Earlier today my Twitter stream went a bit nuts with various web industry folk posting links to a website which seemed to be upsetting most of the people who visited it. It’s called http://motherfuckingwebsite.com/
The language is somewhat ‘colourful’ but the point is (to me) very clear: Websites are about people and content. Design should support that, not get in the way. This point is made through the use of tongue-in-cheek offensive statements like this:
You think your 13 megabyte paralax-ative home page is going to get you some fucking Awwward banner you can glue to the top corner of your site. You think your 40-pound jQuery file and 83 polyfills give IE7 a boner because it finally has box-shadow. Wrong, motherfucker.
You loaded all 7 fontfaces of a shitty webfont just so you could say “Hi.” at 100px height at the beginning of your site? You piece of shit.
The reactions I saw were almost overwhelmingly negative.
@boagworld instead of a helpful, well written critique it turns into offensive noise.
— Paul Mist (@paulmist) November 25, 2013
— Andrew Clarke (@Malarkey) November 25, 2013
People called it ‘anti design’ and ‘obnoxious’. I was starting to think that I had read it wrong but, no, when I read the page again I still found it made several good points in a way that made sense to me. And how can a page that includes the line ‘some motherfucker jabbing at it on their iPad with fat sausage fingers’ be deemed unfunny? Maybe I’m just immature.
I wanted to find out if anyone else I know would see things like I do so I threw it out there:
Every web design and developer I follow is upset by this: http://t.co/ZaVToSQtiP I really like it.
— Pete Clark (@ClickySwitches) November 25, 2013
And straight away I started getting some feedback.
@ClickySwitches THAT is utter genius!! Pretty much sums up web design for me.
— Carolynne (@CarolynneAlex) November 25, 2013
— Tim Whitemore (@TimWhitemore) November 25, 2013
— John Crowther (@twit_twooh) November 25, 2013
@ClickySwitches it did something that no other website can do… it make me want to read all of it. How many sites can do that hey? Lol!
— Carolynne (@CarolynneAlex) November 25, 2013
Here’s what I think is happening: a lot of web designers are chiefly concerned with how websites look and the technology that goes into making a site look good across a large number of different devices. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you’re paid to do then you absolutely should give your focus to visual design. I’m not saying for a moment that web designers don’t think about content, page load speeds, business goals etc, but understandably if you are brought in to create the look and feel then that will get the bulk of your attention.
But websites are made when business people, content creators, designers and developers come together. All are important but visual design is the only part that you can throw out completely and still end up with a website. It might not look very nice, but a developer can create a single column, black and white, text-based site from business focussed copy and that website will work. It won’t be win any awards but it’ll work. You cannot however remove business, content or code. Much as I hesitate to admit it, visual design is the least important element of a website and I think that fact is what’s upsetting people. It’s easy to say that the tone of voice is offensive and lacking in humour but if that’s really what’s upsetting people why does it appear to be only upsetting designers? Surely designers are not more easily offended by rude words than their developer counterparts? Perhaps it’s that the tirade of satirical abuse is directed squarely at visual designers and they don’t like it? Well… lighten up guys. It might be a slap in the face but it’s to wake us up and get us to pay attention.
I think the way the page is written is perfect. The commenter bemoaning the lack of a ‘helpful, well written critique’ is kidding themselves as such an article would receive far less attention. Is it good that something has to be offensive to grab attention? No, but that’s obviously how our brains work isn’t it? You’re not going to change that. The author of this motherfucking website has used his understanding of psychology to get his message across in a way that led to it being shared and getting widespread attention.
I did see someone else share a link to a page with a similar message with a very different tone: http://justinjackson.ca/words.html
At its heart, web design should be about words. Words don’t come after the design is done. Words are the beginning, the core, the focus.
I found it harder to choose a quote from that alternate site. The message is good and the page is well written but it just didn’t grab me in the same way. I sent out a tweet about this page too asking whether it was better, worse or just different but received no replies at all this time. That’s telling. Although this second page is most certainly the one I would I would send a client to it doesn’t have the fire of the other. It doesn’t slap you in the face and sometimes I think that’s exactly what we need.
And if you think I’m wrong, just tell me.