An alternative Haskell home page
The web site has since been through various iterations and changes,
therefore I include some screenshots below for posterity (because my
design is much more beautiful than what is now online ;-).
An alternative Haskell home
I started a couple months back an alternative home page for Haskell.
It is a work in progress, but as I work on it every so often I push
changes to it.
What’s wrong with
haskell.org isn’t doing a satisfactory job for me as a place to
impress people with Haskell and to guide them into using it.
- Its design is broken or just strangely put together and it’s not
- There are too many links on one page which indicates indecision
about priorities and a lack of user story or particular target audience.
Who’s this site targeting? Where are they supposed to go next? Is it
answering the right questions?
- Also, the uncoordinated effort of the wiki misleads
people and pages begin to bitrot. There are too many to vet.
Why not fix haskell.org?
The current home page is historically resistant to change,
technologically and socially. My relationship to haskell.org over the
years has been one of stonewalling when requesting access, of slow
replies, and of bike-shedding and nitpicking when proposing designs. A
camel is a horse designed by committee and haskell.org is such a
So your plan is?
The plan goes like this:
- The first part of the plan was to survey existing programming
language web sites.
- Decide on an audience.
- Decide on a theme.
- Decide on user stories.
- Yay, shiny web site.
do all language sites have and what should they all have?
I looked at the following web sites:
There are good points and bad points for each one, but I came up with
a set of things that are common among all, and a couple additional
points I came up with:
- A theme
- Visual things
- Opening paragraph
- Code sample
- Thumbnails of videos
- Pictures of community stuff; human beings
- Selling points
- Supporters / sponsoring companies
- Other links
- Application areas / success stories
- Language options (locale; Japanese, German, etc.)
Existing crop of language
If you’re interested in my review of each home page, here’s what I
- F#’s is boring, it has no character, features no code samples. But
it does have a bunch of company backing logos.
- Ruby’s is among the best. It has character. It has two navigations,
which is bad, but otherwise it’s perfect.
Otherwise, my only criticism is that it overemphasizes news which most
new people don’t care about and which Rubyists get via other
- Python’s, like Ruby’s, is good. It has character. It has code
samples. But it’s worse than Ruby in that it has four areas of
navigation. The top bar, the second bar, the third call to action
section, and finally the footer. Each of which has a different subset of
total places of interest. Again, it uses space presenting news items.
However, I particularly like the section which shows Web Programming,
GUI Development, etc. and then next to each the library one would use to
accomplish that task. That’s very practical and speaks positively about
the language and community.
- OCaml’s is not bad either. It has a deserty theme giving it its own
character. It suffers from link overload, which implies it might’ve been
copying Haskell’s or Python’s home pages.
- Go’s home page is notable for its embedded try feature, something
which I’ve wanted Haskell’s home page to have for a long time. It’s also
got a very simple and straight-forward navigation. The logo/mascot is in
there, giving the whole page a bit of fun character, too. While not much
to look at, unresponsive to device, clearly written by a pragmatist
systems person, it has a lot going for it and is in my mind among the
best I’ve looked at.
- For Perl’s homepage, I’ll echo similar complaints as before. Link
overload. It’s a rather lazy way to make a home page. Let’s throw in as
many links as we can and hope people read it all and by chance find what
they’re looking for. Oh and to fill out the page, let’s add recent
uploads (who cares?) and news items (again, who cares?). Finally, it has
no character whatsoever. It has the awful O’Reilly pen drawing of a
random animal that’s supposed to embody the character of the language,
but is meaningless. I probably dislike this one the most, a close tie
- Scala’s is very trendy and pretty. It’s got a lot of events and
training info which, along with the header mountains, gives it a very
communal and active fresh feel. Again, echoing the praise of Go’s page,
it has very simple navigation. One navigation at the top, and then two
big buttons for the most common tasks. After that, like Python’s home
page, there’s a good review of features of the language that make this
language more interesting than the next language. I give credit to this
page for visual inspiration.
- Clojure suffers a little bit from linkitis, too. It has three menus
and then a page full of links. It has zero code samples on the first
page you land on. But it is clean and has a certain character to
Generally, I’m not sure why sites bother with search boxes. Unless
they’re implementing code-aware searches, Google will be faster and more
accurate every time. As Joel Spolsky says of his StackOverflow, Google
is the user interface to SO.
Regarding linkitis, I will quote Don’t Make
Me Think that a user will happily click three links to narrow down
what they want, than to have to think and search around a page to find
what they want, if they have the patience for it.
The audience is newbies. People who use Haskell don’t go to
haskell.org. They go to Hackage, or they google search and find wiki
entries, or the GHC manual. A home page shouldn’t cater to Haskellers,
it should cater to would-be Haskellers.
Naysayers for an attractive home page say things like “we don’t want
superficial people joining the community” (as if they could just learn
Haskell on a whim!), but forget that people live insular lives. There
are millions of people out there who’ve never heard of Haskell. If a
random web user stumbles upon it and is taken by the look of it, what
are they going to do with it? Share it. How did you first hear of
Haskell? I was told about it by a friend.
To decide on the kinds of things I want to see on a landing page when
I first look at a language I’m unfamiliar with I ask a bunch of common
questions. I’ve condensed them all in the user stories section.
I’ve always liked the purple and green of the old Haskell logo. I
don’t know why gray/sky blue ended up being used for the new logo. So I
decided I’d keep that purple theme and made some mockups. Purple is a
The user stories I’ve identified have been encoded in the main
- A user just wants to try Haskell. They scroll to ‘Try it’ and, well,
try it. There can be links to further sites like Try Haskell, School of
Haskell, Code Pad, Lambdabot, services like that.
- A user wants to download Haskell. They click ‘Downloads’. What
particular file they want to download doesn’t matter. It could be GHC,
it could be the Haskell Platform, it could be some packages. If they
want to download something, they go to Downloads.
- A user wants to interact with/find community. They click
‘Community’. On that page is a list of various community places of
interest, which may itself be expanded with videos and things like
- A user wants to get information. They click ‘Documentation’. That
means books, reports, papers, tutorials.
- A user wants to catch up with what’s new in general, with Haskell.
They click ‘News’ and there can be an RSS feed available on that page.
Haskell News is mostly suitable to this task.
Ahoy, ye olde mockup!
I synthesized all this together into a comp in Inkscape.
I think it answers the following questions:
- Any particular brand/logo? [header]
- In a few words, what is this thing? [header]
- What does it look like? I want to see code immediately.
- Can I try it right now? [try haskell section]
- I’m still interested. Is anyone using this thing? [community &
videos, events section]
- What are the selling points, over, say, ML or C#? [features
- Where do I download stuff/find community/docs/news? [the main menu
at the top]
I made a mockup for the subsite, but that’s uninteresting.
I’ve implemented a starting prototype here at haskell-lang.org. At the time of
writing it doesn’t yet fully flesh out all the things planned in the
There are a few half-done pages in the navigation, fleshed out just
enough to satisfy my plan and to motivate for further work.
Here’s a quick comparison of the two sites now:
To illustrate, here’re the sites on various devices:
I’ve also made a little page to render wiki pages from haskell.org.
There is a simple request sent to haskell.org for
pages, it parses the Wiki syntax with pandoc and renders it to HTML, at
least for the pages that MediaWiki is kind enough to serve. Example: Handling
errors in Haskell
Here is the above
wiki page with a cleaned up presentation.
Note that MediaWiki is a bit stunted in the data it exposes for use.
Some pages just aren’t available, others produce invalid XML, etc. This
is why the wiki is not exposed in the navigation.
I’m not sure about exposing the wiki directly, but rather some
selected vetted pages, perhaps.
I still have to:
Fill in the Try support
The features copy
- Examples for each of said features
A list of video thumbnails to appear under the community banner
(as in the comp)
- Upcoming/past events
- At least 5 examples for the header code
Add books & manuals to the Documentation tab
I’m happy with the look and feel and organization. Now is the matter
of filling it with useful things. That’ll take about a month, by
weekend/spare-time development. Once that’s done, it will be ready to
link to newbies. I’ll have a link to be proud of when people bring up
I could solicit the community for contributions via pull requests. It
depends on people approving of the project and my approach. So if you’re
reading this and you accept my design and organization and
would like to contribute content (content pages are written in
markdown), then pull requests to the github repo would be
most handy. I will merge your changes and redeploy with relative
In particular, content in wanting which is not straight-forward for
me to produce:
- About 5 examples of concise, short Haskell code which can sit in the
header. Ideally, each example can be clicked and it will take you to a
markdown page under an Examples hierarchy that explains how the code
- The features section needs to be filled out with content. I’m not
entirely sure that the headers are decent, but I’m pretty sure they’re a
good start. Pages for each of those which
contain example code of real problems that are solved are needed.
I won’t be able to actively work on this for a few days, but I can do
bits and bobs here and there on the weekend and I always have time to
merge straight-forward changes.
Questions/comments, feel free to email me: [email protected] Put a note in
the email if you wish to be CC’d with other people in the