Web industry warned: don’t forget the power of words

The web’s core is its words, but they can be drowned out

Two industry figures have warned people creating websites to remember the power of words.

Industry Mailout product manager Justin Jackson created This is a web page, a short piece comprising only of words. He remarked that “the most powerful tool on the web is still words,” and said people had become “obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things”.

His point wasn’t that everyone in the industry should party like it’s 1995, but that more care should be taken regarding communication, clarity and simplicity, perhaps initially iterating on a single page.

“If you're a web designer, or a client who is working with one, I'd like to challenge you to think about words first,” he said. “Instead of starting with a style guide or a Photoshop mockup, start with words on a page.”

Mozilla developer evangelist Christian Heilmann concurred in a piece called Use your words. He suggested people too often “squander the opportunity that is the web” by clogging it with garbage, often comprising animated GIFs, videos and badly-optimised JPEGs.

Heilmann was concerned and disappointed about “moving into a world where people stop using text and words to describe their feelings, ideas and plans and — well, communicate with others”.

He added that shifting away from words can also cause connectivity and accessibility issues, and reminded that search engines prefer text, meaning discoverability (versus fleeting viral fame) is more likely through the use of words.

“It baffles me to see that we have a worldwide communication network with a very low barrier to entry and nearly no expense on publishing,” he said, “and we don’t use it to better ourselves, to make us better communicators”.