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Home » Archives » September 2004 » Web Design [Previous entry: "Random Dave Cloud sighting..."] [Next entry: "The Last 15 Minutes..."] 09/29/2004: "Web Design" listening to: NPR - Der
feeling: I am dizzy and my stomach aches. Bugger off.

For a long time I have designed websites to present info in a very structured, logical way. I think that might not be the best way to do it now. I've been thinking. People don't understand. I can put together a very well reasoned structure. It can be either wide or deep, and people will still look at me and say "Dude. Where's my shit?"

The alternative, I suppose, is to have links to everything on every page. I don't like that though, and I'd still need some structure just to find my links in that big long maybe that's no good either.

I think, instead, that I am searching for a more organic method of organizing the information in a site...or in a book...or in a building. Hmmm...I pile everything on my desk and then root through it once a month or so. I need a system like that...but one that everyone can get down with.

I'll add more later. I am either on the verge of a break-through, or a break-down. confused
Okay, so there is something you need to understand about me, as a web designer, and as a person in general. I am never happy with myself. I have never liked a design for my own website for very long, and one of the reasons I update it so infrequently is that I rarely ever like one design it long enough to complete the production of the site.

That and, contrary to popular belief, I can never think of anything worthwhile to say.

Jocelyn told me last night (see comment #1) that she thinks maybe it's not that the organization of the content that needs to be reconsidered, but the content itself. Problem with that is that I am a designer. The organization IS the content. One of the principle purposes of my website, as a designer, is to demonstrate that I have a superior understanding of the organization of information. A major component of web design (and all design, unless you're just fucking around and making things "nifty") is the organization of information. 90%. Really.

So, as I think I am kind of skirting this issue, let's get down to brass tacks. I am searching for (what I am going to call) The Universal Pigpen theory of organization. (Please, suggest alternative names in the comments section. I am partial to Shit-Heap Theory or The Underwear Drawer Model) There are lots of people, most, I think, who throw shit in piles as some form of organization. Whether it's throwing your keys on the kitchen table when you get home, or (like me) piling papers that you mean to get to on your desk until you have to sort through it so that it doesn't fall over, you pile your crap.

Unless of course you're one of those people who folds and arranges your underpants by color...then I already design websites that you will like very much.

Replies: 2 Comments

On Wednesday, September 29th, Jocelyn said

I think that its not the way the information is presented, but the actual information itself that needs to change.

On Monday, October 4th, Travis said

Hey Jon,

I stumbled back upon your site after receiving your wedding invitation (congrats to both, by the way) and since I'm currently seeking gainful employment in the design-related field in San Francisco and unconsolably bored, I thought I'd pipe in with some information.

I'm not sure I can exactly provide an answer or advice for your specific issue, since it seems you are looking for new solutions that satisfy your own perspectives on design.

However, I think there are a couple of websites that may provide some inspiration when investigating new ways to access information.

The first website is It's a weblog from some some guy who has blogging since, apparently, the dawn of time. The actual design is spartan while at the time congested. The most interesting aspect of the website, though, is it truelly has a near-infinite ways of accessing information. The peppers his posts with links that often reference older features or posts by himself which themselves have links to other sections of the websites. there are apparently over five independent Movable Type feeds embedding in the frameset, all updated from different sources (laptop, WAP phone, PDA, etc). The magic of the interface is, in my opinion, the nearly organic structure that evolves with the circuitous links, fullfilling the "web" premise of the www.

Another source of inspiration might be the upcoming file system features of Apple's next OS revision, "Tiger" as well as MS's next effort, "Longhorn". If you are not familiar with some of the premises, check out,, or any number of official sources from the respective company. The part I find most interesting is pervasive use of metadata to describe your actual files. For example, I might have Weezer in iTunes (well, I wouldn't but you would ;-) ) which contains a great deal of info about the content of those files. But I also might have videos, lyrics, photos, etc. which tradionally would be stored in their respective folders in my Home folder. It would be nice, however to bring up all content regarding Weezer in a single interface. Moreover, it would nice to then bring up all content tagged as Nerdrock or Pop-punk or whatever, but only produced after 1998. In the future, along with our flying cars and perfect abs, we might be able to view content holistically instead of in rigidly defined categories and filetype, but in a consistent interface that adapts to our immediate desire for specific information.

This type of thinking could make a very interesting website, specifically a portfolio. Traditionally, we dived the categories ahead of time (Print, Web, Brandingin, etc.) and then the views drills down to find what they want. What if each bit of content had metadata associated with it such as Happy, Elegant, Edgy, etc. So instead of just viewing your work by medium, a person could see how you interpreted different emotive design goals accross mediums. I'm not sure exactly how you would do this from a technical perspective, but basic blogging back-ends seem to give you the ability to categorize the information somewhat so I'll bet it's possible.

Wow, this is long and maybe kind of boring. Maybe it will lead in directions that help you in your search. I've recently started reinvestigating the web and want to become profience in these kinds of technologies because it seems that content management is starting to enter a new age of development and I think it's pretty cool.

Also, if you haven't used Quicksilver for your Mac, I highly recomend it. It's inspirational unto itself as they (and the company that made Launchbar, which was arguably the first of it's type) have remade the way a lot of Mac users interact with their computers. To be honest, I hardly ever use the Finder because Quicksilver gives you a quick, elegant way to get at your files that make drilling through folders seem antiquated and awkward. Give it a shot and play around, check out some of the's pretty neat.

Take care!