Frenchman Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a writer, WWII pilot, and general designer-of-things. Perhaps you’re familiar with his quote, “‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” I think about this quote a lot in my work, and it informs our product decisions at LexBlog. In fact, I’d estimate that about 10% of my working time is spent removing things, and I enjoy this process.
An affinity for removing things is called minimalism, so therefore here at LexBlog we are minimalists. If left to my own devices, I might even veer off into brutalism.
Like any modern technology company, much of our work is an exercise in managing third-party tooling. Of course our primary platform is WordPress, and we also make judicious use of a handful of third-party plugins, such as WordPress SEO. Being that WordPress powers one-third of all domains, it’s no surprise that LexBlog uses only a subset of its functionality. I believe that if you don’t need to use it, then you don’t need to see it, so I go to great lengths to remove unused/unusable UI components. Common examples are admin menu items, admin columns, and even the occasional pop-up or “badge”.
Even better than removing things is just not adding them in the first place. Fortunately, the majority of our codebase is completely custom; we write and maintain most of the code we serve. That means we frequently get to enjoy not adding things. In our world, adding a single checkbox to a single widget is considered a grave step toward complexity. It’s easier to add code than it is to remove it. I recall reading recently on the jQuery blog that the future of jQuery is in removing code rather than adding it. I feel similarly about our flagship products, and I like it.
We’re lucky to have a designer who makes his mark with subtle choices around white-space and typography, rather than vast header images. It’s interesting to note how much of my CSS work is spent managing white-space. It’s become something of a professional obsession for me.
I’m looking forward to the next few development cycles at LexBlog because it looks like we’ll be churning out some lovely bits of minimalism. Our AMP offering is nearing completion (here’s a preview of our AMP look); AMP exemplifies minimalism if anything ever has. We have some exciting changes on the horizon regarding our Typekit implementation which looks to be a beautiful exercise in deleting code.
It’s fitting that when de Saint-Exupéry died in combat in 1944, he vanished without a trace — the ultimate french exit. There’s probably no such thing as WordPress perfection, but if there is, I believe it’s attained when there are no more bloated plugins, no more unused widgets, and no more useless menu items to take away.