TechCrunch launched its somewhat anticipated redesign, and I’ve given myself a few hours to ponder on it.
My initial reaction was after viewing it mobile, with the full site enabled (rather than the WPTouch plugin version). As I tweeted, I thought it would take some getting used to. But now that I’ve had time to digest it in full glory, my gut is taking me away from “getting used to” and into “this kinda sucks” mode.
Yeah, yeah, everybody hates change. That’s what you think fits me. Well, that is wrong. I’ve never been an avid Techcrunch reader, but a very casual one. I’m more an avid WordPress fan, and as TechCrunch is one of the most notable WordPress powered sites out there, it interests me (even more so since it’s a WordPress.com VIP client).
I typically like change. I’m not some curmudgeon that is stuck in his ways. I think it’s fun to try and see new things on the web. I just think TechCrunch got it wrong.
So what I actually think is wrong
I’m not the worlds most preeminent critic, and I’m not even a top notch designer. I am probably what you could consider a super consumer of the web though, with at least nominal ability to dissect a design.
In general, it’s cluttered, inconsistent, and just funky.
Let’s start with the header:
The featured post sits in the header, in full caps, and unnecessarily touts the author’s name (I understand author credit, I write on a multi-author blog), and tries too hard to fit everything into a 120px, or so, area. Hot topics should jump below the header, or even just relocated somewhere totally different. Also, the all caps on trending topics and the smaller font on subsites, not in call caps – for CrunchBase and Disrupt SF, really throw me off.
It’s big. Real big. And it’s pixelated to give it an 8-bit throwback look. That could have been pulled off at a smaller size, but being so large, it just makes it look confused and generally terrible. I actually like the pixelated touch on the black upper nav and some of the sidebar elements, but the big logo isn’t the place for this.
The scroll-down logo though, the one the is much smaller with TechCrunch actually spelled out, is quite nice, and would have offered a better site-wide look. TechCrunch is already a huge site, they don’t need a weird, big logo to stand out. The funky little TC and name like the scroll-down logo would’ve been just fine.
The post layouts truly give me a headache. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to allow such a stark difference between left aligned and right aligned images, but it was not a good idea. The left aligned images are fine, and are very typical to a news blog. The right images are fine, and have an edge to them that is unique. Putting them together, throwing the reader’s eye arbitrarily all over the place, makes me want to cry. Titles and vertical positioning on images could really do to have some consistency.
Also on layouts, the byline is a bit awkward. When the post images are up and to the right, the author and date jump below the share box, and have too much whitespace on the break, as if the jump was unintentional. When post images are below titles and to the left, the share box, author, and date, look too lonely up there with all the whitespace to the right. I’d rather see the sharebox, author, and date each get equal space spread horizontally across the top, and it’d also be a good spot to show the category, as it’s not anywhere else on the home page archive listing.
Speaking of the share box, it’s kinda cool, and I like the way it drops down and all, but the color and border is not consistent with the rest of the pixelated look of the site. To me, this was a perfect place to put the little faded pixels to the right and incorporate that quirkiness, but instead they went different than everywhere else and it’s a very traditional, solid green, overall pretty dull look.
I don’t have too much to complain about on the sidebar, except for a couple of little quirks. The “Got a tip. Tell us.” box is another wasted opportunity for putting the pixelated look in the right place. Also, the featured posts are far too squished on the left images, and could use a little white-space love.
The subsidiary area looks a bit like an afterthought. The pagination is too bold and again is an area where the pixelation could’ve been fun. They could of done it like the reverse of the scroll down title area, fading to pixelation on either side.
The subsidiary widgets appear to use a title font size different than anywhere else on the site, as does the text of the widgets themselves. It all needs to be upsized a bit.
The singular posts pages are all-in-all okay. There’s more inconsistency in the byline, as it’s now below the title with awkward separators that don’t seem to fit. But the author information dropdown is a pretty nifty little element. Also on the byline, the date now goes from a “Month, Year” setup in archive templates to include “Day, Month, Year” in singular, and the text is no longer bolded.
I’m not trying to totally rip what Code & Theory designed. They’ve developed some incredible sites before. I’m sure tons of research and non-design metrics went into developing this finished product. Not to mention the difficulty of design by committee at TechCrunch, and who knows what sort of oversight from AOL.
However, I wish one of the most notable sites built on WordPress – the platform I adore – was something I’d be prouder to point to.
Oh, and you don’t have to tell me I’ve got no place to speak and my site sucks too. I know. But I’m not TechCrunch, and I didn’t make you read this : D