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Wingless silver Ford Mondeo

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

This blog is a blog about website code - you know, the stuff that you probably prefer not to think about; the stuff that your website is actually made from. You may have chosen to ignore code but, if you're thinking about buying a website, then please don't ignore this blog. I've been meaning to write this website blog post for many years but I've never felt as though I had the correct metaphor to run with - until now.

For the past couple of weeks I have been driving past a recovery vehicle, a lorry upon which has sat a five door estate in need of a bumper, a radiator grille and two new front wings. This car presents nothing but a grizzly, macabre glimpse into the mechanics and workings of everything and anything which transports us all. Driving past this piggyback the other day, that elusive metaphor, the one I have spent years grappling-for, found me.

What are you buying?

Did you guess correctly? This car is a Ford Mondeo!Do any of us truly understand what we are buying when we buy a car? All of us, at some point in our lives, will have fallen for the devilish good looks of one car or another. Yet, if the bodywork panels were taken from this car, would we feel the same about it if all we could see was the chassis and everything which was bolted, welded or screwed onto it?

The undeniable truth, however, is that the total, ghastly, ugly jumble of components which lurk under the skin of every vehicle is actually what we're buying and proudly driving-off the forecourt. When you fork-out for a car wash you're proudly taking care of the thing which, perhaps, matters the least. A car never broke-down because of a missing or dented wing.

When you buy a car, you're paying for the unimaginable time and effort of countless humans who have spent their lives working in the car industry, pouring everything into the research, development, design, build and marketing of all the terrifyingly-ugly stuff which lies beneath the surface. You're buying engineering excellence and fuel performance but none of us really want to think about that because what we emotionally connect with, fall in love with and wed is the brand. Until, of course, a wheel falls off and we start to contemplate divorce.

Nobody likes to think about the quality of a vehicle's spot welding or the resilience of the hoses of the cooling system. Engineering's what we're paying for but it's not what we buy.

Back to that metaphor

The same goes for websites. How many people in business buy a website based upon what it looks like and not how it's engineered? How many people would be petrified to lift the bonnet? Come to think of it, how many people would know where the release is to pop the bonnet? And, with the bonnet propped-up, how many people would be able to recognise a beautifully-engineered website from one that's been cut-and-shut?

None of us would prefer to look at a car without it's bodywork that hides the engineering and few of us would prefer to look at the code that a browsable website belies the existence of. Nevertheless, code exists and there are layers and layers and layers of it; much of it is pig-ugly and most of it has taken countless years to compile.

Nevertheless, there is logic and beauty to be found in well-written code. The best code is the least amount of code. The best code can be read and understood by more people and things than just the single entity that wrote it. The best code doesn't make annoying little knocks, bangs and pops when it's working.

The next time you're looking to buy a website, take some time to ask about the code that you're buying because a better engineered website will get you from A to B faster, more economically, in comfort, in style and is more likely to turn heads and turn your competitors green with envy.

Footnote: Depending upon the web browser that you use*, you may be able to view the source HTML of any webpage by typing view-source: before the URL you are interested in. Like this:


* More information about browser support may be found at Wikipedia
Steve Whiting, Sub@omic Ltd avatarSteve Whiting, Sub@omic Ltd2nd June 2023Author of 'The Art of Search' - the SEO strategy book 2,500 years in the making.
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