Manifesto

A manifesto – the suggestion that anyone can summarise anything accurately and meaningfully in ten bullet points – has something rather fanatical about it. My knee-jerk reaction to anything with the word “Manifesto” in its title is a skeptical snort. But then, when reading through the succinct, simple, compromise-free list, I tend to drift off into a kind of “if only life were so simple” dream-state, and can’t help imagining living & working in strict adherence to the list.

That of course lasts a few minutes before I return to the regularly scheduled program of earning money however possible and enjoying life as it comes.

Matt Jones, one of the über-smart Matts behind my favourite travel site Dopplr, wrote a web design manifesto back in 2001, and called it WebDOGME 01. His tongue was obviously very firmly in his cheek, but it’s certainly a big serving of food for thought, even almost eight years later.

  1. The designer must code.
    If the designer cannot code the design, then he is not the designer.
  2. The code must be produced in a text-editor, not through the distorting filter of a WYSIWYG editor.
    What you get is what you type.
  3. The browser must not be violated.
    The use of Frames, Flash, dhtml, pop-ups, or any other device in a fashion that would remove the browser back-button’s raison d’etre must not be used.
  4. Time is not yours to control.
    It is the user’s to control.
    The use of any time-based media should be subservient to the asynchronous nature of the user’s perception of the web.
  5. Presentation is not yours to control.
    It is the user’s to control. It is only yours to influence. If design is fundamental to the experience you are creating, then it must be a system, malleable and adaptable to the user’s preferences. Let your design be a conversation.
  6. Your experience must be part of the web, not just a website.
    Do not trap people with devices to keep them on your site, and use URLs that will be permanent, clear and distributable.
  7. Never use a graphic when text will do.
    Don’t destroy meaning for presentation’s sake.
  8. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden.
    People will experience what you have created at their leisure and expect it to be relevant, rather than when it is relevant to you. See also point 4. The web is a global medium – while staying true to your content, do not be parochial in your language, symbolism or other conveyance of meaning.
  9. The experience should have meaning.
    Content (or functionality) may be self-referential or autobiographical, but the designer must remember they are in conversation with a visitor. Silence from that visitor could be reverence for a monologue, but more likely indifference to a self-obsessed bore. This applies as much to companies and brands, as individuals.
  10. The designer must not be credited.

Pretty forward thinking for 2001, and I agree with almost all of it, although I must admit it took me quite a bit longer to come to these conclusions. And considering how sensible and right this list seems to me, it’s disheartening to think how few of these points most projects in my past have fulfilled. That’s something to aim for in the new year.

See also “My Internet” by Ben Terrett.