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Brutalist Web Design

When I build websites, I like to keep things as simple as possible. Many things, especially on the web, get over engineered just for the sake of it, which makes my job as a developer that much harder, but I believe it also impacts the user as well.

We’ve all grown accustomed to the way the Web looks and feels. Websites nowadays all have a very slick, polished, smooth and at times, a very animated feeling to them. Things slide and pop and move, but what we forget to ask, is why? Why does it have to be like that?

Creating websites however, is not just about overly complex design. The Web was created to share information, but we’ve started making it harder and harder on our users to get the information.

Recently I discovered something that has opened my eyes and my appreciation for design. I’m fascinated and astonished that I’ve never heard of it before, but I’m completely drawn to it.

I remember what websites were like in the 90’s. I was a teenager in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and at that stage, in that particular area of my life, the Internet had just become a thing. I remember exploring through the yahoo directory looking for programming tutorials and information on how to make computer games. I remember the flashing gifs and banners, the little animations that chased your mouse around the screen and I remember the almost obscene use of colour. The Internet that I remember from my childhood is not the Internet of today.

Amazon.com of the 90s

Brutalist Web Design almost wants to return to those early days of the web when things were simpler, and it gives me renewed hope for the future of the Internet.

Brutalism in digital design is a style that intentionally attempts to look raw, haphazard, or unadorned. It echoes early 1990s-style websites (think Craigslist and the Drudge Report). Sometimes this aspect of brutalism is expressed as bare-bones, almost naked HTML site with blue links and monochromatic Monospace text.

https://www.nngroup.com/articles/brutalism-antidesign/

In fact, when I first started to read about Brutalist design, I quickly built a WordPress theme to play with and explore.

https://github.com/dgroddick/nidavellir

It’s very much a work in progress, but more than that, it’s an experiment in Brutalist web design.

It’s a refreshing change to not have to worry whether my site looks like everyone else’s.

Brutalist web design is about going back to the raw elements of a website. It’s about removing fluff and making things simple, obvious and functional.

I ripped out pretty much all CSS and left the bare minimum, most of which is for the WordPress generated classes like making the gallery not look crap, and the rest is some super simple, brutal, tweaks with a hint of CSS grid.

In a world of hamburger menus, responsive, mobile first, high resolution, click baity, distracting rubbish, this makes me happy.

On WordPress

I’ve been using WordPress almost since I first started Web Development. It’s almost a right of passage for PHP developers in many ways. It’s one of the most used web apps across the Internet as well as one of the most popular open source PHP platforms you can find.

It’s super easy to install and doesn’t require a great deal of technical knowledge to operate, but one of the most impressive features of WordPress is that with technical knowledge you can mould it into almost anything you can imagine. Not just a blogging platform anymore, WordPress is much closer to a powerful application framework, and if I’m honest, it’s one of my favourite development platforms.

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Migrating from Shopify to WordPress

Shopify is a well known eCommerce platform, and web searches for data migrations either to or from Shopify are pretty easy to find. What I couldn’t find was an explanation on specifically migrating blog articles from Shopify into WordPress.

I recently had a client who ran a Shopify store that only sold one product, a magazine, while the rest of the store was dedicated to the blog content. The business wanted to expand the content strategy and build the subscriber database, so, while migrating platforms wasn’t my first choice, it made sense in the long run as we have more flexibility and control with WordPress.

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