Data lies to us. It makes us believe we know what a person is going through when they use our products. The truth is that it has no insight into physical mental or physical ability, emotional state, environmental conditions, socioeconomic status, or any other human factor outside of their ability to click on the right coloured box in the right order. Even if our machines can assume demographic traits, they will never be able to identify with each person’s unique combination of those traits. We can’t trust the data. And those who do will always be stuck chasing a robotic approach to human connection.

Travis Gertz on data-driven design.

This is an article from a while ago which asks the critical question, “Why the hell do all websites look the same nowadays?”1 He also touches on publishing platforms, monoculture, the crapification of content, and a bunch of other favourite bugbears from the Web 1.0 crowd.

Oh, and the essay looks great as well. So, yanno. There’s that!

One of the things I am always interested in when I see these sorts of things, though, is how Industry Dudes almost never mention the one area where weird-ass out-of-the-box webdesign does still–and has always still–thrived, and that’s on whatever social media platform is currently predominantly occupied by teenage girls. Don’t get me wrong; Tumblr’s obsession with pop-up Misha heads2 and 8px fonts might not be the objectively greatest design choices, but at least they’re varied. And I think one of the great sadfaces about Tumblr–as opposed to its predecessors like Dreamwidth/LiveJournal and personal blogs–is how aggressively it homogenizes the Dashboard experience and hides away peoples’ themes. Even when they’re crap; I’ve love crappy-but-earnest teenage webdesign since I made my first webpage featuring flaming rotating skull gifs back in the 90s.

But, hey. Maybe that’s just me.

  1. Yes, even this one.
  2. Is that still a thing? Probably not…