stuff, and it is very cheap to keep it online. I estimate that having archives may add about 10% to the cost of running a site but increase its usefulness by about 50%. Archives are also necessary as the only way to eliminate linkrot and thus encourage other sites to link to you.
I like the sound of this idea, a museum of sorts, for web design artifacts, which possibly includes disassociated. I now regret not better archiving some of my earlier designs, if only for personal reference purposes, but it unfortunate that the interfaces of many websites dating from the 1990s are irretrievably lost.
For too long we have relied upon a service that “archives” other websites but it’s not enough. The archives are tragically incomplete and lack the means to provide the full experience of what used to be. Archive.org does not adequately preserve enough information to serve as a lasting account of the web. We can not rely on large, multi-billion dollar companies to do this for us. Nor can we depend upon individuals to properly archive their PSDs, HTML, their work, which helped to change the world.
Blink tags, spacer GIFs, and DHTML… if those terms make sense then chances are you were web designing in the 1990s, and possibly, therefore, deserved the rock-star status the job title way of life conferred upon you.
You were a web developer in the 1990s. With that status, you knew you were hot shit. And you brought with you a score of the most fearsome technological innovations, the likes of which we haven’t come close to replicating ever since.
The reason the Web Standards Movement mattered was that the browsers sucked. The stated goal of the Movement was to get browser makers on board with web standards such that all of our jobs as developers would be easier. What we may not have realized is that once the browsers don’t suck, being an HTML and CSS “guru” isn’t really a very marketable skillset. 80% of what made us useful was the way we knew all the quirks and intracries of the browsers. Guess what? Those are all gone. And if they’re not, they will be in the very near future. Then what?
The Australian Infront, a creative and design community I had some part in helping set up in 1999, turns fifteen next year.
I’ve no doubt the Infront crew have a number of events in the pipeline to mark this illustrious occasion, but to get the ball rolling submissions are now open for Visual Response 07, Infront’s long running design-an-image-based-upon-a-single-word challenge, and the theme word this time is, you guessed it, fifteen.
So, read all about it, and get going, you have until Saturday, 7 December, to get something in.
Otherwise, fifteen years is a long time. Over the last week or two, since reading about the upcoming Infront milestone, I’ve found my mind wandering, as my thoughts have drifted back to 1999. It was some year, and the world I live in today differs vastly from the final year of the last century. Then again, it seems nothing has changed at all.
There has been some meandering down memory lane, and recalling of the good old days as it were. I’ve been looking up a few personal websites from the time, that I used to visit regularly. Some are still there, with the same designer, writer, or owner, though they have, needless to say, changed somewhat in fifteen years.
I’ve also been recalling a few old haunts from the day, some of the people I met therein, and recreating, all too vividly at times, some of the situations I found myself in, but hey that’s par for the course for a creative type introvert. It’s really a form of time travel though… if you adhere to the grandfather paradox that is.
This time travel of sorts has not been solely restricted to true-to-life visualisations however. I’ve been quietly rolling the old convertible out of the garage late at night, driving around town, when I’m in town, and going to said places.
I’ve been lucky so far, no one has looked at me like I’m the first Dr Who, or something. So, yes, I’ve been partying, a little, like it was 1999.
Anyway enough reminiscing, maybe there’ll be more another time. We’re back in the present moment now. Carry on.
Web design could be considered to be a science… certainly for me the process of trying to create a website – that pleased a client – often felt like a never ending experiment, so a periodic table of the 107 elements of the HTML5 markup language seems perfectly appropriate.
It’s been some while since I last used HTML on a day to day basis, but many of the elements, or tags, still look familiar in the fifth, or, I don’t know, should that be seventh – if the XHTMLs are included in the count – inception of the markup language.
A colleague went ahead and coded the tag nonetheless, and it ended up being quietly slipped into the Netscape browser, more as an easter egg, being a treat, or gimmick, of sorts, for web developers of the day. Somehow though people found out about it, and began using it widely, which was not really the intention.
For a short 12 hours the blinking was constrained only to the UNIX version, but it didn’t take long for the blinking to spread to Windows and then the Mac version. I remember thinking that this would be a pretty harmless easter egg, that no one would really use it, but I was very wrong. When we released Netscape Navigator 1.0 we did not document the blink functionality in any way, and for a while all was quiet. Then somewhere, somehow the arcane knowledge of blinking leaked into the real world and suddenly everything was blinking. “Look here”, “buy this”, “check this out”, all blinking. Large advertisements blinking in all their glory. It was a lot like Las Vegas, except it was on my screen, with no way of turning it off.