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the hypertext paradox

A website is a piece of media. An incredibly plastic piece of media, that is able to take form in many different ways. Interactive or static, text or image, but always with the ability to expand and go somewhere else.

Websites are built with text, but they are not hypertext. They are Hypermedia.

If I want websites to be an expression of our particular souls, I must accept that some express themselves through more, or without, text.

Hypertext can be anything but hypertext must always be text.

Yet since websites are built on text, we must understand what without text a website can not exist. This creates a paradox of websites being everything but always being text. And not just any text, there is a need for the text underlying a website to be HTML (hyper text markup language) with CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) and/or JS (JavaScript) added in.

These are markup and programming languages expressed through text. Just like a language they must be learned, and just like a spoken language, learning them is not easy. The translation of text, into a piece of hypermedia is one that not everyone will find intuitive, and I would argue that the way websites are created is always the biggest obstacle in their mass adoption.

Tools → Websites

A myriad of tools exist that can help us create a website without ever needing to write text. These empower those who find the text inherent to a website confusing. Code is scary, so we must recognize that this can feel incredibly freeing to people.

Tools such as the few listed here provide an interface less abstracted than the text based building blocks of a website.

They allow people to see the site as they are creating it. To move an element without defining it as an absolute position and setting it's margin-left to be 2rem. They move it intuitively, by clicking it and dragging it in the direction they want it to be. They write bold text by click a boldened B instead of writing <b>. It's simpler.

The Magic Box

An issue with these tools is that they introduce a magic box into the creation process. The website that is created is, still, hypertext, css and javascript. It's merely hidden from the creator. This lends itself to becoming proficient with the tool, instead of the internet itself.

These tools have found communities that use them to their fullest potential. kPop stans with their fansites on carrd, yuppies with their fucking internet retreats on mmm.page, mom's with their cooking blogs on blogger and depressed teens on tumblr. They represent the sort of microwave of the internet. They let you cook up a website, without needing much knowledge of what cooking actually entails. Some of them break the magic boxes of their tools and slowly bleed out of their walls into the unkept fields of wild html.


We could enable more to create websites by "simply" teaching in a simpler manner. At the end of the day, the bones of the website is HTML — hyper text markup language.

An emphasis on the markup reveals the simplicity of websites at their bones and it's with this simplicity that we should teach and build on.

Maybe this gripe about teaching comes from a personal experience. Of being thought frameworks (wix, wordpress divi and wireframing) in an institutional context. The goal of all, not to teach me how to make a website, but how to adhere to an industry and participate in it's problem.. A trail by fire and magic boxes with as many buttons as a space ship.

I find the teachings of handmade-web.com, a web design class from Virginia Commonwealth University inspiring. It's teacher, Aidan Quinlan, writes:

The websites we will make may be small, but their hearts will be big.