The New Stopdesign Design

Edit: since I wrote this article, Bowman has emailed me commenting on some changes he’s made. /search/ now no longer gives the server directory page, and the headers in the search results page are now more prominent.

Douglas Bowman has done it again. It’s a step forward from the minimal version 2.5 design, with lush and full colours, textured backgrounds and more liberal use of images than before. Here are my thoughts:

The front page

First off, the most obvious aspect. The front page has taken a very deliberate step away from the weblog format. This is incredibly interesting — while some would call it masking the true status of the site, it’s somewhat more user friendly. Imagine the novice user that stumbles upon Stopdesign. Just a list of ‘Recent Entries’ is somewhat confusing, even with a ‘What’s this?’ section. Stopdesign takes a step away from that, presenting the information in three columns, ‘For your perusal’, ‘Behind the scenes’ and ‘Elsewhere’. The second heading is noteable — it implies that stopdesign.com exists as an interface to the company, and that column and that column alone gives us the familiar weblog.

But several other things seem to contradict this theory. The navigation that relates to the Stopdesign company (except ‘Portfolio’) are hidden at the top, in low-contrast colours. The weblog navigation is much more prominent. Bowman has also stated that the weblog isn’t going away. Plus, the log archives are in the reassuringly familiar two-column weblog format.

The new archives

The log archives page has again taken an innovative twist. Bowman has decided to have this page serve as the weblog front, rather that the front page. Posts aren’t listed by title, by month or even summarised on the most part. Full posts might be a bit of a shock to the weblog frequenter (it certainly was to me), but makes more sense in relation to the pages title, if you think about it.

I’m torn between thinking this is a good or bad step forward. It’s not less usable, less flexible or less accessible. It’s just different. For example, I can read recent posts with a single click, but to find older posts I’d have to click through the months list in the sidebar. But then again, I’d probably be searching to find older posts, so that’s not a terrible loss. The only bad aspect I can think of is the the header for each page, which certainly adds to the usability of each page is somewhat hidden — it looks part of the header.

The search engine

The search seems it needs some touching up. Hacking the URL gives a page with a server directory listing. Read: drop in accessibility. Searching for nothing, or simple going to /search/results/ returns the instructions (good idea), but a header ‘Search Results for “”‘. Finally, the headers ‘From the Links’, ‘From Stopdesign’, etc. are not prominent enough.

So, those are my ideas. Questions I put to you: what do you think of:

  • The use of colour to dinstinguish sections, particulary in relation to brand and identitiy?
  • The new logo and headers (new since version 2, anyway).
  • The design in general, perhaps comment on typography, the three-column layout and the header images?