I recently got an account at CodePen just for educational purposes. It’s really fun, actually. It’s like your own personal playground, experimenting with things you’ve never tried before in a live production version of your projects. If you’re curious, I added my CodePen account at the header above along with those social media links.
Awrighty, proceeding to Part 2 of my previous entry.
I. “Me, You, Site, Etc.”… (or something like that?)
Sometime in the mid-late 2000s, personal blogs/sites were on the rise. Just like technology itself and its rapid development, so do web design trends and general practices. Every personal website is now becoming a lot more unique to one another by adding a lot of personal touches to them. I’m not just talking about the design itself, but I’m also talking about the labeling of their nav menu too.
On the last entry, I’ve covered about the Mystery (Meat) Menus. This one, I will be covering the overusing of this alternative “mystery meat” menu trend. I don’t have an appropriate term for it, so I’ll just simply call it Me, You, Site, Etc. (or MYSE)
On one hand, this MYSE menu trend aim to show the world that this is a very personal, “all about me and my life” type of site. On the other hand, it seems that every girl 2 was using the MYSE nav like it was becoming a must-follow new standard for every personal site/blog. If every girl (okay, hobbyist web designer) wanted to have their site to be as unique and pretty and original from the others, why use the MYSE over and over again? I even came across one collective where the collective site has an MYSE, a blog hosted in a subdomain that has a MYSE, even a fansite of some celebrity even had the MYSE on it. 3
From what I can gather, the MYSE menu consists of the following contents:
- Me – about the person behind the site (and probably those random personality quizzes/result memes that we normally see around the net, other people’s blogs, and social media sites)
- You – This could be anything. From a few sites I’ve visited before, this section offers freebies created by the owner, like some pixel art or wallpapers or something. And then there were other sites I’ve visited whose You section offers links to… well… more quizzes/memes, random sites like joke sites, font sites where they got their fonts from, tutorial sites where they learned their coding from, etc… and then other sites have their You section with a gallery of art/fanart created by the site owner. 4 If you ask me, I like the You section that offers freebies from the creator. That’s just me though. 😅
- Site – The about (the site) section of that personal site. Personally, I’d rather have this as the first item on the menu, but I guess the site owners prioritize themselves first before the purpose of the site. Alright then.
- Etc. – If you ask me, in a few ways or more, the Etc. section is almost the same as the You section. Links to other sites, probably an FAQ section (which I think is more appropriate to be under You or Site section), a contact form (should be in Me or Site section), and… I guess just… anything that isn’t related to the site itself and the person behind that site… wait, isn’t that the same as the You section too?
I’ve tried (to remember) all I can to recall the contents of each of those sections, and even then I don’t even know what I’m talking about. I could probably guess that the site owners themselves are also confused with the difference between those sections (especially the You and the Etc. sections) that they just use those sections with whatever purpose they want. If she wants to seek other bloggers or webmaster/mistresses with a common trait (similar hobbies, mommy blogs, pets, etc.) and make friends, then that can be the focus intent that would make others become interested in her. Other than that, I don’t know what other reasons I could think of. Questions will be flooding in mind, such as Aside from writing about your life and experiences, what makes you “unique” from all the others who also have a similar blog/site as you? and What makes your personal site different from all other personal sites? and other related questions. There’s nothing wrong with that. Not every user/visitor who comes to your site is the same as the other anyway.
Other than that, I’ll never understand the usage of MYSE altogether on personal sites, or rather, I’ll never understand why every personal site then must have to have the same type of nav menu, MYSE in particular. I don’t know if the MYSE trend only makes the site a lot cute or appealing or the fact that every other webmaster/mistress use it because it was the trend. I don’t know.
Just as technology and web practices evolve, even these webmasters/mistresses also evolved with their focus intent, their purpose of those same personal sites, and some others just don’t have time for them anymore. But personal blogs/sites are still around, still strong, and are increasing. The only difference now is that each of them have their own focus intent, unlike before. And because of their defined purpose for their sites, the MYSE nav menu trend was no longer to be seen. 5 Well, not from my current experiences so far anyway.
II. Opposite (colors) should attract… right?
When we hear the words web design, we’re thinking of building websites as an art. I’ve had that mindset when I first started, and I’m sure those who delved in that golden era of early hobbyist web designing were also having that same aim. It was an easy way for us creative minds to learn something so technical back in the days, and in a way, it still is an easy way for us to learn web design/development today. We see our entire website layout as a piece of art, and depending on the mood and the subject of our website, we use the appropriate colors that would suit the mood.
But then, there are quite a lot of people who never realized or never really thought to themselves that what you see in front of your naked eyes would look different to what you see on the screen. If you have been working with graphic programs like Adobe Photoshop and anything similar, you would see two types of color models that they support: RGB and CMYK. In case you don’t the difference between the two color models, the RGB color model is used for screen-based designs, while CMYK color model is used for printed designs. So in short, what you see on paper is different from what you see on the screen.
With that in mind, this means that pastel colors on top of pastel colors would be a lot difficult to see on screen compared to the same combination of colors that you see on paper or canvas. The same goes with solid/dark colors over solid/dark colors. A pastel-colored text over a pastel-colored background will not be as legible on screen as what you see on paper. Remember the dangers of one’s eyesight from watching too much TV? That’s how a user would feel like when they see similar hues being used with one another on screen. The same also applies to using solid/dark colors also.
When I think of this, it’s not so much that I have failed to understand why some people choose colors of similar tones (light over light, dark over dark) instead of using contrasting colors. If we’re speaking regarding traditional art on paper/canvas, there are tools, such as gel pens and blending markers and colored pencils and paints that can make similar- toned artwork looks good. What makes people think that it would be the same on screen? Light (rays?) is not a piece of coloring art tool, after all.
An example? Check out the (mobile snapshot) scans of my zen art. Both of them are colored by metallic gel pens, but when captured on screen, they look completely different from the original naked eye version. If we print these same artworks out from a color printer (whether if it’s inkjet, laser jet, photo printer, etc.), the result would look different too. I actually printed out a piece (it was actually a CD cover for my parents when I burned some CDs for them) with dark blue background and light-ish gray type with both an inkjet printer and a photo printer. None of the text came out legible and had to redo the CD cover again.
There are still a few who still do this on their sites, but we’re getting better with the color combinations.
III. Those “Elite” Cliques & Design Galleries
I think it’s around 1999 or 2000 that I first came across a clique site. Unfortunately for me, the first clique site that I came across at that time was one of those infamous “elite” clique sites, where they accept you based on the “artistic” look of your site’s design. I even remembered the name of that first clique. It was called, as mentioned, Elite. I even remembered how it looked like too because I remembered taking a screenshot of it and copying its source code for self-learning. I don’t have them anymore so I’ll just describe it below:
- Solid white background.
- Some scan of a model from those magazine ads. It was also on grayscale too. There was some kind of a stripe effect transparent over that image as well.
- 10px-sized Verdana or Tahoma font. In short, they’re very small/tiny to read if we’re viewing them on modern PCs right now, with all of our huge screen resolutions and all.
- Their member list have sites that have similar traits as the Elite clique site itself, except for the solid background colors.
- (some of) their rules were just ridiculous. There was even a rule there where they can’t accept 12px+- sized fonts and no anime/manga/video game images on their layout themes. 6
When I had my first collective called Adventure Antibiotics (it was hosted on the old freespeech.org free no-ads hosting then, I couldn’t afford to have my own domain then too), back in those days, CSS wasn’t on the rise just yet. I had a scan of Hikaru Utada from a CD that my friend lent me before and decided to use her as my first layout theme. I had a solid sky blue background, black 10px-sized Verdana font, and my menu items were Photoshop graphics using custom fonts. As a test, I applied to the Elite clique to see how the owner would react. As expected, I got a reject email for the dumbest reasons: she didn’t know who the girl on the layout is (Hikaru Utada 😦) and that my site was not hosted on a personal domain or subdomain. The latter part made me laugh because that wasn’t even in their clique rules.
Anyway, past example.
As the years went by, people started opening their own “elite” cliques. Each of them has their own set of rules and regulations, and there were some who look for site owners with the same hobbies and interests as theirs (anime/manga/video game fan, etc. etc.), but there is one rule they have in common: have a beautifully-designed (to their eyes anyway) site. There were also some “elite” cliques that had better, a lot fairer rules, and I admit that I’ve joined a few of them for my series of collectives. I normally avoided the ones with stupid rules like the example I provided above. There were a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones. There were a lot of good ones that became better, a few bad ones that became better, and other bad ones that just became worse.
What I have understood about these “elite” cliques (and design galleries much later) is to showcase sites with beautifully-crafted designs (back then anyway) that also work. What I never understood is why they would consider their cliques as “elite” when using it as a showcase of sites has got nothing to do with being “elite.” Why not just say, “this is a clique for sites with beautiful design”? Or maybe “this is a clique for sites with valid/semantic code and beautiful design,” etc. etc. Just having a beautiful design with well-written valid/semantic code doesn’t really make anyone “elite.” It only shows that anybody can create a site with beautiful design and valid/semantic code, and they’re showing it to those as an example.
Sometime in the mid-late 2000s, there was a design gallery that I used to go and visit (just to see the sites in there) called Perfection. It wasn’t just an “elite” clique, but it was also a form of CSS design gallery/showcase. At first, I thought that the clique was biased towards their own friends since they seem to know each other very well, plus some of the sites they accepted there have designs that aren’t quite “perfect” for my taste and vice versa (sites with beautiful design but the code was very messy/invalid). Sometime later, they got a little better when they started accepting sites who had no connections with the people behind the clique. Eventually, the clique ceased to existence for a few reasons: the owner(s) became busy with real life and no longer interested in the clique, a lot of the current members there were no longer interested in maintaining a site (or that their designs were no longer “perfect” in their definition), but for me, it’s because of the rapid changes in “good design trends” that prompted some of them to just back away and that their definition of “perfect” is no longer perfect.
Here are a few of the common rules regarding joining an “elite” clique that I’ve seen in the past and my views of them in parentheses. These all come from my head, so I may probably have missed some:
- Good/beautiful/elegant design. (Subjective to the clique owner(s), not necessarily from the webmaster/mistress’s tastes)
- You must NOT link this clique to your site until you are accepted. (Some “elite” cliques require you to link them first before you apply, but then again, what if you don’t get accepted?)
- The link to the clique should always be up at all times. (What if the server goes down, even for just a few minutes?)
- It must be hosted in a domain or in a subdomain. No free hosting servers like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. (There was a free non-ad hosting service called freespeech.org, in which some of my few first websites were hosted. Even with the no ads, I still got rejected. 😅 What makes being hosted in a domain or a subdomain as “elite” is something I fail to understand, especially if a lot of the people back then couldn’t afford to have their own domain and hosting…)
- Content is not important. (Beauty is skin deep, so bleh to these clique owners with that dumb rule.)
- You must update your site at least once or twice a week. If your site is not updated after 2-3 weeks, you will be removed. (What if you’re busy with real life?)
- Your site must look good on (insert browser name here). (This has always been the problem because browsers were not in sync with each other. I don’t understand how a site looking good on IE and not looking good at some other browser that’s not IE (Netscape, Opera, AOL) makes it “elite.”)
In the end, there was only one “elite” clique (actually, it was only a semi-elite clique) that my sites actually got in to. It was called Porcelain Stars.
With technology and trends rapidly changing and upgrading, no one cares about those “elite” cliques anymore, so much that we no longer see them floating around the web anymore. There is one social media design gallery that many of us know of, Dribbble, that somewhat acts like an “elite” clique. It’s free to sign up an account. However, you won’t get to post and show off any of your creations without an invitation from a current Dribbble member. I have signed up for a Dribbble account back in 2008 and until now, I still can’t upload any of my works because I’ve never received a single invitation, to the point that I no longer care about it anymore. Besides, Dribbble’s original aim before was to display a gallery of works that can be functional and useful when deployed live. Today, I’m seeing a lot works being uploaded there – beautiful and amazing to look at, but no explanation or example on how can something beautiful and amazing be functional. That kind of thing.
There also used to be a similar social media design gallery called Forrst, but they no longer exist today. Like Dribbble, Forrst was also an invitation-only gallery.
Just for the nostalgia, I found this very old article about (elite) web cliques in general. Something to think about.
There are others that I want to write about, but then because of the extended thoughts of those other practices, I decided to write separate articles on them in the later future. Things such as WPRs, the “history” of blogging, the misusage of the Fair Use doctrine, and others related. It’s amazing how things among personal/hobbyist website building have changed throughout the years that sometimes, it’s good to look back and begin to ponder what was the “in” thing then and everything else.
Are those types of sites and practices will emerge again at this period on upcoming sites or currently active sites? Maybe, maybe not.
Till next time.
On the sidenote…
- as in, she changes layouts/themes very frequently, thus the suggested weekly/bi-weekly viewing. ↩
- yes, GIRL… I’ve never come across a personal site belonging to a guy with the MYSE nav on them, from my experience anyway… ↩
- I wish I was exaggerating but I kid you not on this one. ↩
- that’s not a free giveaway for you, by the way. They’re there on the You section for you to view on. ↩
- And I do hope that I would not see any MYSE-nav site ever again… well, maybe except if their You section offers freebies. ↩
- but celebrity/magazine scan ad images are okay? Let’s talk about copyright issues later… ↩
- Good use of CSS, beautifully-designed sites with a common subject matter/theme, etc. ↩