ixd lit

Fur flyin over The Atlantic's redesign

There's a lot of ani­mat­ed chat­ter among some of my favorite jour­nal­ists over the redesign of their publication's site. Last week, the Atlantic Month­ly rolled out what appears to the casu­al read­er as a slight update of the IA, along with some major changes to the way that blogs are inte­grat­ed. Read­er reac­tion was any­thing but casu­al; anger and sus­pi­cion seemed to be the most com­mon read­er emo­tions, shared, at least in part, by the writ­ers. The Wash­ing­ton Post's Ezra Klein nails the goal of the redesign, "Seems like a bet to re-cen­ter the Web site around the Atlantic as an insti­tu­tion rather than leav­ing it as a web host­ing ser­vice for a cou­ple of blog­gers." Which seems smart, actually.

The Atlantic online redesignThis clus­ter­cuss is the redesign. (I can't find a pic­ture of the "before," but it wasn't real­ly too dif­fer­ent, to the casu­al observer).

The real prob­lem: The redesign isn't rad­i­cal enough.It sim­ply shift­ed con­tent around — a sure-fire bet to piss off reg­u­lar read­ers. The redesign doesn't address big­ger prob­lems around find­abil­i­ty, read­abil­i­ty, nav­i­ga­bil­i­ty, what­ev­er you want to call a lin­ger­ing sense of not being able to get around eas­i­ly. It also breaks from a com­mon blog con­ven­tion: home­pages that includes lengthy con­tent for each post (UPDATE: they've changed this). The biggest change is that they've moved away from indi­vid­ual blogs as lin­ear, ever-expand­ing solo nar­ra­tives, which I think is inter­est­ing. What they're mov­ing toward is less clear.According to spir­it­ed com­men­tary by the Atlantic writ­ers, the redesign was dri­ven by the arcane cal­cu­lus of adver­tis­ing. I won't pre­tend to know how online ad place­ment works in a place like The Atlantic, but what I do know is that some­one told them to spread their fresh con­tent around, and it's kin­da half-spread.I am a big Atlantic read­er. I sub­scribe to the print edi­tion, and I reg­u­lar­ly read three of its blog­gers — Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Fal­lows and Andrew Sul­li­van. I sub­scribe to their feeds, so I don't go to unless I want to com­ment on Coates' blog, or read com­ments, which means I'll head there a cou­ple of times a week, but when I get there I'll be deeply immersed in a thread.To me, the true oppor­tu­ni­ty was to lever­age the sprawl­ing, smart con­ver­sa­tions that these writ­ers con­tin­u­al­ly cre­ate — to cre­ate a sort of salon among the read­ers and writ­ers. To Klein's point above, you'd think a vir­tu­al salon would be exact­ly the kind of thing that would "re-cen­ter" the brand. Break­ing out of the con­ven­tion­al blog mod­el is a rea­son­able first step. Blogs are long threads, and main­tain­ing indi­vid­ual threads need­less­ly inhibits wider-scale con­ver­sa­tion. So they've tak­en that half-step away from threads (which are a help­ful orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple for read­ers), but the salon is nowhere in sight. And this is a problem.

ideas ixd web

Idols / Khoi Vinh of

I've fol­lowed Khoi Vinh's excel­lent blog, Sub­trac­tion, for a long time. A cou­ple of years ago, he became the Design Direc­tor of the New York Times web­site, and in the mean­time the site has real­ly changed, for the bet­ter, most­ly, I'd say. This week he's doing a Q&A about his work, the NYT, design, and all of that.As I've always been curi­ous about what he does in his role, and the struc­ture of the UX depart­ment, I was glad to see that some­one went there right off the bat:

As the design direc­tor, my respon­si­bil­i­ty is to over­see the cre­ative aspects of these con­tin­u­al improve­ments. Each one is a project of its own with some range in scope, from very short and dis­crete to long and drawn out over many months. And each project requires one or more of the mem­bers on my team: infor­ma­tion archi­tects (who are charged with orga­niz­ing the fea­tures and the flow of infor­ma­tion so that peo­ple can make use of them most intu­itive­ly), design tech­nol­o­gists (who do the actu­al cod­ing of many of these sites, using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, etc.) and/or visu­al design­ers (who han­dle the over­all look and feel, includ­ing lay­out, typog­ra­phy, col­or, pro­por­tion, etc.).You could say that all put togeth­er, the final prod­uct of our efforts is the user expe­ri­ence, or the sum total of the con­tent and the frame­work as it's used by vis­i­tors to the site. Of course, it's not true that my design group is the only team respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing this expe­ri­ence; it's real­ly the result of con­tri­bu­tions across the board, from edi­tors and reporters to project man­agers and soft­ware engi­neers and many more.

More here.