I Am Jack’s Own Special and Unique Snowflake
There’s an interesting discussion brewing in the commentary on Khoi Vinh’s announcement of A Brief Message, the too-lovely site he and Liz Danzico created. There seems to be some sort of debate as to whether or not a RSS feed works with the gestalt of the site, with some arguing that it could be a liability: namely, readers should be forced to view the intricately designed essays in-browser, as God and Khoi intended.
I snark, but not at ABM. There’s a larger point for discussion here.
I was sitting in a coffeeshop over the weekend, and two women behind me started talking about RSS feeds. This doesn’t exactly happen too often (read: “ever”), so I decided to eavesdrop. After talking for awhile about some favorite sites, one woman said that she’d stopped subscribing to feeds that weren’t full posts: “I just don’t want to deal with opening my browser,” she said.
Now, I’m not about to hop into the “design doesn’t matter” camp, but I think we need to be careful about saying with certainty what’s critical to a given site’s success. At the very least, we need to ask ourselves to whom it’s critical. To our users, “design” isn’t some sort of impenetrable absolute—and to some, it might even be a liability. I’ve got a family member who can’t read type online that’s smaller than sixteen pixels or so—and while I personally applaud the way that ABM handles font resizing, asking “Who cares?” feels too absolutist to me. She might care quite a bit.
Anyway. This isn’t a criticism of A Brief Message, which I think is lovely. But generally speaking, we need a bit more equanimity when deciding what matters to the success of a site.