September 24, 2005

Webpage design.

Have you ever stopped reading a webpage because the design changed? I used to check Memeorandum several times a day. It was my favorite place to go to see what news stories people were blogging about. Now, I have to force myself to go there, and I feel frustrated as soon as I see it. I mourn the loss of the old design. That page, to me, used to look like the conversation about the news. Now, I feel that I might be able to get a sense of the conversation if I studied the page for a while. But I can't stand to look at it, because it just rubs it in how much I miss the old Memeorandum.

28 comments:

Alcibiades said...

I like it better. The software is open to many more blogs. Heh! It's more inclusive. And to my eyes, it looks very much like a conversation is going on. More than the old one did.

APF said...

At first glance it just looked overwhelming with a lot of text and everything in different shades of the same color. You can, however, click on the "preferences" link in the upper-right-hand corner to show "discussion excerpts" (really, the blog posts' headers as links to those entries), which helps a tiny bit.

There are more colors in the world than blue!! The muted green headers just disappear. Also the designer needs to decide what's important: everything's bold and underlined (making everything doubly "important" in a visual sense), resulting in a noisy page--when everything is shouting at you you tune everything out.

Simon said...

I'm afraid that I'm very opinionated about what does and does not constitute good web design. And sadly, the internet is soaked through with the latter, at least in part because the mentality has taken hold that web design is art, and that the primary goal of a website is to look good. To me, a great design is simple, striking, information-driven and light on graphics.

mcg said...

Well, my web pages are blessed with simplicity and a dearth of graphics---but only because I code them by hand :) I don't really have a good web page design tool. And maybe that's a good thing.

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: That reminds me of how I am always thinking I should have a more personal template on this blog, but I've gotten so used to the calm Minima template.

The main thing I care about is how easy a website is to read, the way a book with good white paper, dark black ink, and a solid font is readable. There is no better way to do a paper page of text. Similarly, there was something perfect about the old Memeorandum. It was easy to look at and easy to see.

(I think some of the younger people who do the designing don't realize that a lot of people don't see that well.)

Elizabeth said...

My partner does web design and recommends this book: "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug. The philosophy is that web pages should not require users to do much to find what they want. It should be intuitive, familiar (we're used to certain arrangments of text based on what we expect from books and other publications), and free of clutter.

aidan maconachy said...

Ann - I surf blogs a lot and I keep coming back here on and off. Such homing tendencies aren't usually conscious, surfers are drawn to blog spaces because of that "something" that makes them feel at home.

Your space is open and uncluttered. There is a sense of depth and variety - also structure/protocol that is light and non-invasive, but nonetheless attentive. It's like a pleasant well lit living room with interesting company. Frees people up.

Good job.

Steven Taylor said...

I find myself using it less as well.

Ann Althouse said...

Aiden: I'm using a standard Blogger template called "Minima" designed by Douglas Bowman. I did tweak it a little, mostly to make the type black instead of gray.

Gabe said...

Hi Ann. Well, I knew it would be polarizing, but believed the change would please more than alienate. (Glad you like it more alcibiades!) Seems from traffic analysis and the "average" response that that is the case, but it bothers me that I needed to lose good readers in the process.

Mayber what you're missing is the utter simplicity of the last design. It was: headline, bloggers, headline, bloggers. The reasons I changed that is because I believe it doesn't match the actual conversation, in which for any topic there seems to be several most-discussed posts and articles discussing it, and then several less-discussed posts that are related. The old site didn't recognize this structure. In fact, stories discussing a big event could scatter all across the page. (For an example, see http://efuddle.com/050819/memeorandum-lame , where I discuss what was lame about the old site.) The new design is supposed to better relate this structure.

But if you're having trouble figuring out what's going on, I need to think of ways to better reinforce that. I fear it won't be easy.

Of course the design changes accompanied other changes. Not sure if those are bugging you too.

Ann Althouse said...

Gabe: Thanks for coming by. All I can say is that the old design had me and the new design lost me. It's an intuitive thing. I like the idea of doing more, but there is something about the new design!

Decklin Foster said...

Well, I don't know what the old design looked like, but that site sure is ugly.

I comment only to add that I don't care much what most bloggy sites look like, and might not even notice for a while when they change, because I read almost everything through it's Atom or RSS feed.

(I like it *much* better this way. Your template? Easy to read? This comment page, though? Garishly overdone. Most people who think they know how to design things turn out the examples of the latter.)

Decklin Foster said...

ITS! ITS! arrrgh.

*hangs head in shame*

jaed said...

Have you ever stopped reading a webpage because the design changed?

Hmmm. There were a lot of protests when the Command Post went to a fancy new Sekimori design, and I suspect it lost most of its readership. I personally stopped reading it - it was just too much of a pain, a tiny narrow little column of news surrounded by kewl graphics on both sides. And I noticed I saw many, many fewer links to it.

I agree with Simon - too many "redesigned" blogs were clearly redesigned to look good, not to render fast and be easily readable. It's gotten to where when a blogger I read announces that there's a new design coming - especially a Sekimori design - I mentally cringe. I read blogs to read. If I want to look at pretty layouts, I have a shelf full of design books to wallow in.

Bruce Hayden said...

The problem with Minima as a blogger template is that it is, IMHO, the best looking one. When Ann went to it, I figured I had to change. But after trying a bunch of different ones, went back. But I will remember that tweak you did.

I am very much of purest, esp. after designing a web site for my law practice. I would suggest that the vast majority of the sites I visit are frankly horrible.

One special pet peeve is the use of moving video and the like. I also don't like the fact that when you use a lot of graphics and images, spacing gets screwed up real fast if your screen doesn't match that of the designer.

Oh, and audio, that is even worse. There is a talking woman over at Register.com (where I have my email). I didn't realize she actually talked until I switched computers to one with speakers attached. Currently, I have the speakers disabled on this computer just because of her.

Part of my purism is that HTML, etc. was designed to work almost universally. Things scale up and down nicely.

Carol Corbett said...

And I miss the old SPLOID

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann, I should add that although I love your layout, the recent addition of your pictures is causing a constant update by flickr.com of the status bar. I get a constant "Read static.flickr.com" there whenever I am on your main page.

Not to be picky - but it is distracting. Probably just a result of using Mozilla instead of IE.

Charles said...

Is hate too strong a word?

Memeorandum was indispensable to me, even if I thought it excluded too many blogs.

Now, it's a mess. I agree Ann. I check it and it's a chore to find any semblance of a discussion. Really wish that they'd provide option to use old format.

Monty Loree said...

ann: yours is a reading site. it needs to be simple.

if you want to see complex blogs that are wonderfully full of graphics but hard to read go to blogexplosion.com and do battle of the blogs.

I've got a cold today and needed something light and breazy to do. I saw some nice graphically outlayed blogs. I wouldn't look at them twice though.

For serious discussion blogs, it's good to keep it simple.

Although Memeorandum maybe a more simplistic design, it seems harsh, and looks like a google search page.

Monty Loree said...

I had my programmer help me update my blog to a look that I like a little more. I was drowning in the CSS that blogger gives in the template.

Although I liked the blogger templates, I am pretty picky and wanted something different and unique. Doing a few tweaks to the blogger template gave me more of what I wanted look wise.

Does anybody here know that blogger DOES NOT use keyword or description meta tags in their templates? In the world of webpages, these meta tags are paramount.

I added these meta tags to my blog a few days ago and am looking for the results in search engine visits.

Anybody else have experience with meta tags and their blogs?

APF said...

Design--especially WRT redesigns--is an exercise in solving problems, not in prettying things up, or cramming pages with information.

While the most important part of the blogging experience--from the reader's point-of-view--is the text itself, often little concern is paid to simple things like having readable line lengths; few designers manipulate line hight for better readability; few designers alter the default font size, or the default margins between paragraphs (I rarely read print books/magazines/newspapers which section-off every paragraph like we have on the web); few pay attention to the admittedly minute control designers have over the presentation of text itself. Even if designers payed more attention to the heirarchy of information presentation, it would be a vast improvement: there is an overabundance of underlines and bolded text, and larger, bolded, underlined, different-colored text (which visually ends-up demanding your attention 4x more than body-text) is often strewn about all over the page (not on any particular site, I'm just ranting).

In truth though, there is very little absolute control over the presentation of text one has in using CSS/HTML (or any other web technology for that matter--save PDF perhaps, which is inappropriate for this sort of use and has its own problems). Combine this with the necessity of addressing the viewing concerns of people on a handful of different browsers, using a handful of different display resolutions, and on a handful of different computers--not to mention a wide variety of different ages, experience, expectations, etc--and web design quickly becomes an almost futile exercise, and why designers tend to focus on affectation rather than obsessive craftsmanship. :)

APF said...

"few designers alter the default font size"

That should be, "few designers alter the default font size for the better," for as mentioned above, few designers seem to understand that not everyone is a 20-year-old visual genius with an enormous, perfectly-tuned, high-quality monitor.

Simon said...

I agree with Simon - too many "redesigned" blogs were clearly redesigned to look good, not to render fast and be easily readable.

Oh, it isn't just blogs - it's web pages in general. Web design is NOT art. If it looks good, great - if you can fit some cool graphics into your design, great. But never let it detract from the purpose of a web site or blog, which is to convey information.

For the sake of shameless plugs, whatever else may be wrong with the Snowe '08 site, my blog or Ninoville, I don't feel that they suffer from overdesign; I don't feel that the lack a flash animation spoils the picture. I wish I could share with you the site that I'm building for the county GOP, but I'm under contract to keep it private for now.

When I think of great web deisgn, I think of a site like IBM, or the pre-Oracle buyout Peoplesoft site, or the British Parliament, or the Clerk of the U.S. House, and sites of this nature - it's not that they eschew graphics, they do no such thing. Its that they allow all concerns of "prettiness" to be subordinated to the conveyance of information, and that's a mark of a great website design, IMO.

APF said...

Simon: I wanted to mail you but couldn't find the address in your profile. If you would like some constructive criticism/suggestions for those sites, email me...

I wanted to say, your blog's text is too small (I honestly can't read your posts' footers), and everything's red! Some design-y things are important, like red text (which is jarring for body text IMO) clashing with the blue links (although I understand why you'd want to use red, white, and blue as the colors for your site). Also in one of your posts you underline certain citations, but your links are also underlined--which makes someone assume those are links too (since that's the convention both on your blog and throughout the web as a whole)...

Monty Loree said...

Simon: webdesign and blog design are often two different things.

Web sites are designed to be static information tools, and blogs are meant to be dynamic conversation tools.

the sites you're talking about are nice, but they're not blogs.

e-Definers Technology - Web Design Company said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madhuri said...

A quality webpage design can help your website seek the required attention from the customers. At the same time, it also gives you the confidence that you are projecting your products/services in the best possible way.
web design company

SyrupTechnologies said...

Grid application is utilized to improvise the quality and the visuals of the images for the excellent online appeal. It has to be understood that graphics and Website Designs are highly interlinked with each other as both have significance for anything that is creatively designed in a website.