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Tabula Disastera?
June 29, 2006 11:48 AM   Subscribe

". . . after 3 minutes of reading your new site my eyes started hurting and my stomach tied up in knots." "I am in misery." Slate redesigns its website once again (previous designs here and here), loyal readership freaks out. The interweb responds here and here (note the presence of at least two positive reviews; not all is lost dear Slate!)
posted by _sirmissalot_ (70 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Snarkmarket? There's a whole market for snark!? 'scuse me. I'll be back in a minute. I'm going to go make me a gazillion dollars. Really, this'll just take a moment.
posted by loquacious at 11:54 AM on June 29, 2006


Oh, wait--that's the actual redesign?

Seriously, when I looked at Slate for the first time in a while yesterday I thought something was wrong with the way it displayed in Firefox, and that it'd get sorted out eventually.
posted by Prospero at 11:55 AM on June 29, 2006


I think people overreact to site redesigns.

How is the redesign? Meh. But I'm not much of a Slate reader anyway (unless its linked from here). So, I don't care much.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:56 AM on June 29, 2006


It's a website, not a car. Get over it.
posted by wfc123 at 11:59 AM on June 29, 2006


That's what you get for hiring a Japanese automaker to design your website.
posted by empath at 12:02 PM on June 29, 2006


Yeah, it's more like an de-design or un-design. Slate deconstructed. It really has lost some smoothness, elegance and readability.

I wonder how much they paid for that single headline of slightly closed-kerned san-serif typesetting, err, I mean logo. It looks like 2,000 manhours of design by committee and 5 minutes in Corel Draw 3. The kerning on the main Slate logo is irritating the hell out of me.

And, heck, I love Corel for it's CAD-ishness, it's arbitrary curve precision and it's enormous document sizes, but it's font engine sucks.
posted by loquacious at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2006


It's a bit rubbish. And the HTML isn't going to be winning any awards anytime soon. Also - Courier? Why not Comic Sans?

As a sort of counter-example, I really like the recent redesign of Slashdot.
posted by Artw at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2006


I tried to read a Slate article today, and it was horrific. So I clicked the print link, and was so pissed off that they’d done everything possible to prevent me linking to that version I left.
posted by bonaldi at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2006


Over-reaction. It packs more in than ever before, even with the larger logo, which I don't approve of, elegance is always lost by over-enlarging a logo, a classic rookie mistake -cough- benz!- cough. But in a fascinating magazine like this I approve of seeing as many departments as possible. The simplification of websites, empty spaces is noble but cross-purposes with this genre or in sites that have are not utility sites.
posted by uni verse at 12:07 PM on June 29, 2006


You can still link to the print page if you right click on the popup and go to "View page info" in Firefox, highlight the entire address and copy it into Firefox again. I still don't like the re-design. The new /., however, is a much-needed improvement.
posted by vkxmai at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2006


Yeesh. Pretty damn bad. And what's with the 1px dotted line under the "logo?"
posted by brundlefly at 12:11 PM on June 29, 2006


I think it's great. I almost did an FPP here the other day praising it, but figured most mefi readers wouldn't care. The ajax menus make navigation between areas much easier; I no longer end up clicking on the logo after reading an article just so I can return to the menu I want to see.
posted by bingo at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2006


Wow...that pop-out navigation is really really bad.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:16 PM on June 29, 2006


And it's not AJAX in any way shape or form, you hype-tard.

It's old, annoying 'DHTML' – just plain javascript pushing shit around in the DOM. Their implementation of rollover menus is one of the best I've seen, and it's still crap. Not as bad as most though.
posted by blasdelf at 12:19 PM on June 29, 2006


(not AJAX)
(just a normal-looking site - what did it look like before? Why are people freaking?)
posted by NinjaTadpole at 12:20 PM on June 29, 2006


I'm going to chime in with the crowd that says the re-design is awful, though not quite so hyperbolicaly. The site fails on a lot of levels though:

1. Non-liquid design for a news site? WTF?
2. Way too small main content area.
3. Side menu buttons need to be much larger.
3A. The pop-out from the buttons to articles isn't necessarily a bad idea, but delinate with some colors for god's sake!
3B. Ads in the pop-out menu? Screw you Slate.
4. Utter failure in guiding the user's eye vis the awful whitespace implmentation.
5. The front page is just a mess, it can neither decide if it's going to be minimal or lush and is therefore just bad.
posted by Vaska at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2006


Sorry, I was probably supposed to call you a hype-tard too.
My manners!
posted by NinjaTadpole at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2006


The design is all over the place. If they really want to improve it, just de-link any article written by Mickey Kaus. Sure, it won't fix it, but it's a step in the right direction.
posted by jefbla at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2006


Wow. People on the internets sure do complain.

Snarkmarket.com? You'd think that would redirect right back to MetaFilter.
posted by ninjew at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2006


I like mousing over the lefthand nav buttons and watching the "Slate Redesign Presented by Nissan" bit change.

If only someone would invent a way to include often used bits of text from a single file.
posted by thinman at 12:31 PM on June 29, 2006


The implementation of the sections (News & Politics, etc.) is weird. When you click on "Health & Science" you don't get a list of Health & Science articles, you get all recent articles with the Health & Science section bumped to the top. The sections don't show up in the breadcrumbs, nor are they ever highlighted in the navigation to show what type of article you're reading.

I think they have a basic taxonomy problem, above and beyond any visual design issues.
posted by staggernation at 12:33 PM on June 29, 2006


A completely unneccesarry, hideously cluttered mess.

Hurrah for text-only Slate, created by the wonderful Nic Wolff!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:36 PM on June 29, 2006


Slate redesign presented by Nissan.
Slate Redesign Presented by Nissan.
Slate Redesign Presented by Nissan.
If you're going to put a blurb in your main navigation menu touting your redesign, shouldn't you at least decide on a consistent style for the blurb?
posted by RichardP at 12:39 PM on June 29, 2006


Eyes hurting? Stomach tied in knots? Misery?

These people need a hobby.
posted by clevershark at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2006


I like mousing over the lefthand nav buttons and watching the "Slate Redesign Presented by Nissan" bit change.
posted by thinman at 12:31 PM PST on June 29


They need to add more sections so they can have every possible combination of bold, italics, and capitalization; right now they only have four or five.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:46 PM on June 29, 2006


On the upside, they've dropped the MSN branding. Microsoft seems to be dropping that across the board. "MSN Hotmail" is set to become "Windows Live Mail" once Vista launches.
posted by zsazsa at 12:47 PM on June 29, 2006


Microsoft no longer owns Slate.
posted by staggernation at 12:52 PM on June 29, 2006


Oops. Boy, how could I have forgotten that?
posted by zsazsa at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2006


They should just change the name to Slated.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2006


I don't really care how it looks but do find the new slate to be very hard to use. I really just want it to be laid out like a blog in rerverse chronological order with the newest stories at the top. It's so hard to find the new stories now that it's really not worth the trouble. You have to scroll twice to get to today's entries and then they are in two columns that are longer than my browser window (maximised) so that I have to scroll up and down to see the day's stories.
posted by octothorpe at 1:21 PM on June 29, 2006


The should change their name to Stale. Get it, Stale? Haha! As in stale bread. Oh boy. Whooo!

Fuck, I still have two hours left of work.
posted by jefbla at 1:21 PM on June 29, 2006


Am I the only one who has to side-scroll the page? Yeesh, you think you got it bad.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2006


The should change their name to Stale. Get it, Stale? Haha! As in stale bread. Oh boy. Whooo!

Yeah, they totally should!
posted by zsazsa at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2006


It's a bit rubbish. And the HTML isn't going to be winning any awards anytime soon. Also - Courier? Why not Comic Sans?

I've seen several people complain about the use of Courier, but I'm not seeing it. And I've checked my Firefox prefs to make sure I have Courier set as my default monospace font. Can somebody point me to the Courier?
posted by macrone at 1:42 PM on June 29, 2006


The menus are way annoying, and the white font/maroon background on the menu is way too harsh. Glad I don't have to use them (I generally only see Slate when it's linked to).

It's not the worst redesign I've ever seen, but it's nowhere near as nice as some recent ones (going to second the Slashdot redesign mention as a good one).
posted by inthe80s at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2006


macrone - I tell a lie, it's actually a slightly messed with Georgia.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on June 29, 2006


The execution on the visual design is pretty bad, but I like the general idea.

On the other hand, the interaction design is execreble. That pop-out navigation is nasty, nasty, nasty. It doesn't behave in an easily predictable way, and it doesn't look like navigation when it pops out -- it looks as though you suddenly replaced the top part of the page with a bunch of hard-to-read STUFF.

Again, that's arguably an execution issue, but I think the idea is actually pretty bad to begin with. Maybe if you made some kind of actively actuated slider -- something people had to actually ask for, instead of getting by virtue of accidently wandering over the left sidebar with their mouse pointers.

Basically, this interaction design is user-hostile: It punishes a user who dares to, say, mouse around on the page, and it penalizes users who want to do simple things like email the print link.

Visually, though -- that just needs a talented graphic artist. I could recommend one. They wouldn't hire her, though.
posted by lodurr at 2:16 PM on June 29, 2006


The white gutter between the left sidebar and the content column is a little large. And so is the logo.

Otherwise I don't think it's that bad.

The pop-out nav is interesting and seems fairly easy to use, but not perfectly executed. And it would be nice if they had a real homepage, instead of just a blank page with the first nav tab "popped out" already.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:20 PM on June 29, 2006


Correction: I see they do still have a regular homepage. But when I first loaded it, the first nav tab was popped out, covering the content. That nav is on a hairtrigger.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2006


... haritrigger.

Well, that's the problem with it. It shouldn't be onMouseover, it should be onClick. That is, it sould be something that people actually request, rather than something they get by accident -- as you did.
posted by lodurr at 2:27 PM on June 29, 2006


bonaldi and vkxmai: If Firefox still shares enough with Seamonkey (f.k.a. Mozilla), the following should work. Type about:config in the address box (no spaces) and find the option to prevent pages from turning off the address box.

Lots of other good stuff there too. This page explains the items.
posted by jam_pony at 2:29 PM on June 29, 2006


The setting jam_pony's referring to is dom.disable_window_open_feature.location. If the value is "false," set it to "true" by double-clicking on the entry in the about:config list.

Setting the value to "true" will prevent authors from hiding the location bar when using JavaScript's window.open method to pop up a new window.
posted by macrone at 2:48 PM on June 29, 2006


Their redesign was so bad that, upon first sight, I booted up another browser because I thought that IE was fucking up or something. Nope. As it turns out, they really want it to look like that.

I'm not going to stop reading Slate or anything, but I definitely don't look forward to checking it the way that I used to.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:49 PM on June 29, 2006


So i clicked on PRINT on the main page, and got:

Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006, at 3:23 AM ET
Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

But i can't stop reading slate. Because I haven't started.
posted by hexatron at 3:20 PM on June 29, 2006


Further proof, if any be needed, that Web "pages" aren't actually, you know, pages, and that Web design, and the Document Object Model as a conceptual framework, all, in toto, suck.
posted by paulsc at 5:45 PM on June 29, 2006


yes. disaster.

in the face of true disaster your thoughts start jumbling on top of each other, and you try to make sense of it; you try so hard. but everytime you try to say anything it just keeps coming out like the force of a thousand gods is pushing it out screaming and you just can't say everything you want or should say and so you just say something like, "george bush doesn't care about black people."

and then some jackasses come along and say, "o. it's not like that. it's not that bad." and then you try to formulate some kind of concise comment about how these jackasses must be out of their minds, how some neuron must have fired in the wrong direction and singed their ability to process information like a normal functioning organism should be expected to process information. but you don't want to be a jackass yourself, you want to lift up the human condition and never drag it down, but goddammit who are these jackasses and what strange asshole force of nature ever created this situation in the first place and oh my god is the mouseover highlighting text in bright yellow. suddenly, you're questioning yourself... maybe i don't know enough about george bush or black people or large scale web design to make a sophisticated comment, maybe there isn't a way to both intuitively organize massive quantities of information and display headlines with teasers, and o why the hell did i say something so stupid; i've just proven myself to be just as incompetent as the people who keep making this disaster worse and worse.

and then you start thinking, maybe it isn't worse and worse. maybe it is in some way better. they'll get to fix some things and pretty soon this disaster will be the best thing that ever happened to this place. after all, the infrastructure is there to support what the original infrastructure never predicted. you betray your former self, you start being a jackass, telling people to get a job and stop crying over open tags. pretty soon you're driving others through the same maddening process you were just churned through.

and then all of a sudden, everyone is thinking "o it's not that bad" and "o it's nice for a lot of reasons" and "o it's going to be ok" and "o look. elvis costello is going to be in an upcoming podcast." but it's not ok, it's not nice it's NOT not that bad. IT'S A MESS. IT'S STILL A MESS. EVEN THOUGH YOU TWISTED YOUR BEING TO GRAPPLE WITH IT, IT'S STILL THERE AND JUST AS SCREWED UP AS WHEN YOU FIRST BORE WITNESS TO IT AND VOMITTED JUST A LITTLE BIT IN YOUR MOUTH. and even though (what's so funny about) peace, love and understanding is playing on your media player of preference, you feel no peace, you feel no love, and you certainly don't understand.

and that's how you know the slate redesign is a disater.
posted by pokermonk at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2006 [2 favorites]


... hot dog, we have a wiener ...
posted by lodurr at 6:16 PM on June 29, 2006


That's obscene. I don't care about the plain look, but there is a *banner ad* in the *right column* !!!

http://www.slate.com/id/2144830

That's why we have to scroll right!

I smell search-engine optimization here. Look at the HTML source.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:39 PM on June 29, 2006


Oh crap. Now it's gone and I look like an idiot.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:40 PM on June 29, 2006


paulsc and pokermonk, LOL.
posted by jam_pony at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2006


After removing all the banners with adblock, it's almost readable. I'm waiting for some javascript wizard to come up with a greasemonkey script to fix it.
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 PM on June 29, 2006


The saddest thing is that their old look was actually really good. I used to point it out to people as an example of good web design. The "top" of their homepage was a really good summary of what they had on their site. I used to praise them for somehow fitting a lot of information in a small space without making things look "crowded." Now, the whole first two screenfulls (on a 1024x768 screen) are complete junk. A bunch of crap that I don't care about, pushed together in a way that doesn't make any sense at all. Definitely an example of "back pages of Popular Science" web design. The one thing they kept was their utterly failed navbar, which they somehow managed to make even worse. It used to be that their navbar was awful, yet ignorable. Now, its awful and obtrusive.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2006


Their designer should be handled like Mussolini: stripped naked, shot in the head, and hung upside-down in the public square.

It is awful.

Reason number fucking one: fixed width.

Are. You. Serious? Why? Why in fucking God's name why? The audacity of fixed-width design is staggering: the design is so important, so fundamentally necessary that you cannot, under any circumstances, have it wider or narrower. The content has become a prisoner of the container. This is my-mother-drank-too-much-when-I-was-a-fetus stupid.

Reasons number two through ten are irrelevant. Fix problem #1 first. This is an abomination.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:01 AM on June 30, 2006


Definitely an example of "back pages of Popular Science" web design.

My rational mind tells me that Nissan probably had nothing to do with this, really, except sponsorship.

OTOH, this is very reminiscent of the ergonomics in Nissan cars...
posted by lodurr at 3:31 AM on June 30, 2006


C_D, your condemnation of fixed-width design smacks of ideology. I favor fluid design myself, but there are any number of arguments in favor of fixed width designs. I'll rattle off a few off hte top of my head:Really, it's an aesthetic matter. I like to see the whole screen being used; I feel as though fixed-width presentations are a bit of a cop-out. But I've found again and again that clients prefer the fixed-width designs.

And really, from a functional perspective, I think fixed width designs are better for simple, single-item presentations -- or even for single-item plus supplemental sidebar scenarios, which I find myself working in a lot lately. (E.g., page of long copy plus supplemental information -- callouts, contact information, etc. -- in the right sidebar.) The length of the reading line can be kept manageable without fucking with the whitespace.

You need to pay attention to what the user experience is likely to be, and keep the width manageable (which Slate obviously hasn't done). That's a battle that the design-implementer faces all the time, as designers and creative directors come back and say "but if their screen is 1024x768, why can't I just make it 1000px wide?" At which point, my job would be to explain that a) windows don't open at screen width, and b) it's rude to expect people to change what they're doing to suit your design, and c) if you do expect them to change, you'll be disappointed and may very well lose them as a reader. Adopting a contrary position doesn't really get one anywhere.

Now, of course, none of these counters to your position apply to the Slate site. In spirit, there, I totally agree with you. (Except that I still like the basic look of a lot of the elements.)
posted by lodurr at 4:05 AM on June 30, 2006


One more thought on fixed v. fluid, w.r.t. line length: It can be seen as arrogant to create a fluid design that will result in a difficult line-length, because it entails the implicit expectation that the reader will adapt -- either by toughing it out, or adjusting the width of the window. I would argue that it's better to give them a known-good line length.

My ideal width solution (which is achievable, but only with lots of work) is one that scales everything dynamically, so that good whitespace proportions are preserved and a maximum line-length is never exceeded. But I've never had the free time to put something like that together. And if I did, no one would appreciate the effort.
posted by lodurr at 4:10 AM on June 30, 2006


You could start with ParticleTree's Dynamic Resolution Dependent Layouts (demo) and The Man in Blue's Resolution dependent layout (update; demo). max-width in Internet Explorer might be useful, too.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:08 AM on June 30, 2006


it's lame, but their true problem is content, not design
posted by matteo at 8:06 AM on June 30, 2006


snarkmarket is awesome, but talk about bad site design! eesh.
posted by timory at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2006


I agree with Afroblanco and many others. The old design was much more usable, because it was easy to find the conventional reverse-chronological article list while maybe enjoying a little eye candy. And now they have the gigantic logo and that terrible popout menu pushing out the actual useful features.

But the real crime here is how Metafilter starts talking about the redesign just as I was finishing [blatant self-link] a post about it.
posted by lackutrol at 4:34 PM on June 30, 2006


there are any number of arguments in favor of fixed width designs. I'll rattle off a few off hte top of my head

1. Easier, and therefore more cost-effective when delivering service to a client

Easier? That's hardly a merit. It's also almost completely irrelevant to the argument of design. If you just wanted ease of implementation, you could export your Word files to HTML. That would be very easy, and very cheap. Why didn't you mention that?

2. More consistency in presentation (minor consideration)

Big, fat, hairy deal. A site done entirely in Flash can give you consistent presentation across all platforms. And you can be sure your Comic Sans headline will render correctly to boot.

3. Easier to support fixed line-lengths for long copy, which is very important for readability

No. There is nothing fundamentally easier about setting a block elements width to a percentage versus a hard-coded value. And if they were not particularly clever, they could attach an event listener to the block element that would max or min-out at a certain width, no matter what you set your browser to.

Fixed-width and fluid designs support different kinds of designs, neither of which is inherently better than the other when divorced from the context of the functional requirements

Except I'm not talking in the abstract. I'm talking specifically about Slate, a news site with articles, sections, advertisements, editorials, etc. A site that could concievably be viewed on many different hardware platforms with very different view requirements.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2006


Easier? That's hardly a merit. It's also almost completely irrelevant to the argument of design. If you just wanted ease of implementation, you could export your Word files to HTML. That would be very easy, and very cheap. Why didn't you mention that?

For the same reason that nobody does anymore, C_D: Because it would be bad desgn for usability.

There is not a binary opposition between "fluid designs that meet teh approval of Civil_Disobediant" and "exporting all your Word files to HTML." There is, in fact, a very wide (and deep) expanse of aesthetic territory in between.

You're excluding the middle al over the place, C_D. In so doing, you're self-marginalizing like crazy. I tried to open a dialog, here, an all you're interested in doing is casting down your design-nazi gauntlet.

Face it: You're stating an aesthetic preference as though there were some clear empirical benefit to doing it that way. I've said that I can't see what the empirical benefits of fluid layouts are, and you're not helping me to see any of them. I'd like to hear them. Please. I could use them next time I have to challenge a designer to produce a fluid design.

Now, in fact, I can state empirical benefits to fixed width designs. I've done that, and you pooh-pooh them as not having anything to do with "design". (As though design were someting divorced from the real world.)

It's interesting ot me that you didn't address line length and readability, other than alluding to exactly the solution I suggested (albeit with different phrasing). I said I don't have the time to implement such a design; someone else was good enough to suggest some design patterns, which I will certainly be lookign at for hte next time I have to do a design for one of my own sites. But an obvious problem with any fluid design that maintains readable line lengths is the whitespace proportions: You have to design differently for fluid layout. And if a designer can't see the value in expending the extra effort to design for fluid layouts, they'er not going to waste their billable time doing it.

As for what cost has to do wit design: Lots. If you spend $50K to implement your ideal hot shit design, and I spend $30K to implement a design that accomplishes 96% of the functional goals and appeals to users 95% as well, but has a fixed width table, which design is better? That is, actually, an aesthetic quesiton, because the answer depends on whether you value functionality. It's not whether yo value functionality over design -- it's whether you value functionality in design.

Basically, it seems to me, we come at this from two different perspectives: You're an idealist, and I'm a pragmatist.
posted by lodurr at 6:09 PM on June 30, 2006


Really don't like the look.

I also thought something was wrong when I first saw the new design, and that it'd be fixed soon. I'm not sure a redesign is supposed to give the impression of a broken site.

And actually, it displays all wack in Firefox, for me. I don't know what that's all about, but it's rendered the site nearly unusable - or at least problematic to use.

De gustibus, and all that. But they just made it less likely I'll be visiting the site.
posted by darkstar at 10:39 AM on July 1, 2006


Oh, and as for fixed-width, I actually prefer it in some cases.

On one of my websites, for example, I have a journal/blog. It's intended to look like a written journal, so it has a parchment background and text with a bit more fluid font. I fix the width on the website so the aspect ratio retains the stylistic look of an old journal page.

If the width were variable, it would completely lose that look, imho. Also, it would lose the columnar ratio to other colums and the page would become imbalanced, stylistically.

So, stylistically, the fixed width works well to achieve what I'm trying to do in that case, I think. But as I say, de gustibus.
posted by darkstar at 11:03 AM on July 1, 2006


You're stating an aesthetic preference as though there were some clear empirical benefit to doing it that way. [...] I can't see what the empirical benefits of fluid layouts are, and you're not helping me to see any of them.

Re-read the last line of what I previously wrote. Please. Then come back. Hint: it has something to do with everyone not browsing with their window set at exactly 800 pixels.

As for what cost has to do wit design: Lots.

No shit. And like I said, it's not fundamentally harder to code it so that it's flexible. Certainly not $20k worth of extra coding. Actually, it would be more of a pain in the ass to use a fixed width design. More expensive, to boot. Because now you have to make sure that all your images never go past a certain width, less they get truncated. All your advertisements. All your sidebar headlines. I'm not saying you couldn't get used to it... sure, you could. But what's the point?

Basically, it seems to me, we come at this from two different perspectives: You're an idealist, and I'm a pragmatist.

Ha, please. I appreciate where you're coming from, but believe me, I think they could have saved a shitload of time and trouble and gotten the exact same result if they just coded the whole thing in a table, fixed-width, 800px. It's obvious they care nothing for the user's experience when visiting their site. The real problem with their site is that they didn't add a nifty mouse-trail effect and some embedded MIDI files.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:59 PM on July 1, 2006


So embarassing, but I am correcting the blatant self-link.
posted by lackutrol at 9:47 PM on July 1, 2006


Re-read the last line of what I previously wrote. Please.

Reread the entirety of the post you were responding to. Please. It had something to do with discussing the relative merits of two approaches to defining screen width. And something to do with identifiable benefits. And nothing specificaly to do with advocating a fixed width display of well over 800 px. (Abotu 1000px, as I make it. Somebody took "1024x768" a tad too literally.)

No shit. And like I said, it's not fundamentally harder to code it so that it's flexible.

No shit. But it is fundamentally harder to design it. $20K worth? Hard to say, probably not; the numbers weren't meant to just be examples of extra cost incurred by designin for varaible width, but also meant t include the extra time spent on addressing aesthetic criteria that don't have a clear relationship to functional requirements. Anyway, at $150/hr plus the extra review time that it would take to validate a variable width design with the client, the cost adds up.

All your advertisements. All your sidebar headlines. I'm not saying you couldn't get used to it... sure, you could. But what's the point?

Advertisements and images are all going to be standard sizes anyway, unless you're talking about a layout that allows for a degree of freedom that I've never seen in a standard layout -- a variety of callout-block sizes, differing widths of advertising blocks, etc.

BTW, advertising blocks are standard widths, generally, and for good reason: The $$ margins are too narrow to be screwing with customized layouts every time Virgin Airways wants a skyscraper block that's just the right width.

As for sidebar headlines, that's irrelevant. They should be text anywa, and so should wrap. With a variable width design that had variable column widths (rare, and not high in utility), the wrap would change with screen resizing.

Anyway, this is all off track. We agree that the design sucks and we actualy (I'm almost certain) agree on most of the functional reasons why it sucks -- see my earlier comments about un-requested behavior and confusing interaction design. I'll happily add a too-wide screen, but I will qualify that in my testing scenarios, at screen sizes down to 1024x768, I've yet to see a default window size with a page width of less than 800px.
posted by lodurr at 7:15 AM on July 2, 2006


C_D's and pokermonk's reactions make me wonder:

Is it possible that the most egregious examples of problems in the Slate redesign are the result of passive subterfuge on the part of a disaffected design team?
posted by lodurr at 7:17 AM on July 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


It had something to do with discussing the relative merits of two approaches to defining screen width.

You must be reading a different thread than me. I thought this post was discussing the merits of a specific website, with a specific design application. You're talking abstract, I'm talking concrete.

With a variable width design that had variable column widths (rare, and not high in utility), the wrap would change with screen resizing.

But you're forgetting something: whitespace. The human brain likes whitespace, particularly when it's separating large chunks of text. A fixed design, especially for a site like Slate with dozens of sub-sections, is going to try and cram the kitchen sink on to the frontpage. And you can look for yourself and see that's exactly what's going on with their site. It's a jumbled mess with no whitespace respite for your tired eyes.

We agree that the design sucks and we actualy (I'm almost certain) agree on most of the functional reasons why it sucks -- see my earlier comments about un-requested behavior and confusing interaction design.

Completely agreed!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:51 AM on July 2, 2006


No, I'm not forgetting whitespace. I've talked about whitespace about three times that I can recall.

The main problem with Slate w.r.t. whitespace, IMO, is not that it's lacking (which it is) -- the main problem is that what there is, is inconsistent and awkward.
posted by lodurr at 5:34 PM on July 2, 2006


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