The Kindle Test
I recently returned from a week of vacation with my wife and in-laws. I'm a full-time remote worker these days and am constantly in front of my computer, so I was determined to make this a true getaway with as little screen time as possible. To that end, I packed only two electronic devices for the trip: my phone and my circa 2015 Kindle Paperwhite. My phone took care of communication and my limited browsing needs, while the Kindle obviously handled reading duties. But the Kindle has a quirky little web browser of its own, and it plays a decisive role in my own web projects.
I've been interested in minimal websites for a long time. From the venerable mnmlist blog to the functionally austere Vulfpeck homepage, I'm a lover of all things text-based and lightweight. I even prefer text-only NPR for its simplicity. Sites like NPR's were initially designed for users with limited bandwidth due to emergencies or natural disasters, which is a noble goal in and of itself. But they are also easier to read, faster to load, and generally free of the modern web's excess baggage.
My own website needs are pretty basic. While plenty of other projects have come and gone, these days, I just have a personal landing page, a tribute to my old podcast, and this blog. The first two are currently hosted on GitHub Pages and are teeny-tiny (as of this writing, ericfrisch.com weighs less than 50kb all-in). And it shouldn't be hard to see why Bear Blog feels like an ideal home for my writing during this stage of life or why I'm a proud supporter of the project.
So what does this have to do with the Kindle? Much like the news sites I mentioned above, I doubt the Kindle web browser was intended to provide a superior internet experience. For me, it's primarily used for logging into wifi networks on the road. But I decided a few years ago that all my web content should look good on that limited, oft-forgotten browser. This is not because I think lots of people are viewing my sites on their Kindles (they aren't). Instead, I figure that if something looks good in an experimental browser on a tiny e-ink screen, it will likely work on any other device, too. "The Kindle Test" is my simplicity standard for web design, and that standard has served me well. In fact, Bear is so lightweight that I could actually write posts on my Kindle if I wanted to!
Obviously, I don't expect this standard to work for anyone else. I don't even know that it will always make sense for me. People and projects have different needs, and I benefit daily from plenty of media-heavy, feature-rich websites. This is just one area where I've benefited from applying minimalism to my life, stripping away everything unnecessary until only the essentials remain.