An open letter from Marin Exley, the creator of OpenBooks.

TL;DR: You're doing Neocities wrong.

August 25th, 2016, HQ


I am in no way affiliated with the Neocities team. This article represents my own personal thoughts and my own only.

There's something that's been bothering me about a lot of Neocities sites.

Neocities is not your Geocities renaissance.

Actually, I kinda see how you might be thinking this. The names are similar, yeah? Neocities is in many ways similar to the way Geocities used to be — but that doesn't mean we should all still be using table layouts and building pages like it's still the glory days of Windows XP and IE 6.

I made this mistake too. You can tell by looking at my old site, if you were around then. But that was because that was all I knew how to make at the time. But it's 2016. There's no excuse now, we have frameworks like Bootstrap and Zurb Foundation, and my own Weave.css. It's not hard to make a site that works on all devices with a modern, readable design.

Neocities gives us a free, easy, and accessible webhost - anyone can publish anything they want. So why are we so focused on emulating an era than many of us weren't even alive for? There's so much more that can be done with Neocities — and that's something I'm trying to show with the new OpenBooks.

The new OpenBooks, and modern web design.

If you've followed OpenBooks for a while, you probably know it didn't always look like this. Originally, it looked like a site from 1998, and it slowly progressed through the years. Since starting OpenBooks, my personal skill with HTML and CSS has much improved. OpenBooks looked 90s because that's all I knew. I was afraid of learning actual, modern web design because I thought it was hard. It's not nearly as hard as you think.

One major problem with designing 90s-style sites is a quite simple one. For the longest time the internet existed, most people accessed it from a desktop computer. With a large display in front of them. That's no longer the case. The modern web is mobile. Phones and tablets have replaced computers for many people - not entirely of course, but the majority of web traffic is mobile traffic. 90s sites aren't optimized for that. They use heavy gif animation, non-responsive frame-based layouts, and tiny text.

Like I already mentioned, there are frameworks that make this kind of design easier. But I already know what some of you are thinking. "I prefer ____ style." That's great. You're allowed to. Neocities is personal - keep making your site the way you want it. Neocities can be a way for you to relive the Geocities glory days if that's what you wish. But that's not all Neocities can do. Of course... there are some things that can still get in the way:

Neocities Limitations

Neocities still has limits on what kinds of files you can store, and the storage space they give you. But even with these limitations, you can create great things. Modern web design relies on CSS for most effects, rather than images — that makes the file sizes smaller. Most web technology is already supported on Neocities, although you're obviously not going to be powerering your PHP and MySQL Wordpress blogs off of it any time soon. Neocities used to have more limitations, for example, there were no folders. That made using responsing web frameworks difficult, but it's no longer an issue.


Create great websites. Create something the best you can — and push yourself further. Modern web design isn't hard. It isn't scary. The resources to learn are out there (I recommend the MDN as a reference). Work around or work with Neocities' limitations (which aren't as limiting as you may think). In short, don't get caught up trying to relive the past — be just as creative as you were then, but don't limit yourself to outdated tech.

– Marin Exley

Founder of OpenBooks

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