Sunday, February 05, 2006

As a river courses down to the sea

I'm in the mood for blog design tinkering today - and no, I don't know what I'm doing with HTML and CSS yet, but stumbling around in the dark is part of the fun. Sometimes. If the mood is right. And the mood IS right.

Or was. But Blogger chucked a wobbly today, it seems - I've been unable to view any .blogspot addresses, including my own, for the last few hours. Great timing, damn it. Why doesn't the world run to suit me? Why??

So instead of tinkering, and to avoid a week's worth of washing up in the kitchen, I went browsing. And appropriately enough (seeing it talks about dealing with what is, rather than griping about the way you wish it was) I found this: A Dao of Web Design by John Allsopp, on A List Apart back in April 2000.
What I sense is a real tension between the web as we know it, and the web as it would be. It’s the tension between an existing medium, the printed page, and its child, the web. And it’s time to really understand the relationship between the parent and the child, and to let the child go its own way in the world.
Allsopp suggests that web designers should stop getting overwrought about controlling all aspects of their web page designs, because it's a fruitless and stupid thing to do. Unlike the world of paper pages, where designers rule the roost, web pages should be flexible enough to cater for differences in reader uses and needs - readers get more control. Designers need to reorient their thinking.
It’s time to throw out the rituals of the printed page, and to engage the medium of the web and its own nature. [...]

Designing adaptable pages is designing accessible pages. And perhaps the great promise of the web, far from fulfilled as yet, is accessibility, regardless of difficulties, to information. [...]

The web’s greatest strength, I believe, is often seen as a limitation, as a defect. [But] It is the nature of the web to be flexible, and it should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages which, by being flexible, are accessible to all.
The article quotes from the online Tao Te Ching:

32. Shapes

The Way has no true shape,
And therefore none can control it.
If a ruler could control the Way
All things would follow
In harmony with his desire,
And sweet rain would fall,
Effortlessly slaking every thirst.

The Way is shaped by use,
But then the shape is lost.
Do not hold fast to shapes
But let sensation flow into the world
As a river courses down to the sea.
I don't know what that means, and that sort of enigmatic writing just makes me want to hit the writer. (Say what you mean, damn it!!) But maybe understanding is a form of control, and the point is to let go of trying to control everything? Or... not. I don't know. I just think it's interesting. And I'd quite like to be a river. They're very cool.