This is a web page.

There’s not much here.

Just words.

And you’re reading them.

We’ve become obsessed with fancy designs, responsive layouts, and scripts that do magical things. But the most powerful tool on the web is still words. I wrote these words, and you’re reading them: that’s magical.

I’m in a little town in California; you’re probably somewhere else. I wrote this early in the morning, August 11, 2014; you’re probably reading it at a different time. I wrote this on my laptop; you could be reading this on your phone, a tablet, or a desktop computer.

You and I have been able to connect because I wrote this and you’re reading it. That’s the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones, we can connect here, on a simple HTML page.

I wrote this in a text editor. It’s 6KB. I didn’t need a Content Management System, a graphic designer, or a software developer. There’s not much code on this page at all, just simple markup for paragraphs, hierarchy, and emphasis.

I helped my boyfriend start his blog. The first thing he wrote was a story about music. He wasn’t “writing HTML”; he was sharing something he loves with the world. He didn’t really care about design considerations, he cared about sharing his story.

You are still reading.

Think about all the things you could communicate with a simple page like this. If you’re a businessperson, you could sell something. If you’re a teacher, you could teach something. If you’re an artist, you could show something you’ve made. And if your words are good, people will read them.

If you’re a web designer, or a client who is working with one, I’d like to challenge you to think about words first. Instead of starting with a style guide or a Photoshop mockup, start with words on a page.

What do you have to say? If you don’t know, there’s not much use in adding all that other garbage. Just start with one page, with a single focus. Write it and publish it, and then iterate on that. Every time you’re about to add something, ask yourself: does this help me communicate better? Will that additional styling, image, or hyperlink give my audience more understanding? If the answer’s “no”, don’t add it.

At its heart, web design should be about words. Words don’t come after the design is done. Words are the beginning, the core, the focus.

Start with words.