How We Overcomplicated Web Design

I started using the Internet in the early 1990s. In those days, other than BBS systems, Compuserve, AOL, and Prodigy, you could get yourself a cheap Unix shell account you could dial into. Neither of those services required much bandwidth.

In fact, the first internet navigation tool that I have used was Gopher. It was a hierarchical menu driven system for searching and browsing mostly academic library catalogs. For all its flaws one thing was true about Gopher – it worked on practically any device, any operating system, and was lightning fast.

Then came the Web. Early HTML allowed simple formatting, some images, some tables, but the point here too is that as originally intended Hypertext Markup Language pages could be loaded on any screen size, any machine, any operating system. No images ? No problem.

Over the past 20 years, however, we invented CSS, JavaScript, Flash, Java, HTML5. Now every web site is an application in and of itself, with its own navigation UX and responsive design. Lo and behold we get so called “Reader” view on smartphones that essentially disables all the bells and whistles and takes us back to the basics of mid 1990s Mosaic browser.

I really wish we could go back to the basics and back to the goal of making information as accessible to everyone as the inventors of the Internet had intended. No value is gained, no new information is presented by having a complex user interface with touch sensitive navigation. Simple text with hyperlinks is all that is needed.


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