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Man shall not live by download speed alone

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Leslie Barker suggested I look at www.arXitecture.org.uk, a site designed to promote 'an ethical approach to architecture'. It was, says Barker, 'simply designed on Word, plus basic photo-editing software, and saved as HTML. There are no gimmicks so it downloads quickly.' Crikey, does it ever download quickly. Whooorzzzp, suddenly there it is. And the links to associated pages are just as fast - an exception being the page with an image of the Piazza San Marco. Images, that's what grinds sites to a halt.

There's a lesson here. But it is not only for architects with slow and overly gimmicky and arty sites. The lightning speed and doubtless virtuous contents of this site (Why do we build? A thought-provoking presentation by Leslie Barker, Paul Hyett facing the challenges of the new century and Bob McLeod on 'Can there be a Christian architecture?') don't actually remove the need for a modicum of design. The fact is that the basic tools used here could have produced a terrifically elegant and simple site. I fear it is not.

Lumpy is the kindest I can offer as a description. Blindingly fast but lumpy.

I have been in correspondence with another site which has apparently slowed down over a year of modification. With a bit of luck we may get to know the causes and how things can be speeded up. It is clearly still a bit of a black art. Actually, for many web designers it is totally opaque.

Interestingly, first-year students at Bath are working on something like a solution to this as I write. One of their projects is to design their own websites.

They are forbidden to use any clever stuff on the grounds that they have to be able to design well with the basic tools before doing even simple things like roll-over buttons. Great.

I am not sure that ageing architectdominees are the best people to be teaching HTML and web design, but they seem to have got the hang of at least the basics.

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