Frank Chimero: “Everything Easy is Hard Again”

Every new visual essay by Frank Chimero feels like gift to be cherished. Every single one has been a treasure. “Everything Easy is Hard Again,” Frank’s latest essay, if no exception.

I’ve written about his essays before; seems only natural for me to continue. Here are some quotes that resonated with me.

“I believe that the legibility of the source is one of the most important properties of the web.”

“Twenty years ago, I decided to make my own website, because I saw an example of HTML and I could read it. Many of my design peers are the same. We possess skills to make websites, but we stopped there. We stuck with markup and never progressed into full-on programming, because we were only willing to go as far as things were legible.”

Like many people, including Frank, I learned how to make websites by viewing the source code of other websites. Almost everything I’ve learned about creating websites came from the past experience and knowledge of those who came before me. If I wasn’t able to read that code, could I learn? Or would I give up?

Where would I be today without Inspect Element? As View Source becomes increasingly illegible, Inspect Element cuts through some of the tangles of complexity.

But as more of our code becomes computer-generated, even that starts to become an endless cascade of the same styles overwriting each other, forcing me to hunt for the one style I’m seeking. The web is becoming so much harder to understand. I really empathize with the wave of “I DON’T GET IT” → “I GET IT!” → “I DON’T GET IT.”

“Let’s be more like that tortoise: diligent, direct, and purposeful. The web needs pockets of slowness and thoughtfulness as its reach and power continues to increase. “

I am a person who struggles with slowing down. I am driven constantly forward. I have to create artificial constraints to slow myself down. One of those constraints is working remotely, where I have a keyboard between my expressive face and the colleagues who would see what I’m thinking, before I have a chance to process. I strive to be diligent, direct, purposeful. It is a constant challenge, one that I often lose.

But striving to be diligent, direct, and purposeful is important in life. The interactions we have with our fellow humans, the work we do, has an impact on our environment. We do not exist within a bubble. Our words have impact, our actions have impact. It’s important to slow down and reflect on whether or not we’re making the impact we intend.

As tech workers, we have a responsibility to the people we build for. Our reach and impact are higher now than they’ve ever been; we are an increasingly digital society, one that’s growing and flexing and testing its moral boundaries. Thoughtless work causes real damage.

I’m a Girl Scout — I want to leave the world better than I found it. I don’t make a lot of websites from scratch anymore, but I’ll continue to keep Frank’s words in mind as I go.