Monday, October 30, 2006

Your Layout Sucks Almost As Much As Halloween

Interestingly enough, this problem tends to be less prevalent on Blogger (or any other web journal system) than on Myspace. Notice that, upon trying to go to someone's profile, the first thing you see is an obnoxious-colored background. Then the awesome background photo loads at the same time the text shows up... too bad the background photo is mostly black and white, and the text on the page is one or the other. Before we get to the "links you can never click on because someone decided it would be an excellent idea to make them turn to bold when you mouse over them," though, you have to get through "rendition of how to make a frame that makes half your text go off the page and create a God-awful horizontal scroll bar at the bottom."

This dovetails nicely into skinnable apps. To paraphrase (or maybe quote directly) Jick from the Kingdom of Loathing, "I hate skinnable apps." There is just nothing that gets me less excited about programs than the fact that you can change what the scroll bars and menus look like. Aesthetics are important, undoubtedly, but infinite customizability is simply unnecessary. When we're paying more attention to what color the title bar is than to what the program actually does, priorities have become a little misplaced.

Take Windows, for example. Windows looks perfectly nice as is. If you don't like the colors, Windows has taken the time to include ways to change them. But if I tried to estimate the sheer number of desktop themes that are out there... I'd be estimating for more than a little while. I don't even care about my background, to tell you the truth; it's usually something amusing, or if I'm not amused by that anymore, it's probably just some neutral image. And yet, there are a preponderance of people out there who find it absolutely necessary to change not only colors and desktop images, but icons, folder backgrounds, and icon fonts. (Don't even get me started on multiple user accounts.)

I don't like Halloween. I haven't since I was about thirteen, when I discovered that I kind of looked dumb dressing up as some random video game character and begging for candy, and I probably won't again until maybe I have kids of my own who are into it. Ask me for my opinion of Halloween in fifteen years, and I may have a handful more insights and thoughts. As of now, if I really want candy, there's a handy Publix a few blocks down from the bookstore which I have on good faith sells a fair bit of the stuff. I have never been one for dressing up (though I've grown to accept the tie as of late) and seriously, even if I wanted to dress up, what do guys dress up as? Something scary? Not a fan. A superhero? Also not a fan. Girls evidently take Halloween as an excuse to dress up sluttily, especially into college age. Whatever.

All in all, Halloween is a holiday on which people do ridiculous things based off even more ridiculous superstitions. (The cynical atheist will probably say that same thing regarding Christmas or Hanukkah.) And yet... it's got a great deal of cultural gravity associated with it, as much as say Thanksgiving, which is based off something real.

Currently listening: The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five


Gina said...

LOL Kudos once again, Matt, for hitting the important topics of our time. LOL

As for layouts, I am quite proud of the work I Do on my websites, and that has been made through endless and ever ongoing trial and error to make it as user-friendly yet aesthetically pleasing(to me) as possible.

I keep my windows on the silver all the time, just because I'm cool like that, and I change my desktop frequently. Some people are put off by certain colors, and as such being on their computer or running a certain program can be not at the optimal level of addictiveness as desired by whatever company made the program.

However, I do agree that the value that we place on how something looks over the actual content of the thing we're using is a bit unweighted. However, since these folk are out to make money, that stuffs is gonna be out there.

And that's all I have to say about that. I am choosing not to comment on halloween. lol

Nick Simmons said...

Learning about the celtic festival of Samhain in my folklore class gave me a little different perspective on Halloween. There may be real value in setting aside a time to reflect on death/honor the dead... but not the way we do it. The streets of Milledgeville are rank this eve with drundead. I did get to see my boss in an orange inflatable sumo outfit. And I bought myself some Werther's Originals.

Oh, and Matt: some of us can't even see blue. Customization isn't vanity, it's sanity. I hope you are soon afflicted with an invisible screen of death.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought on mass customization from a dotcom pioneer/refugee... Are we humans really that shallow to believe that everything needs to be about us?

Since exactly when does everything have to be personalizable to make us happy? Well back in my day, computin' machines only had green screens and we liked it! I blame the humanists and their insipid multi-culturalism movement where answers to math problems don't even have to be correct to be right. After all, little Johnny can't feel good about himself if that nasty Society tells him he's wrong now can he?

RE Windows: I'm left wondering how much cheaper/better/faster Windows would be if all that personaliztion stuff was not in there. Sometimes one size can fit all and we can adjust, and for those people who can't see blue, either adjust the color setting to black/white (NASA put men on the moon with monochome monitors) or offer to pay extra for a different color.


Matt Pavlovich said...

Of course I hit important topics. Virtually everyone in the country is familiar with both Windows and Halloween, whereas very few people are going to know about some obscure Virginian House of Representatives candidate, and fewer still are going to care about what grade you got on the essay you just wrote. My blog is nothing if not culturally significant :D

I would be the last one ever to doubt a legitimate capitalistic motive for a design decision. That said, I can still remark on how irritating some of the third party implications of that design decision are.

You know you're not at Georgia Tech when the phrase "learning about the Celtic festival of Samhain in my folklore class" can be part of a seriously intentioned sentence. Is Samhain an influence on modern Halloween? It's pretty interesting to note that most of our major cultural holidays are an amalgam of ancient folk belief and modern religion, and that the resultant holiday resembles neither one of its influences.

I have a basket full of candy in my room, conveniently stocked by my mom at the beginning of every semester. It contains a bag of Werther's Originals, and also a Nerds rope and a very large Pixy Stix. I got these in exchange for a charitable donation to the Atlanta Food Bank and an excuse to make something into a social program.

Apple IIe... now those were the days. Black, white, pink, and green. Deal with it.

Gina said...

"You know you're not at Georgia Tech when the phrase "learning about the Celtic festival of Samhain in my folklore class" can be part of a seriously intentioned sentence."

Aw... Poor Matt. Well, take the intiative. Look it up on wikipedia or something to that nature(if you are an anti-wikian), and learn about it yourself. :-P

And, excuse me, I think everyone can enjoy and related to the joys of getting new notebooks, which is most recently talked about in my blog. :-P

Anonymous said...

I may not know what a "skinnable app" is, but I think that a lot has to be said for color and creativity. If for some reason I had a blog or a web page, it would have all kinds of junk on it in every color that I could find. BUT it would be readable. You would think it was obnoxious.

I hope that your web sense doesn't apply to interior decorating. I can just see your first apartment now: all black, white and chrome. Yah.


Melody said...

MySpace is a waste of code.