Praising Plain Jane

It’s important to keep things simple. One of the keys to the success of the Web is its simplicity. That’s one reason Apache is still a great server, it’s the reason why some many people have web pages, and it’s the reason the Web spread so quickly.
Clearly, any large-scale Internet project is going to be complex at the back end, but there are plenty of reasons to keep it simple at the front:
* It’s easier to debug your work and to maintain it.
* Your pages will display faster on slow connections.
* More people will be able to use your site the way it was intended on a wider variety of devices and browsers.
* You site won’t become obsolete as quickly.
* You will be less beholden to Microsoft, Sun, Macromedia, and others.
Don’t use Java on the client side. It’s slow to load, leads to nonstandard interfaces, and the current war between Microsoft is problematic. I have no opinion on whether you should use it on your servers.
Don’t use Javascript, except in the simplest of cases: automating dropdown menus, opening new windows (with the user’s permission), and the like. In my experience, the resulting code is comples, slow, buggy and inconsistently rendered. Don’t require it for forms, for example.
Don’t use Dynamic HTML. It’s nonstandard and is guaranteed to lock you in to Microsoft’s word. It’s almost never the right solution to the problem.
Don’t use Flash for anything other than entertaining animations and explanatory graphics when nothing else will do. Don’t open your website with a flash animation. Why on earth burden your home page with something that requires a “skip intro” button? Why not skip the Intro for your users and save yourself some time and money?
Make Cascading Style Sheets optional. I love the way you can make your pages look with CSS. But it’s important to create pages that display attractively on browsers that don’t support CSS or support it poorly. That’s most of the browsers out there.
What’s left? Plain Jane HTML, the technology that started it all. Clean, minimally-nested tables, text, graphics and links. HTML is the NTSC of the Web, a primitive technology that gets the job done and isn’t going away for 50 years. What could be sweeter?

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