What Makes an Ugly Website Beautiful?
Long story short: web sites are all about content. Flash graphics help, but if bad writing's next to them, they're only vector-fluff.
The tough questions I know you're asking right now all relate to that content. To whit: "Yeah, but it has to be good content, right?" Well put, Champ. The real difficulty in pinpointing a good site is largely a matter of taste. Is Salon.com a good site purely because the design is uncomplicated? I don't think so. The site may not look confusing (and they do get points for that), but if I wanted to sample the snooty buffet, I'd subscribe to Suck.com. Is CNN.com a good site just because they have news? Not particularly, unless you're one of those people who consider Stone Phillips and Maria Shriver entertaining. In my eyes the CNN site is a free ticket to the land of bland. So they've got Java surveys and quick chats. The site still reads like a headstone. I'd rather look at the New York Times and I'm from Boston, where we burn effigies of Derek Jeter!
All right, enough bad-mouthing. All this blather has a conclusion after all: if "good" content is what makes a site "good," the look of it is incidental. "But wait," you're all screaming, "You already said that in your last column!" So I did, but sometimes you need more than one example to illustrate a point, now don't you? After all, how long did it take for people to realize that you never to get involved in a land war in Asia, hmm? I rest my case.
"The Early '80s Song of the Week page"
...isn't pretty. At all. In fact, it's heinous. There's hardly anything on the page to even let you know you've entered a nostalgia zone other than Ronald Reagan's smiling mug on the right hand side. It looks like something that earned a college sophomore a C- in their computer science class. The gold in the page is the content, the seemingly limitless supply of song reviews that stretch down the page, all glorifying that stalwart decade. And why shouldn't they? Even though we lived under the constant threat of nuclear war and incessant "Silver Spoons" reruns, wore things like leg warmers and LEE jeans and said "Where's the beef?" with a suppressed giggle, there was a lot to like.
Thankfully, Ron Parodi (the webmaster of the "The Early '80s Song" page) revels in it all. If there's one thing I don't need it's another deconstructionist view of the 80s with pompous footnotes and theories telling me how pedestrian the 80s really were. Those years were some of the greatest since the Renaissance. The reviews on "The Early '80s Song of the Week page" are mostly historical, but a few veer off onto larger themes.
For example, the write-up for "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" sidetracks into a story about Ron's vacation in Europe and an assertion that Tears for Fears was actually a great band unrecognized by plebian ears. I disagree, since said single has become music for Dentist's waiting rooms and the name "Roland Orzabal" sounds like an obscure Merlin spell. The review of "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Lick the Tins dispenses with any history of the band, it just dives into an essay about the magic of 80s teen movies. Well summarized, but it's old news really: it should be common knowledge that neither James Van Der Beek nor Ryan Phillippe can hold a candle to John Cusak's or Judd Nelson's glory days. The "Weird Science" entry is half Oingo Boingo history and half an invented "Weird Science" drinking game. Not a bad diversion I guess, although it's really going to cut into my "Mad Max" drinking game glory (drink for every time the word "Humungus" is said, drink for every time the camera rushes up on Mel's scowling face, drink for every time a phrase is chanted by the Thunderdome masses).
I could go on all day, but in all honesty, this is as far as the golden luster gets. If you're not a fan of 80s nostalgia (dirty pagan trash!) nor a fan over 80s music in particular (get thee behind me, Heathen!), this site'll be about as interesting as ballet is to Mike Ditka. And thus I reach my point; which is really more of a word of warning than a flash of genius. The "good content" sites will always be like pet rocks and Scrappy Doo, some people will like them, some won't. Although to be honest, I've yet to find someone who actually liked Scrappy Doo.
Luke Farrell is a production assistant for creativepro.com. It should come as no surprise that he had a secret crush on Ally Sheedy and her pickpocketing skills.
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