Discussion about Wired News redesign

Written by Adrian Holovaty on October 14, 2002

The folks on the online-news discussion list have been discussing Wired News' recent all-CSS redesign. I posted this comment today:

> But the Wired site is ugggggly. No sense
> of serendipity. And hard-to-read black-on-white
> text on the left.

I respectfully disagree.

You may think Wired News' design is ugly, but the beauty -- rather, *one* beauty -- of CSS-based design is: You can make sitewide design changes in a matter of minutes.

So if enough Wired readers complain about the color scheme, site designers can change one or two lines in a file, and, voila -- problem solved.

(It's not quite that easy on a table-based layout with hard-coded font tags, as I'm sure you know. In fact, in most cases, it's a huge headache.)

The folks at Wired News haven't just redesigned. They've built a framework.

> Likely designed by programmers who were
> responding to a study -- rather than by the
> business-side folks who want to keep folks
> visiting the site on a regular basis.

How's this for good business practice:

  • Saving time and money on development
  • Saving time and money on maintenance
  • Saving time and money on production
  • Saving money on bandwidth

I'd say those are good things. Adopting CSS is not only a good technological decision; it's a smart business move.

Regarding "keep[ing] folks visiting the site on a regular basis":

  • CSS cuts down drastically on page load time.
  • CSS lets designers do more than tables will allow (with few exceptions).
  • CSS enables user-level site customization. Examples: alltheweb.com/alchemist, waferbaby.com/mybaby.

And, to address the issue of legacy browser support, two points:

  • Designers need to accept their designs won't look the same in every browser. This is the Web, not paper.
  • When viewed in legacy browsers, smartly coded CSS-based designs that "degrade nicely" are acceptable. Frankly, on many news sites, I'd rather view a plain, text-only version than attempt to navigate the cluttered "real" version.

Comments

Posted by Julie on October 14, 2002, at 8:05 p.m.:

I applaud Wired's move to CSS and I'm all for the the separation of content from design ... HOWEVER, I think it's also important not to completely ignore the cool/pretty/wow factor. And I gotta say I agree with the "man it's ugly" crowd. While you might rather view a plain, text only version, you have to remember you're an extremely advanced Web user. The majority of users will not see/appreciate the behind-the-scenes technological advantage. They will only see a site that suddenly APPEARS to be have been designed without benefit of a graphic artist and to many people it will just look unprofessional and unappealing. They want the cool/pretty/wow.

Not to mention Wired's new design is violating at least one major rule of design (their left align point shifts not once but twice over the course of a story) and one major rule of usability (forcing people to read line after line of text ALL THE WAY across the screen...heaven help anyone with a 30" monitor).

Luckily their handy new all-CSS platform will allow them to make improvements quickly. =)

Posted by Shayne on October 14, 2002, at 9:20 p.m.:

Let's be honest -- a lot of news sites have a long way to go in terms of being usable, readable and visually appealing. And that's no easy task when you have to fight upper management that says "Can you make that button Cornflower Blue?" or battle the ad staff about adding another 250x400 ad. Regardless, my vote - the new Wired's not ugly. I dig it.

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