Simplicity, always

6 May 2004


A Blue Perspective: Simplicity, always

The interesting discussion on Keith's site over visited links, and the general outcome that they are still mostly useful, made me think of Tim Berners-Lee and how his vision of the World Wide Web has evolved over the years. Surprisingly, even though the Internet has had to endure over 10 years of perversion and twisting by Web designers, the core of Mr. -Lee's ideas remain relatively unscathed. Perhaps more so now than at any other time in the past five years.

The recent resurgence in Web Standards and the associated simplicity of code that accompanies it – a semantic rendering of the content – are probably closer to Tim's first hypertext document than any of the table-based pages created by Dave Siegel's HTML terrorists. From simple beginnings, HTML became a bloated monster of tables within tables and sliced images scattered across the page like a jigsaw. This was how the Internet should be – layers of complexity obfuscating simple content.

After adding all these unneeded distortions to HTML, we are slowly discarding our own clumsy additions, reducing modern Web design to the ideals that were started out with. Tim's original ideas were so simple that no one else thought of them; as is always the case with breakthroughs. And as is the case with simple ideas, making them more complex doesn't make them better, quite the opposite. Perhaps all new movements have to go through a period of maturity, and I hope that the Web is living it now. We're realising what we've truly got – what we've had all along – and only through this appreciation can we truly grow and improve the Web in the right directions.




  1. 1/7

    Christian Machmeier commented on 6 May 2004 @ 08:14


  2. 2/7

    Jim commented on 8 May 2004 @ 06:48

    Yes, it finally looks as if the age of table hacks has come to an end.

  3. 3/7

    W. I. Boucher commented on 10 May 2004 @ 14:56

    Yes html is coming of age and regaining the simplicity it once had. Semantic documents are the way to go. However if you look around many sites are still table laden presentational patchworks. I may not agree that the age of table hacks is over, but I do think that we stand at the begining of the road to a web where structure and presentation are seperated at last.

    The past year has seen much progress. The tough job has just begun, The prospect of converting all that legacy code into standard compliant code makes one's head spin. I think I better brew more coffee, this may take a while.

  4. 4/7

    Bill commented on 11 May 2004 @ 05:29

    Sorry to be a pedant, but he's Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, not Mr. -Lee ;)

  5. 5/7

    feep commented on 11 May 2004 @ 23:17

    I think that the Table Era was a needed one. I think it helped define where the web wanted to go. The Table Era to me was a mock up of sorts. Perhaps now we are taking that mock up and learning to create a more complete product.

  6. 6/7

    JDenny commented on 13 May 2004 @ 01:28

    I agree (with all of the above).

    I would never want to change the past, otherwise we might not have got as far as we have got today.

    We've learned important lessons, and Timmy got knighthood at last. Now we can look forward to a world where the vast majority of people understand Tim's vision and how it works WITH what we want to do not against it.

    We need to replace the old code with the new, and get more high-profile attractive web graphic designs out there to advocate the new and better way to those people that are conerned with style more than semantics.
    Then we need browser manufactures (one in particular!) to mature too, and for users to learn about upgrading.

    That is the next step in the Web's teen-age years.

  7. 7/7

    David Bell commented on 22 July 2004 @ 10:01

    I second that, and third most of these comments. My only gripe is that the browser wars have left us with a legacy that negates compliance and simplicity through - not table hacks - but CSS hacks.

    A CSS design will often be shaped by limitation rather than inspiration. Tables aren't going away any time soon.

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