Simplicity, kludges & that’ll do

Simplicity, kludges & that’ll do

Summary: A few years ago, I read an excellent A List Apart article called ‘The Dao of Web Design’. The author, John Allsopp, called for a flexible and simplified approach to web design; in essence, letting things be as they are.

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A few years ago, I read an excellent A List Apart article called ‘The Dao of Web Design’. The author, John Allsopp, called for a flexible and simplified approach to web design; in essence, letting things be as they are. Back in the day, designers used to try to force physical, static, print design onto screen-based, fluid, web design.

I was reminded of this article by my work for The Ministry (a top secret governmental organisation). I shouldn’t really tell you but I will – I’m working on the intranet, tidying up the CSS and XHTML layout. My job really is to make the design consistent and radically simplify the CSS. Simplicity takes time – working out what’s fluff and then cutting it away.

I was also reminded of The Dao article by a web site consultant called Gerry McGovern. His approach was very refreshing: simply find out which features the users rated and concentrate on the top 4-5, which usually make up 80% of the traffic. Again, this process of whittling away to the core raison d’êum;tre of the site takes time. Surveys, results, analysis and time. And at the end, the owners of the web site start out with a much better idea about their core business.

Balanced against this is The Kludge. Back in the real world, you very often don’t have time to write “correct code”. You kludge (it’s a verb too, you know ;). Hell knows, I’ve done it before. But I always try to leave a note (ie /* KLUDGE, sorry */) for the poor soul that has to clear up my mess.

My educated guess is that kludges are not so important when they have a short and isolated lifespan. It’s when they inveigle themselves into the long-term core structure of the site. This is what’s happened with some stylesheets I was working on recently – six stylesheets pretty much identical but all slightly different. Yep, I started from scratch, the whole site had kludge writ large.

Which brings me to the closing money shot – my company slogan, which is:

That’ll do

with the proviso:

for now

Simplicity is perfection, but perfection has a price and the job is the paymaster. So, I kludge when necessary, with comments.

Topic: Software Development

Jake Rayson

About Jake Rayson

A web designer since the 20th century, I am a pragmatic advocate of Free Software and I use proprietary software when appropriate. I made the full-time switch to Linux back in 2007, and my desktop tools of choice are Linux Mint, Inkscape, GIMP and Sublime Text.

As a Front End Developer, my core skills are HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and my working life reflects my commitment to open standards and accessible websites (ie accessible by everyone, regardless of browser, platform, ability or technology).

For web publishing platforms, I use WordPress for ease of use and Drupal for more complex solutions.

I am also learning about Ruby, Rails, Sinatra and CoffeeScript. I like the minimalist Ruby Way. To this end, my personal portfolio website is built with NestaCMS.

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