I adore minimalism. Simple and to the point. Distraction free. Focused. Which as I have previously explained, is precisely why I opted to migrate my WordPress blog to the simplicity of Nibbleblog and this accompanying theme. Since the initial move, I have made some compromises, including the addition of tags and an actual title. As much as I prefer minimalism, I also like information to be well organised. Sometimes these two approaches contravene one another, so compromises have to be made, like simple tags at the bottom of the page (no huge and ugly sidebar tag clouds!). The title was also necessary to provide a clear link back to the blog's home page. Yet another of my design compromises has been the addition of a simple menu on the main home page.
From a design perspective, the longer you run a personal website the more you come to see it as an extension of your self, much like you would furnish your own home: The DIY lovers might type up some simple HTML code, collectors might have links and content scattered all over the place, while the loud and brash might use flashing and spinning buttons to catch your attention. I expect that a scientific study on this subject is likely to show some correlation between specific personality traits and website design elements.
Over the years, it seems as though social media has severely reduced the individuality of the web, much to its detriment. Instead of people owning their own unique plots of digital real estate, we have increasingly moved into ugly mass constructed homes, where in exchange for not having to pay rent, we have cameras watching us 24/7. Of course, in this drive to conformity, some people might argue that the content is all that matters, and in any case less spinning and flashing buttons can only be a good thing, but individual expression is what makes each person interesting, and design choices mark a crucial element in that projection. Imagine a world where everyone wears the same clothes, lives in the same types of home, with the same furnishings, all behaving the same way. For most of us, it would quickly become an intolerable reality.
Even if some websites appear too nauseating and impossible to use, there can always be good old feed protocols such as RSS and ATOM to fall back on. In the words of ESR (Eric S. Raymond) , you are doing the right thing when you increase the range of choices that people have, which is precisely why I use platforms that offer individual feeds. In fact I do much of my own Web reading in the same way, as it allows you to read content that is formatted to your own liking. I use other workarounds for sites that only put summaries in their feeds, which I will eventually cover here.
Incidentally, if you want to know who the enemies of free choice are, take a note of the sites that make it difficult or impossible to subscribe to feeds (adding a feed is hardly a technical hurdle!) . Hint: many of them are the big social networks, as it becomes more difficult to monetise users through tracking and advertising. The less you log-in and click around their proprietary platforms, the more they have to lose, both in terms of money, power and control. This obstructive hand may be invisible to most users, but make no mistake, its ominous presence is a permanent feature of those platforms.
Minimalism is a choice. Being a minimalist means having the choice to reflect your digital presence in a similar Zen-like manner. There are few people in this world who resent an increased range of choices, so even when given the freedom, why do so many of us make choices that constrain our choices? Whoever you are and whatever your tastes, I encourage you to pack away your paper tent sitting on someone else's razor-wired turf. If you have yet to do so, take your first steps into launching your own website, and help make the Web a more interesting and diverse place again.