Small Big Sites

(December 29, 2019) pleasantly surprised me when I randomly entered their site to read an article recommended to me. Upon clicking the link, a full-page privacy advisory greeted me. "We use cookies to personalize your content bla bla bla". Two large buttons awaited below the wall of text, waiting on a choice from me, the user.

What surprised me was the choice I was offered. Normally, it's either accept all cookies vs. leave the site, or the ability to turn off some unnecessary tracking cookies. In this case, one option was the classic "Agree and Continue", but the second was "Decline and visit plain text site".

Not "Decline and go away". Not "Decline and never speak to us ever again". But "Decline and visit plain text site".

Wait, so I can use a streamlined, easy to read, nondistracting version of your website and not be tracked by multinational advertising megacorps? Nice.

Other small big sites

Turns out this text-only version has been around since 2005. CNN also has a text-only version, though it's not as easy to find. It also includes analytics javascript which is not as cool as NPR's pure HTML. In both cases, these light versions were created to make news accessible in locations or times with low connectivity — for example during natural disasters.

As much as I'm not a fan of Facebook, I'm very impressed with This is a minimal, no-ads, no-javascript version of the service, that offers most of the functionality of the full website or app. It was created with emerging markets in mind, but I find it to be a good daily driver that doesn't distract and suck away attention as much as Facebook's products normally are supposed to.

To mention a few other big sites with very minimalist design, Hacker News is a news aggregator known by all in the tech community that relies on minimal javascript and is mostly text-based. Warren Buffett didn't shell out much on the design for Berkshire Hathaway's corporate website.

If you have any questions or comments about this post or site in general, feel free to email me.