Michael Alyn Miller

The New Old Thing

I make a major change to my web site every five years or so. It’s easier than writing a blog post and makes me feel good in the same way that switching JavaScript frameworks feels like progress.

Eleven years ago I created my own static blogging engine, but it was too complex and no one should have to edit XSLT. Five years ago I switched to a site based on Jekyll. I also brought in TypeKit-powered web fonts and Gaug.es-backed analytics. Most people use site analytics to sell ads, write targeted content, or abuse user privacy, but I just thought that the Gaug.es “air traffic control” dashboard was cool and wanted that for my site.

Everyone needs goals.

JavaScript and the Path to Moral Corruption

I hated myself just a little bit for introducing cookies to my web site. I remember the first time Netscape prompted me to accept a cookie and I was generally offended by the concept. Twenty years later I was pushing cookies to my users and had justified it with some mumbling about how cookies are ubiquitous and also Gauge.es has a dark mode option.

Thankfully content blockers became a thing and that was the push I needed to rid my site of all of this extra junk. Why was I voluntarily introducing someone else’s code and content into my web site anyway? I had heard this described as a “voluntary code injection attack” and that felt a little too accurate.

Also, @!%# cookies.

The New Old Thing

Removing site analytics was easy. I already had a way of doing back-end log analysis, so I could quickly get back to the bare minimum of hits and clicks. Fonts were harder. I have an opinion about typography and one thing that I really loved about my 2013 redesign was getting to customize the fonts. I did not want to lose that, but I also could not stick with the fonts I was using – their licenses did not allow me to host them on my own server.

Finding new fonts with the right license was surprisingly difficult and delayed the redesign for more than a year. Eventually I discovered the wonderful Alegreya Sans and was able to use it for both the body and header text on the site. The previous iteration of the site used different fonts for those purposes, something that always bothered me from a consistency perspective.

The site redesign is done and probably looks identical to anyone that wasn’t really paying attention. Mission accomplished, I guess? On the plus side, I wrote this blog post, so at least that happened.


I don’t know, don’t use analytics? How about, respect your users? I think that’s the larger thing here. What is your web site about and do you need all of those JavaScript files and tracking cookies? More importantly, if someone else is providing that JavaScript, are you comfortable ceding control of your page to that provider? Are your users okay with their browsing history going to a third party? Did you ask?

We have given up so much control over our personal data that it feels almost inevitable that every web site redesign will make things worse. But we can create islands in the stream that break the chain and respect our users.

And so while I may not have many users, at least I don’t know who they are.