Co.Design

A Facebook Designer Remakes The Web, Without All The Noisy Words

In an unrelated side project, Facebook designer Ji Lee lets us see webpages with all the linguistic content removed.

"I spend hours online every day consuming huge amount of information. Sometimes it becomes too much and I start to feel overwhelmed. So I wondered if there were ways to turn my experience on the web little less overwhelming and more soothing. I wondered what would happen if all the words were gone."

That’s Ji Lee. In his day job, he’s a designer at Facebook and an alum of Google’s Creative Lab. But off the clock, he teamed up with developer Cory Forsyth to develop what he calls the Wordless Web. It’s a bookmarklet that rips the text from any website, presenting the internet through only its pictures. You can install Wordless Web with a quick drag and drop. And then, with the click of a button, you can transform the most typographically heavy pages into serene visual experiences.

"The amount of content on the web is growing exponentially, but our time to consume the growing content is not increasing," Lee tells Co.Design. "So more and more we tend to scan through new content. Images are lot quicker to register and process than words. So, I think it’s a natural trend for the web to become more visual. Images are also universal, whereas words are limited by different languages."

Lee isn’t the first to imagine the web in a more image-forward way. The recent surge in popularity for networks like Pinterest, Instagram and even Tumblr speak to the addictive elegance of stories told mostly through photos. But he is the first to show that the idea…well…it sort of works across the web, even on sites not optimized for the idea. Fastcodesign.com is already an image-forward site, but the experience actually becomes more wonderous as each image is self-punctuated as its own new and incredible idea without context.

Meanwhile, the effect over at Huffington Post is even more jarring. A bold tabloid headline dissolves to murky video still of human loss. President Obama sits below, sad and contemplative. The stories have nothing to do with one another, but without the words getting in the way, the images are free to create a context all their own.

I couldn’t do my job using Lee’s creation—sooner or later, we all need the specific details behind images that only words can provide. (That’s not to mention, of course, that a wordless web would put guys like me out of work.) But as Lee explains, "it wasn’t designed to serve a practical purpose. It’s there to make us realize how our relationship with images on the web changes drastically when we remove the words."

I’d actually take what he said one step further. Wordless Web shows that, much of the time, we’re overusing words in the stories we tell. And on that note…

[Image: Angela Jones/Shutterstock]

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