A close friend of mine, Dennis, is one of the editors and contributors to Headache Comix. So far, it is only available in print. Dennis asked me to make a website for their magazine, and I said yes – why not? Visit headachecomix.com to see the result.
The Headache Comix editors knew exactly what they wanted. Luckily for me – neither a designer nor a UX specialist, they wanted what I call anti-aesthetics.
Undoubtedly, the expression anti-aesthetic is an oxymoron, just like “when bad UX is good.” But it’s great that words can convey information beyond claims about objective reality.
By anti-aesthetics, I mean they wanted the design to look good, but not too good. They wanted a certain mood for the site, and this mood excluded “professionalism”.
Headache Comix wanted a sense of randomness.
Currently, the market is empty, but it will be filled with “materials”, things that they want to sell without dividing them into categories. And why? Partly because they have no “goods.” But also because such randomness, for lack of a better word, reflects the spirit of the magazine.
Headache Comix wanted an experience that has nothing to do with what we developers usually do when creating an application.
All they wanted was text, a few pictures, and a few links.
Headache Comix didn’t want, at least at this stage, integration with the Paypal API or another payment system. They didn’t want a shopping cart, signup forms, search functionality, or any other professional site feature.
Dennis met Nick when he was living in Cambodia and moonlighting as a designer. One of the reasons Nick stayed in Cambodia is that it’s cheap to live there. He can afford to live there without having a permanent job and moonlighting in various projects.
Dennis and Nick were happy with the result as they think I got the gist of the project. And as far as I understand, their target audience is also happy.
It didn’t take long to build the site. Basically, the entire site is HTML and CSS template that I fill out with Markdown. All routes other than root are based on the names of the Markdown files. I am using Showdown.js to parse Markdown and a few lines of node.js, using the Express framework to build the backend.
I enjoyed working on this project.
It was not a challenging project in terms of programming, I didn’t have to think about how to solve problems. But it was still interesting.
In a way, this project has changed me.
I think one of the most amazing aspects of the Internet is that sites like Headache Comix coexist alongside professional sites that have advanced features.
And the Internet will not be the same if at least one of the categories disappears.
When people talk about the old Internet as the Wild West, I say that it hasn’t gone anywhere. It can still be found on the net. It’s just harder to find.
But I think these sites are worth finding.
Not because of my “great” anti-aesthetic design (a good designer and / or UX specialist would make him so much better than me). And because of the awesome comics and fantastic magazine covers available in the archive. Because they love art and love to share what they do. And because it is sincere. At least it inspires me.
The Internet is still the Wild West if we leave the big cities. And sometimes we should leave them.
I find this contrast makes the cities and rural areas of the Internet so much more interesting.
The only difference between the old and modern internet is that sometimes the wild internet can be harder to find due to the Google search engine toolbox.
If anything, this situation reminds me of the city in which I live.
I’ve only lived here for a few years, but over the years more and more shops have disappeared from the city. They are now located in a large shopping center outside the city.
I hate going there, shopping malls have no soul and all shops look the same. Besides, I feel trapped there. When I go there I get anxious and never remember how to find store X if I need to buy something.
Personally, I miss the randomness of small stores. I have not met a store with a personality in the mall. And if this feeling is missed, the sold items will not be perceived as authentic.
In most cases, this is normal. We don’t care because we go there to buy consumer goods. Things that we don’t care about.
The advantage of non-physical space on the Internet is how little it costs to buy a domain and host multiple files. How easy is it to start a website that sells things. Therefore, there are sites like Headache Comix where you would have to send an email to a random person to subscribe.
I love browsing books on Amazon. This feature requires a professional website and it’s a great feature. But I also like amateur sites like Headache Comix.
I think both types of stores deserve a place on the internet.
The internet would be different without sites like Amazon and Headache Comix. He should be equally professional and amateur. This is why I think sometimes bad UX is good.
Sometimes the emotions (associations and feelings) that we have when faced with poor UX, in the sense of limited “usability”, have more advantages than disadvantages. After all, UX is much more than just usability. Sometimes we want things to be amateur because professionalism would destroy them. In other cases, we need the professionalism and advanced capabilities of a site like Amazon.
In one letter, Oscar Wilde wrote:
Art is useless because its purpose is only to create a mood. His task is not to teach or in any way influence actions. […] A work of art is as useless as a flower. After all, the flower blooms for its own pleasure. We enjoy the moment we admire it. And that’s all that can be said about our relationship to flowers. Of course, someone can sell a flower and thus benefit from it, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of his essence. It is an accident. This is a misuse.
On this I agree with Wilde. And I think these words capture the essence of this particular UX element.
When the Network ceases to be a bazaar, it will mean that it is dead. But I’m not really worried. The network was created to accommodate both megalopolises and small taverns. And we know it works just fine.
Sometimes I worry, but in the end, I always find new lyrics, images, videos, music and ways to interact, and I stop thinking like Frowning from CS Lewis’s Silver Chair. And I am equally amazed by sites like Amazon and amateur sites. They enrich each other.
But sometimes you can be a Gloomy in some way: pessimism is useful, and as long as a person does not finally lose hope, all is well that ends well.