MetaPhile: The homepage is a disgrace and Flash has got to go

joeclark's picture

Typophile is a discussion forum, but you’d never know it from the homepage, a baffling and angering display of Flashturbation from a junior Web designer with a point to make that even he can’t articulate properly.

Seriously: Safari 4 takes 28 seconds to load just the Flash component of the homepage. (I paused my stopwatch when the animated logotype, another useless and unwanted fillip, stopped moving.) You are then presented with an interface, using custom scrollbars and jammed into a little rectangle, to what appears to be the actual purpose of the site – discussion. Select an item and whaddya know – you’re sent away to the actual forum, built mostly around HTML. (Actually, it should be entirely HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; there is no cause for Flash, save perhaps for sIFR.)

What should the new homepage look like? It should look like the homepage of a site whose owners aren’t trying to show off and who actually want visitors to understand and use the site. The homepage should be the Forums page. Hire somebody like Jason Santa Maria or Zeldman or Andy Clarke or Simplebits to work on it. But nearly anything would be better than the Flash monstrosity we’re stuck with now.

Mark Simonson's picture

I've never understood why so much of the site relies on Flash. I never go to the home page, so that's not an issue for me, but, for example, the links along the top and the search box are simply gone if I view the site on my iPhone. Using Flash for such basic site elements seems pointless.

The funny thing is that apparently I never, or rarely ever, use those parts of the site. I actually had to look at the site on my iPhone to see if they were there or not.

I think it's also interesting (and perhaps telling) that the ads on the right side, which is usually where you see Flash used on other sites, rely on Javascript instead. So, I do get to see those on my iPhone (not that I'm complaining about that).

kentlew's picture

I got used to bypassing the Home page a long time ago, when I was limited to dial-up here in my rural location (still don't have access to broadband).

dtw's picture

What Kent said.
(My favourites links and buttons go straight to this general discussions forum, and I know to change the “/4” to “/5” in the address bar if I want to go to the Design forum. Going anywhere else is about 5% of my time on Typophile...)

Bendy's picture

Yes I don't use the homepage at all.

riccard0's picture

My entry point is always

Lex Kominek's picture

I use I never view the homepage either (unless I accidentally click on "Home" up in the breadcrumbs instead of what I wanted to click on.

- Lex

Florian Hardwig's picture

What the previous commenters have said. I avoid the homepage.

aluminum's picture

Joe, have you *ever* had anything nice to say about this place? I log in tonight to see 30 new threads consisting of Joe bitching about this place, which we can add to the 300 others from you the past decade or so.

"The homepage should be the Forums page"

Use your damn bookmarks or browser auto-complete.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Darrel (aluminium): Your attitude is the exact reason why we have people bitching. When the majority of users use the backdoor, something is clearly wrong with the front door.

Stefan Seifert's picture

Wether Flash or not:
I definitely like the whole style and functionality of typophile site.

For me it’s thumbs up!

keep on going

aluminum's picture

@frode we don't have people bitching. Joe is bitching.

Yes, sure, it'd be nice if the hard working people that build, run, host, and maintain this free site did all the little things we request, but I'm not going to start a SPAM campaign to bring the site down because I can't figure out how bookmarks in my browser work.

BUT...since you brought up the door analogy...that's how houses work. The front door looks all nice and pretty but everyone used the back door as it's simply more practical and closer to the kitchen where all the action is.

Frode Bo Helland's picture


Well, I am bitching. That might be how houses work, but clearly not how a website should work.

Bendy's picture

I agree with Frode. A homepage should easily fire people through to the bits they want to see. If nobody is using it, maybe that's a sign to take Joe's criticism constructively. It's not good design to make people bookmark pages.

aluminum's picture

Given the amount of people coming out of the woodwork to join Joe's bitch-fest, I guess I'll have to let it be.

Joe, as usual, is technically correct. Joe, as usual, doesn't seem to have much interest in having civil discussions on Typophile, though, and instead prefers to use passive aggressive quoting and demand that it's his way or no way.

Which, to me, in my humble little opinion, seems stupid.

bstrom's picture

I would much appreciate Joe compiling all his suggestions into ONE post, rather than thirty.

pers0n's picture

I can see why they use flash, because it was the only way to use other fonts. Although web fonts support in browsers is starting to take off now.

The only thing that really bugs me about it is the nav being in flash rather than just image links, I miss being able to middle click.

francis bold's picture

Rich flash content is with out a doubt pleasing to the eye, but of course to appreciate it one must have a good broadband connection. A simply solution may be to do a HTML equivalent but give the end user the option to enter either flash or html at the home-page startup.

Zara Evens's picture

We understand and agree with the majority of theses concerns around the Flash content and have been working towards a solution we hope to implement in the near future.

Thanks for your patience.

joeclark's picture

Well, Zara, do you understand and agree with the numerous personal attacks in this thread and others? You’re just going to let those sit there, aren’t you? Because you indeed understand and agree with them.

In any competently run online forum, such comments would be deleted. Now’s your big chance.

_Palatine_'s picture

Safari shouldn't take 28 seconds to load Typophile's home page. That seems rather odd.

But in terms of the "less is more" school of thought, I have to agree, the less Flash the better.

lapiak's picture

Flash is quickly becoming an annoyance especially with how we have powerful html5, css3, and Javascript functionality these days. The home page has been one of my gripes for a while, and it would be sooo much nicer if it was laid out in html. I'll be another guy happy to see Flash go from this site.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Joe, you're as big a purveyor of personal attacks as anyone on Typophile, including in the very message where you bemoan not being protected from same.

Ray Larabie's picture

I've gotten used to most of the web allowing ctrl-clicking to open links in a new tab. It's frustrating to be prevented from doing so here so I've mainly switched the RSS & Google Reader. Every time I visit, the front page, I forget and I try to ctrl click a post heading. If I want to open a new instance of Typophile, I can't ctrl click the logo or anything at the top. I actually have to start a new tab, find my shortcut and open a new instance.

I don't use the forums page because it's not very useful either. I think the average out-of-the-box web forum, while perhaps not as pretty as Typophile would serve visitors better.

Usually I use RSS and Google Reader because it's easier and faster.

JoergGustafs's picture

What my previous speaker said.
The fact that one can’t CTRL-click neither the several topics nor the logo/links at the top is annoying indeed.

Plus, from time to time, after a long time of loading, the front page appears in the *featured-face-view*, i.e. I have to click the upward-pointing arrow at the bottom to view the topics.

I tried to use the forum page as a starting point but I missed the clarity of the front page.

An alternative, similar structured front page without flash would be a huge improvement.

begsini's picture

It is hard to separate the substance of Joe's posts from the rather mean-spirited way in which they're crafted. Often, one wishes Joe would just go away.

With respect to the home page, I may be in the minority, but overall I like it. Believe it or not, I always go there first, to see what's newest, and what's hottest. Also, I like the way it looks. I am neither baffled nor angered by it.

I do agree with Joerg though- a similarly structured front page, implemented with more friendly technologies, would almost certainly be an improvement.

pers0n's picture

I don't really mind Joe's posts. In fact it's given me several things to think about for the web sites I plan to build in the future. It's like extreme user-centric design of a website and it all makes sense. His tone may come off a little blunt or rude, but I can see what he is saying. Him and the meta-filter dude should write a book about building web sites for users in mind. I've never used meta-filter, but from what he is saying, it seems they are really open about what they do.

scottsullivan's picture

I'm okay with the front page.. and I support junior web designers with points to make.

aluminum's picture

"In fact it's given me several things to think about for the web sites I plan to build in the future."

Joe Clark, as a usability/accessibility/web standards pundit and evangelist, is definitely someone to listen too.

It's sad his valid points are wrapped up in such a offensive and egotistical personality.

hrant's picture

The warped attitude probably comes from the fact
that he doesn't grasp the purpose of Typophile; or
he does grasp it, but is too obsessed with his own
agenda to care.

And paradoxically that's the fatal flaw of Joe's
"usability" stance; ignoring the context makes
something not at all usable in the end. I will add
that this paradox is typical of Western thinking,
where pedantic formalism is allowed to itself
become the -pointless- objective.


Tim Ahrens's picture

Pointless pedantic formalism is typically Western? That's quite a bold statement. I know of non-Western cultures where that is much more the case.

hrant's picture

Of course, there is no pure West or East.
I do find it to be a useful generalization however.


d_gogarty's picture

My new favourite word; Flashturbation. Well said Joe Clark :)

William Berkson's picture

>pedantic formalism is typically Western?

Actually, the opposite is the case. One of the key advances of Western civilization was Socrates' idea that critical discussion can move us closer to the truth.

Pedantry happens when fresh insights ossify into rigid classifications. While this happens in every tradition, only the West has had the critical tradition to continually revitalize its thinking by breaking out of old categories. The critical tradition has helped to generate the outstanding dynamism and creativity of Western thought and civilization since the renaissance—when the critical tradition was revived.

eliason's picture

only the West has had the critical tradition to continually revitalize its thinking by breaking out of old categories


riccard0's picture


More than that, I would say: "?!?!?!"

William Berkson's picture

Yes, it's true. Other traditions have criticism and change, but not a critical tradition. The critical tradition--Popper ascribes its invention to the pre-Socratics--welcomes conflicting views of the world, and tries to sort out what best, and welcomes new views. That positive attitude to disagreement and debate is special and precious.

Only in the West. That's what gave it its edge, including science. Now the critical tradition is around the world, but still not as ingrained in other cultures.

Bendy's picture

>That positive attitude to disagreement and debate is special and precious.

The non-Western tradition of nondual thinking, nonattachment to dogma, accepting interpersonal diversity, maintaining harmony and experiencing one's experience of the world without judgment is equally precious. It's important not to get too attached to what we think. The difficult thing is knowing when to follow which path, I'd say.

William Berkson's picture

>nonattachment to dogma, accepting interpersonal diversity, maintaining harmony and experiencing one's experience of the world without judgment is equally precious.

That's not true. Non-western traditions are more consistently dogmatic.

China censors the internet not because of Marx, but because of Chinese tradition, which sees disagreement and argument as disturbing harmony. We value open discussion and argument, and so invented web forums like this one. The leaders in China want to shut it down because they don't believe in the value of critical discussion.

In that respect Western tradition is better.

Bendy's picture

Sounds like you have fixed ideas about this ;)

It's dangerous ethnocentrism to say one culture is better than another.

At any rate, I was thinking more of what the Buddhists tell us, emphasising peace and harmony. Chinese politics misinterprets this by trying to maintain peace by force, much like Western 'peacekeepers' in certain non-Western countries.

hrant's picture

William, as usual you believe the most convenient thing.


William Berkson's picture

Hrant, that's crap. On the contrary, I believe something that I have studied for long, and which is not convenient at all, but an unpopular truth.

Nobody here will agree with me--except those who actually know Confucian tradition--not because they have a deep knowledge of Confucian tradition, but because they hold to the fashionable and in my view shallow denigration of Western tradition.

I think Western tradition is better in some ways, and worse in others than Confucian tradition.

But if I have a different opinion it's because I'm dogmatic and rigid, right? It couldn't possibly be because I know what I'm talking about, right?

>It's dangerous ethnocentrism to say one culture is better than another.

Well, you were willing to say that East and West are equally valuable--even though they contradict each other at points--and different eastern traditions conflict with one another also. I don't think that can fly. It sounds good, but closes the door to really learning the strengths and weaknesses of different traditions.

And I don't think it's ethnocentricism. The critical tradition can look at multiple traditions and critically compare them--as well as being self critical. That's its power, which the others don't have.

Buddhism has a lot of personal tolerance in it. But it never had a social or political doctrine, as far as I know. In China traditional social and political doctrine is Confucian, and Confucianism, while deeply humane, is equally deeply authoritarian. The censoring of the internet is Confucian to the core.

By the way, is the censoring of the internet equally as good as not censoring it, Ben?

Or are you willing to be "ethnocentric" on that one?

hrant's picture

FWIW: The Internet is strongly Western, on more than one level.


William Berkson's picture

>The Internet is strongly Western, on more than one level.

Absolutely. Love the internet.

Sooner or later, China will see the light and Westernize on this. In other words, they will see that their traditions are hampering them, and Western openness is better for their people and their society.

We got the idea of the meritocracy from China, they can get the open society from us.

But that's the critical tradition talking.

hrant's picture

> Absolutely. Love the internet.

This is the problem.
You must love what's yours less than what's not.


William Berkson's picture

>You must love what's yours less than what's not.

So I should love my neighbor's wife more than my own?

That's a philosophy that will get you into a lot of trouble. Just ask John Edwards :)

hrant's picture

I'm not Western enough.


5star's picture

Back on track for a sec...

I like the homepage!

Especially the effect of the receding posts. Very temporal. I like the three columns of what's happen'. But I'm not too keen on the flash thing in the top left corner. It's action is too distracting - but I do like the idea of showing different T. That reminds, I should do one.

It takes my 'puter about 1 (or less) second to load the front page. I'm on a Windows platform using the latest Firefox browser.


Back onto the Metaphysical(?)...

To me the West - and in particular the USA - set the example of being an Individual. With Individual rights and freedoms for all to pursue equally. I don't know where in the discussion that belongs, but it is by far the most crucial property. To encourage the pursuit of an Idea to the fullest - defines Democracy itself. Anything short of that seems to me to limit what it is to be human.

Seems almost pathetic the amount of intellectual property that has been ripped off by the East. Defining not only their lack of respect but underscores how wanting their societies truly are.

I believe the internet - in it's current state - to be part of those crucial Individual freedoms. Although it didn't quite start out that way.

Bendy's picture

I think peace-through-force is absurd in China and all failed states where armies point guns at the people to stay in power. Internet censoring is a form of this, a restriction on people's freedom and I don't like it. What I'd like to say is that censoring the internet is one malconceived policy of the Chinese government, without making any wider judgment about Chinese tradition or culture.

>you were willing to say that East and West are equally valuable--even though they contradict each other at points

Of course, that's equality and diversity. Having spent a good many years in Asia (not China), I can see good and bad things about both East and West, and in my experience neither comes out on top. In fact there are things about which I hold contradictory opinions, yet Western rationalism disallows that. True or false, right or wrong, good or bad. In my experience, Eastern philosophy does a better job of being non-dogmatic than Western philosophy, which I've also studied for many years. Sometimes that's a useful thing, sometimes it isn't.

hrant's picture

Democracy sucks.


Paul Cutler's picture

So does Confucianism.


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