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title: How This Site Works (p. 2)
date: 2017-10-12 20:39 UTC
tags: meta, code, design
description: Learn about how the frontend of this site was designed.
alt: 'an image of the cover of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte'
In this article I'll talk the design of the site and how I did it. For technical implementation details, check out <%= link_to('part 1', '/2017/10/01/how-this-site-works/') %>.
<%= newthought "I'm not a big fan of" %> CSS.
<%= marginnote '[CSS](, or Cascading Style Sheets, is the current web standard for the look and feel of a site' %>
When I used to work as a web developer, I tended to avoid all design tasks like the plague.
Nowadays I work on the backend of the backend, so designing a website ends up feeling like a daunting task.
Frontend work is full of wishy-washy decisions and hours of testing on multiple platforms.
When I first started making websites, people put styling inside HTML tags and we liked it.
Nowadays that is horrible practice, and I want to follow best practices wherever possible.
So I know that I needed an off-the-shelf template for the visual design.
I wanted something that followed best practices so I wouldn't have to figure them out, or embarrass myself by reinventing the wheel.
<%= marginnote(link_to(image_tag("#{current_article.url}the-visual-display-of-quantitative-information.jpg", alt: 'an image of the cover of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte'), '', class: 'no-underline')) %>
<%= newthought "This site is an attempt to parrot" %> the work of <%= link_to('Edward Tufte', '') %>,
a champion in the field of information design.
If you've never seen his work, I can't recommend him enough.
He uses very simple design, copious whitespace, and tightly-coupled images to present a ton of information in a very digestible way.
His most famous work, <%= link_to('his book _The Visual Display of Quantitative Information_', '') %>, is a wonderful guide to presenting complex information using graphics, charts, and tables.
This book belongs on the shelf of anyone who loves data, infographics, or appealing graphic design.
<%= epigraph('My books are <a href="">self-exemplifying</a>; the objects themselves embody the ideas written about.', 'Edward Tufte, "<em>Beautiful Evidence</em>"') %>
If you flip through that or any of his other books, the design of this site might feel very familiar.
I am using an incredible project called <%= link_to('tufte-css', '') %>, which is a CSS stylesheet designed to emulate Tufte's handouts.
I can't thank them enough, they've made my job so much easier.
What appeals to me about about this design is that someone has provided me with a set of opinionated "best practices" for design.
I'm sure I'm going to break the rules, but at least now I _have_ rules, which is an issue I have with web design in general.