The woes of design

posted Jan 29, 2024

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting the urge to once again redesign my entire website. It has only been a mere month since I last nuked my stylesheet, and now I’m itching to do it again.

Naturally, I scoured the web for inspiration. The problem with ~web design inspiration~ websites is that they’re mostly corporate websites or professional portfolios or some weird NFT thing. The designs can sometimes be cool, I’ll admit, and often I’m left wondering how much of web development I don’t know.[1] But my personal website is neither corporate nor professional nor a scam. More often than not, the design elements found in the “inspirational websites” aren’t at all applicable to the small web.[2] It’s personal. It’s supposed to represent me (or you, in this instance).

Perhaps this is something that’s supposed to be liberating. “You can do whatever you want forever,” as the adage goes. But this freedom also has me frequently overwhelmed with design ideas. Many of which I want to implement all at once, without having to choose just one. It’s as if I have to condense my entire personality into a series of design decisions, and it feels limiting, instead of liberating.

There’s also the (non-)issue of the lack of design inspiration for the “small web.” As I type this, I realize that a “small web design inspiration” directory may not be necessary at all, since I just said that personal websites are supposed to represent you and you alone.[3] It would still be nice to be able to easily find websites in the small web that have cool designs, which is why I sometimes find myself stunlocked in the Activity page of Neocities.

Going back to my redesign itch, I’ve been making design prototypes in Figma, and none of them really satisfy me. I always think, “It’s too simple,” “I’ve already seen this design countless of times,” etc. Simple is good. Content boxes are cool. Pixel fonts are nice. Brutalist design is neat. There are a lot of websites out there with amazing designs, which I keep as inspiration, but when it comes to making my own, I seem to always go back to this one-column layout. It’s simple. It doesn’t require much fiddling to make it responsive. Maybe it’s out of laziness, or maybe I’m just not visually creative.[4]

I’ve thought about making more shrines to experiment with different designs, to really go all out without having to worry about making it consistent with the rest of my website. It’s a good idea for sure, and it’ll help stave off the urge to nuke my stylesheet once every month, lol. Designing prototypes in Figma help out a lot, too. It helps scratch the redesign itch without committing to re-writing the entire stylesheet.[5]

Most likely, I’ll still end up re-designing my website again, but hopefully the current design will last much longer than a month.

  1. I always say that web development—and honestly, programming and anything tech-related in general—is a lifelong learning process. And that’s why I like it. There’s always something new to learn, and just like the ever-expanding outer space, I know I’ll never catch up to it. ↩︎

  2. At least, to me, anyway. I don’t really find much use with hero headers or animated GraphQL whatever the heck those are called, sideways scrolling project galleries, etc. They’re cool to look at, but it’s not something that applies to my website or its content. ↩︎

  3. Tangentially related, I also had a tough time finding web design inspiration for text-heavy websites. No, not blogs. No, not news sites. Not those, nope. I wanted a design befitting for a fanfiction archive, one that isn’t just a copy of the AO3 design. In the end, I settled with Tufte, but I have my sights on a redesign for my archive as well. ↩︎

  4. Obvious disclaimer that I don’t think one-column layouts are lazy or un-creative. It’s just me being unsatisfied with my current design, and possibly a symptom of my perfectionism. ↩︎

  5. Doing this helps me see if I’ll like the new design or not. More likely, I end up hating it, in which case, I’m glad I didn’t commit too many hours coding something only to go back to the old design. Out of 10 hours I could have wasted, I only wasted five. i_see_this_as_an_absolute_win.gif ↩︎