Back to Thoughts ยทยท LIBRE.TOWN

Like a tree's many leaves, like cloth and skin, and like all of us as people, no website is forever.

Web design is an inherently fleeting art form. Their main purpose is to display information; information that can, of course, change. As opposed to a painting, whose content never changes after it is finished once, a website is in a constant state of flux. Information is appended, substituted or deleted as it becomes more or less relevant. For personal homepages, this might mean the original author's intent, opinions or taste changing, content requiring updating, or simply new elements being added onto what is already there. Between design updates, seasonal changes, nothing is forever. For those of us who view web design as an art form, this is both exciting and unfortunate. Art which can change lacks many of the characteristics which make art enjoyable: no website is ever "complete", and therefore they will always feel somewhat unfinished, begging for progress. At the same time, its very essence is in this fleeting nature: a website has not only two dimensions, but in time, it has found its third. To grasp a web design project as art, one must look at it as a project through time: its changes, its updates tell a story. The story of the webmaster's life, or the story of the topic it is about. Like theatre, it is an art form whose full extent can not be grasped just once, but must necessarily change as life and time moves on. Its beauty is in this nature.

This is what has happened to Libre.Town.

Before the winter of 2022, Libre Town aspired to be a fully interactive text adventure contained in hypertext: a town and its outskirts to explore, characters to meet, and secrets to uncover. The actual content of the website, what made it a personal homepage, like posting my creative content, my blog posts or my shrines, would be located somewhere in this virtual world. For example, you would have been able to find music I composed at the radio tower, my writings in the library, and my blog posts at the print office. It was ambitious and very exciting to design.

Unfortunately, this project had quite a few technical and design issues. First of all, every single site would contain its CSS style sheets on the page itself, embedded in the XHTML; which made changes in the CSS a nightmare as it would have had to be changed on every single subpage too. As the website grew exponentially, it was more and more impossible to keep a consistent stylesheet going. Secondly, the project was simply too ambitious. As the connections within the world grew, I found myself creating pages upon pages simply for fluff and immersion, neglecting the actual content of the site. It felt daunting to work on the website and add new content, as every location in Libre Town would open up links to tons more locations that would have had to been opened. As I decided to rework the website after a year of work, it still barely featured any content, in spite of the tons of meaningless decoration around. I simply did not find it fun anymore to create a hypertext-based virtual world. Thirdly, I thought the website was plain ugly. It was devoid of an art style, mixing real world backgrounds with pixel art foregrounds, barely readable fonts and mismatched color schemes as a result of the convoluted CSS. It was not even appealing in a retro-web manner; it was plain painful to look at.

So, quo vadis, Libre Town?

Right now, the website has been reworked with cleaner CSS and XHTML, and its scope has been vastly reduced to "only" being a personal website. I believe this allows the website to become deeper and more content-rich, and less shallow-but-wide as the old Libre Town used to be. A fancy new minimalist/cyber theme represents my aesthetic and personality much better now than the crusty real-world-website-mix of the old Libre Town ever could. This will allow me to actually post content that I want on the website, and not get distracted by side projects that are not integral to the site. In addition, it is much more readable like this!

So, I hope this clears up any confusion that might not even have been there in the first place. With the remake of the website, various hosted images are now gone, along with the webring CRS47, which had been inactive anyway. This is, of course, unfortunate, but sometimes, a website must change radically to be reborn.

As the leaves fall in autumn and rot in winter, so will they bloom again in spring and fill the land with bliss in summer.