Book notes: Twenty Bits I Learned About Making Websites

I just picked up and read Twenty Bits I Learned About Making Websites by Dan Cederholm. It’s a very short read but really fun and nostalgic. Dan does a great job keeping things really casual.

A few takeaways

Content is king

Semantic HTML, performance and accessibility aside. A website is only as good as the content.

Freely distributed information that’s relevant to the person reading it. That’s successful web design.

Details matter but maybe not as much as we would all like to think. Poor content wrapped up in a beautiful design has less impact than great content that looks ‘just ok’.

The web is malleable

The web is digital, it’s ephemeral and doesn’t have a physical form. A physical object can’t change once manufactured but a website can always be changed. We should approach building websites in that way. Starting with an MVP (minimal viable product) and consistently improving it over time is a fine way to work.

Once I started seeing websites more like a malleable sculpture rather than finished “art”, I started sleeping better at night. Websites can forever be improved and I love that.

Stay curious, view source and keep learning

Another common thread in the book is how everything started with Dan being curious, tinkering and learning. He says a lot about how he would ‘view source’ of any website he found cool and try to figure out how it was made. And this doesn’t just apply to web design. Take anything that interests you (cool tech, machinery, art, music etc.), break it apart, poke around and reverse engineer it. Who knows what you will learn and opportunities that come from it.

“…don’t be afraid to take something already made, pull it apart, tweak things, and learn by imitation and experimentation.

In summary

The book is an ode to the early days of the web. I could really feel Dan’s love for the platform while reading this book. Even though I started my web development journey later (my web journey started about 6 years ago in 2017) and wouldn’t consider myself an ‘OG’, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic reading this book. Definitely pick this up and give it a read if you have any interest at all in building things for the web.

PS: I also picked up Dan’s Cartridge font. I will definitely be using it for the headlines on this site in the future, just need to find a font to pair it with.

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