Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic: Home Page Design Advice from October 1991

I got on the web in either late 1995 or early 1996.

But the web was born in 1991.

From Home Page Design Advice from October 1991, 3 Months After the Web’s Public Debut by Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic:

There are thousands of messages for historians to sort through from this remarkable time in the web’s history. But I want to highlight one early message from Tim Berners-Lee to Edward Vielmetti, an Internet engineer.

“I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have on what it takes to make a good home page,” Vielmetti had asked. “I suppose you want to be sure that a user doesn’t get so completely lost that they can’t find their way out, enough local information that people feel more or less at home. hm hm hm.”

Madrigal quotes Berners-Lee’s response, which reads in part:

Good home page design is an art — like the cover of a magazine, or a quick-reference card. […]There is also the question of whether to make the layout really open (lots of white space), with 5 well-explained links on each page, or to cram in as much as possible.

Madrigal again:

Both the cover model and the card model are totally valid ways of thinking about a home page. […] We really haven’t gotten beyond thinking about home pages with one or the other of these analogies.

Screen shot 2012-12-19 at 12.58.51 PMWith the increased use of narrow mobile interfaces and touch screens even on desktops, one wonders about the future of either of these basic designs. As a blogger, I’ve even struggled with these basic questions. Given the way WordPress tracks browsing statistics, it’s really hard for me to know how many readers use the categories in the top menu to customize their experience here, so I’m torn between keeping the landing screen really simple and squeezing in as many links as possible.

It’s sure going to be interesting to see how the history of the early days of the web ends up being written.