December 1, 2001
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Elegant Hack

Information architect Christina Wodtke has redesigned Elegant Hack with style and elegance. Unfortunately, the new design forgets to identify who the author is! This is awkward on a number of counts, from personal branding to citation.

A real danger, when rolling out a new design, is leaving out information that is so obvious that it becomes invisible. Once, for a few days, Eastgate's home page failed to explain the core concept: WE SELL HYPERTEXTS. We knew what Eastgate does, so we didn't notice. Nor did our regular visitors, many of whom write frequently with corrections and clarifications. After a few days, we got a call from a Board Member ("I don't find this entirely clear") and I received email from a high-school girlfriend from whom I'd not heard in decades ("I visited your Web site. What is it you do, anyway?").

I once knew an architecture student who, for a class, was told to design an embassy. She planned and drew a wonderful, elegant, cost-is-not-object building. It was filled with beautiful conveniences and thoughtful, unexpected twists. At the end, she drew the driveway on the plan -- and had a terrible, sinking feeling: there wasn't enough space on the lot to accommodate the turning radius of a limousine. The entire project had to be redone. Seeing the invisible is hard; fortunately, it's easier to move Web modules than concrete.