CSS Zen Garden

When in 2007, during an web accessibility course, the teacher explained how clean semantic HTML allowed screen readers to perform better, he displayed a small website where hundreds of webpages would only differ in the CSS file used but still provide a different experience each time. In an instant, he inadvertently defined my career for the next decade.

More than a proof of concept, CSS Zen Garden's simple premise impacted the vision of web designers and directed them on the path to enlightment.


The Guardian

The transition from paper to digital has been (and still remains) a constant challenge that traditional newspapers have to face. While the details of developing a sustainable business model are still to be determined, providing a decent online experience is a domain where most (if not all) news websites fail.

The Guardian stands above the crowd by embracing the web as a platform, where high density of information and contrasted hierarchy cohabit in peace. That, and clickable titles (so obvious!).



At its core, Apple.com is an ecommerce website: browsing for products, comparing features, making a decision, finalising your checkout. But better than anyone else they understood the importance of high quality content, especially pictures.

By driving upwards the aesthetics expectations and perfecting the fluidity of interactions, Apple constantly redefines the shopping experience, where the user can't help but think "I don't need to buy this, but I definitely want to".



It's easy to make any kind of data available online. It's difficult to keep it easy to navigate. Or is it? How come such a large dataset as the entire movie industry information is so pleasant to use? Just use the web's core feature: links. Blue ones, purple ones, where every node of is an entry point to other ones and where simple definitely means easy.


Stack Overflow

User generated content is older than the web. Q&A sites aren't that much younger. How can you launch after everyone else and be the top result in 10% of (my) Google searches?

Stack Overflow's biggest trick was to not to encourage people to share their knowledge (they were already doing it) but to centralise it in a single location. The virtuous circle of "where to ask/where to answer" had begun. And you realise that creating content was all about organizing it.



A full-width layout? With blue links? No user avatar? And Verdana as primary font?? reddit's interface might seem an anomaly in 2015, but is actually designed to give prominence to its content: links, self posts, and comments.

While the site's original purpose was to gather content from other sources, it has since become a source of its own as well. Because beyond the front page and its browsing behaviour, reddit is about defining your own curated experience, both as a reader (where filtering out the noise is effortless) and a creator (where selfless contribution is implicitly encouraged).

reddit is run for and by the community. Nothing is imposed, everything is up to you.


Hacker News

Maybe it's the non responsive Verdana #f60 design. Maybe it's the high density of everchanging technical jargon. Or maybe it's just the wrongly prejudiced name? But Hacker News has naturally managed to filter out the ill-mannered geek culture that tech discussions usually induce.

Despite the silent and reprisal-proof comfort that online discussions provide, the collective behaviour of hacker civility turns disagreements into debates, constructive criticism into upvotes, and programmer anecdotes into life lessons.



My first encounter with GitHub was one of an inexperienced web designer, not familiar with Git, stumbling upon a pseudo filesystem that resembled an enhanced FTP directory. Despite my inability to grasp the bigger picture, I could still in a few clicks retrieve what I was looking for.

Endorsing GitHub's layout is not as innocent as it sounds: for a designer to restrain his aesthetical extravagance to deliver a consistent, practical, and more than anything, unassuming, interface, is a formidable task that requires humility and dedication. Rarely have I been able to tell myself: "There's nothing left to change here".

But beyond the seamless experience and technical feats, GitHub's greatest achievement has been to create a fundamental tool the web was in need of: a safe haven for developers to collaborate and open source communities to thrive.



In its infancy and by design itself, the web was meant to be browsed in two related ways: knowing the URL or clicking on one. But incremental discovery can only deliver an insignificant share of the knowledge the web has to offer.

By providing an interface to answer the infinite diversity of requests a human can come up with, Google has exposed every corner of the web to only a few clicks away, and turned a global hyperlinked information system into an endless pool of intelligence.



An open encyclopedia? Accessible online for free? But most importantly, editable by anyone? "That's crazy, it's never gonna work." The ability to easily insert false information embodies the usual criticism you would encounter, but actually acts like a fraudulent proof-of-concept of Wikipedia's doomed premise.

The thing is, there is in the long run no incentive to alter Wikipedia's content and degrade its integrity. The collaborative authority will prevent it anyway.

By transcending the futile technological fluffs and tasteless graphical trends, Wikipedia simply embodies what every website is meant for, when you stop looking at the page and start using it for what you initially came for: the content.