Why I added text to my 'pure icon' site after eight years

Since 2013, I was using a website design with no visible words—icons only; it was an obsession with The icon is a promise and the perspective of words being 'limited' in expressing things. Eventually I added text available only to screenreaders, and thought it was interesting to have a context where visually impaired persons (VIPs) would be able to 'see more' than sighted people. I digged the pure visual aesthetic and the design seemed like it would last forever (just keep adding icons to the list). I also avoided explaining 'me' because I thought that 'what I do should explain me', and seeked to make everything 'about the projects'. So for almost a decade, I have been 'explaining' myself to the online world with a list of icons, and a small amount of project-specific text essentially invisible to most people. After contemplating this recently, I began to notice issues.

Imagining what it's like for someone arriving there, I feel it would be overwhelming to click on anything: a giant list of icons, each one descending into a rabbit hole of who knows what, not one seeming to offer a sense of the landscape or horizon—how does one decide where to start? I suspect that the poor sense of 'what to click on next' might cause me to lose many people who arrive there and feel lost. It would be selfish to expect people to essentially gamble with their attention and click many links at random in order to understand the larger picture—if they aren't able to understand, the medium of communication has failed. Worse, I realized recently that although it was possible to hover on icons to see the name and description of each icon, this was not possible on mobile devices. I sometimes thought I was raising awareness about the needs of VIPs, but in retrospect it was kind of a jerk move which made it harder for most people on purpose… So it's time to try something different. It should be simple to get an overview of what's going on: perhaps better to present with more information.

Comparing current and previous layouts: text is now visible everywhere without any special interaction or hardware and there is a small blurb about me which links to an about page for a more textual overview. I think both frame everything in a way that's more accessible for everyone, making it simpler to understand what on earth I'm doing with my life. I feel happy with the result: I still dig the aesthetic and actually find it more friendly. Looking forward to see how this next phase of the design goes, and how much time passes until the next change.

As a bonus, check out the pre-2013 layout on Wayback Machine.

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