The expression of freedom in our website design
If you’re like me, you’re trapped in this work-from-home limbo state where the majority of our interactions nowadays happen online. In spending a majority of my time interfacing with a digital screen, I’ve come to appreciate those little interactions or thoughtful journeys that make my experience feel more intuitive & alive.
Once you’ve experienced what it feels like when things just work, you tend to also notice when things don’t. And when you notice when things don’t work as well as they should, you find that the large majority of things on the web are actually built like crap.
Why is it so difficult to achieve high quality, intuitive design? There are plenty of talented designers & modern tools that allow developers to build better sites.
It's likely because web design changes ALL THE TIME. So there's only a short window for which your designs actually make sense to the majority of visitors.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you could easily change a site’s design to something custom. Not rewrite the whole site, just take whats there and give a bit of a facelift – modifying the CSS only for example.
For sites I frequent like HackerNews, wouldn’t it be nice to apply my own look & feel?
Now what if I could share my unique look with friends. And they could share with their friends. And soon enough this became the new standard for that site. The best part is that this wouldn’t be a separate site, for HackerNews it would still be built and maintained by YCombinator, but with a bit of my personal flare.
Considering this tool again, let’s say you could browse multiple new designs for existing sites and your browser automatically applies the updates to CSS each time you visit. Imagine if the rest of the web caught up to be intuitive & alive. Sites that have fallen behind could easily be modified – giving a new meaning to open source – without the overhead of maintaining the entire project.
This tweet from @raunofreiberg paints it simply.
Or this redesign of Twitter from Yeremias NJ.
At the end of the day, a website is just the story you’re trying to tell – how do you tell this in someone else’s words?
Now that I’ve painted the picture, how would we build this?
Well, in theory you could already do this via the inspect tool in most browsers – mostly modifying the CSS. The problem is saving your work (it disappears when you refresh the site). A plugin could solve this but we’d need to be modifying the code from a code editor within the plugin instead so we can monitor changes. So we need to first build an inspect tool for our plugin that then allows modifications & saves our changed code somewhere. This would likely be the most time consuming & difficult stage.
Ideally it would be a visual tool so you could see changes on the fly – like the one below by Orman Clark.
Our plugin now needs to recognize when the user visits sites where custom code has been saved or downloaded & then apply those changes. This would probably be the easiest part.
Boom we have custom designs for existing sites! 🎉
The final & most important step however is sharing your custom designs with others for feedback. This could be done via a website for the plugin that showcases top designs & allows individuals to search for specific websites. Here, one could download designs they liked or modify others further. It would also give companies great insight into what customers find most important or confusing.
We can now transform this fun side project into a business by selling updated website designs as a product or service to companies featured by this tool. Creators would obviously need to be paid a share of their work hosted by the tool, but this would help to sustain the business & attract high-quality designers.
At the end of the day this is all just a thought experiment, but an exciting one at that. I’d love to see a product like this released in the future. Hell, maybe I’ll build it if I find the time – but for now, I just like to imagine.
Let me know via Twitter or email what you think about this concept & if this would be interesting to you. I’m curious if I’m the only one who thinks like this.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading 🤍