Intrinsic Web Design

created Jan 30, 2020

A few days ago, I read this Hacker News thread from the fall of 2018 about the Semantic Web.

And in that thread, I was intrigued by this comment.

Modern HTML is really nothing more than div tags everywhere, with a handful of span tags. We went from abusing tables to abusing the entire document.

True but there is some reaction to this. On one hand there are people like yourself that just make the document from data and javascript using lots of build tools, frameworks and ever more specialist technologies.

On the other hand there are people wanting to get back to a pure document that has next to no javascript needed, using HTML5 built-ins for forms, CSS Grid for layout, no polyfills for legacy browsers and no frameworks. This is not widely given exciting buzzwords but 'intrinsic web design' is happening.

When I watch conference presentations it seems to me that there are two groups of people, those to whom the ever more complicated appeals and those to whom the make it simple appeals.

The 'make it simple' currently does not fit with existing workflows, maybe for startups but not for most web agencies where a good decade has now been spent nesting divs in more divs and making it a big mess of un-maintainable 'write only' code, with 97% unused stylesheets that have got to the stage where nobody knows what anything does, they just add new hacks to it.

With where we are with HTML5 it should be easy to markup your document semantically, however, Google have kind of given up with that and if you want to put some semantic goodness in there then you add some JSON-LD on the end rather than put property tags in everything throughout the document. It is as if Google would prefer the document to be doubled up, once with trillions of divs for some bad CSS and then done again to be machine readable.

Regarding mobile, 'progressive web apps' is widely supported and has removed the need for custom mobile applications. This is progress.

This January 2020 HN thread that I also read a few days ago could be related.

That thread pointed to a fall 2019 post that I read back then.

Back in 2018, Jen Simmons introduced the idea of Intrinsic Web Design.

I just introduced Intrinsic Web Design at An Event Apart Seattle. Notes 1: (thanks @adactio!) Notes 2:… (thanks @torrecapistran!) Slides:… Intrinsic Web Design.
6:29 PM - 2 Apr 2018

"What is Intrinsic Web Design?"

Peter Anglea, Sr. Front-End Web Developer at Helix Education remarks on Jen Simmons' announcement of "Intrinsic Web Design" at the 2018 An Event Apart Conference in Seattle

From the YouTube video:

The intrinsic properties of the content kind of determine how it flows and how it is fluid and how it lays itself out in the web.

Mmmm. Possibly related to

Intrinsic Web Design is here to reshape the Responsive Web Design conversation around how we do layout on the web

Everything You Know About Web Design Just Changed by Jen Simmons

So intrinsic web design is:

  1. Fluid and fixed
  2. Stages of squishiness
  3. Truly two-dimensional layouts
  4. Nested contexts
  5. Expand and contract content
  6. Media queries, as needed