The web needs to be beautiful by default
2 min read

The web needs to be beautiful by default

We are moving everything to the web: stores, communication, applications, documents. Some of those moves really worked, mostly things that used to have physical boundaries.

But content on the web is lacking.

The web resume

The promise of the web resume is fantastic. Greater visibility, embedded microformats, interactivity, updates, and more.

Instead, chances are, your current resume is a Word document coupled with a PDF lying around in your filesystem. You update it every once in a while and send out the current version whenever somebody asks.

You might have a LinkedIn profile, but you probably don’t pass it on to employers. You might be getting a few approaches from head hunters, but the opportunities haven’t been right. You’re not entirely sure how to fit your experience in the LinkedIn format.

All these promises aren’t working out, but you don’t care. The PDF just looks better and it will look the same when you print it out.

Mobile apps

Web apps are increasingly, in theory, able to replicate the features of native apps. They needn’t pass through a market, are easy to update, etc. However, native apps still dominate on mobile.

There is something rigid and beautiful about a native app, that the web experience cannot replace (Sun gets very close, but I’m sure only at the cost of some serious man-hours).

The beauty of PDF

I find myself equally thorn about getting rid of my PDF resume. There is nothing special about it, it’s a simple tabular design, but the LaTeX typesetting and ease of editing are two features I cannot give up.

See, having only a web version means maintaining a print stylesheet, but getting LaTeX quality from a print.css is a challenge.

That elusive finish

There are examples that demonstrate that the web can be beautiful and fast, and powerful. But those examples have taken a lot of effort. Writing an app or a resume, you want to think about the content, not making sure it doesn’t disappoint on a browser. Because by default it does.

Lack of constraints

Part of the problem is that the web really can be a solution to anything. We can build a cute tool for list-menu and button fill web apps and we can build a stellar typesetting environment. Can we design for everything? Or are we forced to leave design to the web author?

Good design and quality is much harder to give up than we think. It could be done through new frameworks for the web, like we have seen impress.js and reveal.js provide some powerful competition to desktop presentation software. Ultimately though, the web needs to be beautiful by default. Like Cocoa, like LaTeX, like Keynote.

Disclaimer. This post was inspired by a conversation with @nickbarnwell.