I Added Text to My ‘Pure Icon’ Site after 8 Years. Here’s Why

I Added Text to My ‘Pure Icon’ Site after 8 Years. Here’s Why

Since 2013, I have been using a website design with no visible words—icons only; it was an obsession with the icon is a promise, and the perspective of words being ‘limited’ in expressing things. Eventually, I added text available only to screenreaders, and thought it was interesting to have a context where visually impaired persons (VIPs) would be able to ‘see more’ than sighted people.

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I dig the pure visual aesthetic, and the design seemed like it would last forever (just keep adding icons to the list). I also avoided explaining because I thought that ‘what I do should explain’, and sought to make everything ‘about the projects’.

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So for almost a decade, I have been ‘explaining’ myself to the online world with a list of icons and a small amount of project-specific text essentially invisible to most people. After contemplating this, recently, ==I began to notice issues==.

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When imagining what it’s like for someone arriving there, I feel it would be overwhelming to click on anything: a giant list of icons, each one descending into a rabbit hole of who knows what, not once seeming to offer a sense of the landscape or horizon—how does one decide where to start?

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I suspect that the poor sense of ‘what to click on next’ might cause me to lose many people who arrive there and feel lost. It would be selfish to expect people to essentially gamble with their attention and click many links at random in order to understand the larger picture—if they aren’t able to understand, the medium of communication has failed.

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Worse, I have realized recently that although it was possible to hover on icons to see the name and description of each icon, this was not possible on mobile devices. I sometimes thought I was raising awareness about the needs of VIPs, but in retrospect, it was kind of a jerk move to make it harder for most people on purpose. So it’s time to try something different. It should be simple to get an overview of what’s going on: perhaps better to present with more information.

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Comparing current and previous layouts: the text is now visible everywhere without any special interaction or hardware. There is a small blurb about me that links to an about page for a more textual overview. I think both frame everything in a way that’s more accessible for everyone, making it simpler to understand what on earth I’m doing with my life. I feel happy with the result: I still dig the aesthetic and actually find it more friendly. Looking forward to seeing how this next phase of the design goes and how much time passes until the next change.


As a bonus, check out the pre-2013 layout on Wayback Machine.


Image by Uriel Soberanes.

Originally published here.

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