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TechCrunch Redesign Creates Discussion on Blog Design

I was chatting to an artist friend of mine about an exhibition he’s currently involved with that is causing quite a stir in some circles here in Melbourne. I asked him whether the extreme reactions that the exhibition caused bothered him or not and his reaction was that he was really happy about it because the dialogue (as emotional as it was) had caused people to think deeply about art and the messages that the art he’d produced was conveying. While many disagreed with elements of the exhibition it had caused even them to think through the reasons why they reacted in that way. His arguement was that ‘good art causes a polarization of opinions.’

I’m interested to follow some of the discussion caused by the redesign of uber-blog TechCrunch in the last 24 hours. It was done by designer Rachel Cunliffe (who did ProBlogger’s design also) and has been critiqued by quite a few bloggers (expressing a wide range of ideas on it).

Quite a lot of what has been said about the design is critical and there is some debate about how much impact TechCunch owners and editors played in changing Rachel’s original ideas.

I’m not really sure where I sit with the redesign as compared to the old one (I rarely read it in anything other than Bloglines so barely remember the old one) but I’m more interested in the discussion that it’s generated which has brought up some really worthwhile discussion points including:

  • the possible points of tension between a blog owner and designer
  • the placement of advertising on a blog
  • whether blogs should have ads on them
  • whether a blog’s design should reflect it’s topic – and how
  • what is ‘web 2.0′ design?

Read about some of the opinions and explanations of the new Tech Crunch design:

I’m sure there’s lots more out there – but as you’ll see there’s some useful discussion going on. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a bitch-fest and that people see this as an opportunity to discuss the principles of good blog design rather than see it as an opportunity to get personal and get into one-upmanship

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. It looks like you’ve collected most of the ones that I’ve read through and or commented on. I’m disappointed with the direction that Mike has taken the TechCrunch blog. As many others have pointed out, the page looks as though advertising and monetization hold a higher value than the content itself. I was almost shocked to discover that Rachel had “designed” the page. Or rather, Rachel coded whatever Mike requested.

    I’m unsure what comment thread I saw the following on, but the fact was pointed out that browsing TC on a mobile device – which is something I would assume most tech savvy individuals would do at one point or another – the content has been pushed towards the bottom of the page. Readers are forced to view advertisement after advertisement before getting to any real content. Come on.. there have to be a few blog advert rules being broken right there.

  2. Clark says:

    I don’t get the ad comments. The amount of the ads seem no more than on any other “monetized” blog nor do they get in the way. In fact it’s a pretty standard arrangement.

    I think it’s nice to see an unknown do the design of a high traffic site such as this.

  3. Graydon says:

    Comparing the new to the Google cache for a side by side comparison…

    I like the new one just fine. The old one wasn’t bad, the new one isn’t bad…. probably better.

    My thoughts…
    All content nicely pushed to the left…
    No distraction from menus or ads on the left side…
    Grouping of ads at the top right.. no problem, quick and easy to scan and ignore if I want to….
    Bold top menu with the critical links… great, no more finding the archive section on the right… easy to find company / product index
    Line spacing increased… makes it easier to read. Need it bigger, hit ctrl+ a couple of times and formating holds until you get out of control…
    Bold lines seperating the posts… great, easier to scroll down and find the next one after reading the first paragraph…
    Non-ad menu boxes on the left are bold green… easy to find and skip over the ads…
    No more of that white text on light blue boxes… great… that will kill your eyesight…

    Someone complained about “losing” that web 2.0 feel… that’s all personal opinion…. what is web 2.0 about? Consumers! So far I think it’s an easier site to read… thus more web 2.0ish.

    Darren – good analogy to the art exhibit… it gets people thinking, discussing… besides.. what makes better press? the controversial display of self pleasure objects… or Michaelangelo on display?

    Static is bad – change is good… of course it has yet to be decided if this will be along the lines of New Coke (marketing disaster or genius?).

    Last thoughts… layout sorta resembles YPN’s recommendations (start – 1 – 2 – 3… which matches up to other’s recommendations and has some merit…
    And whoever said something about selling out? Jeez… the point of most of our sites is to make money… otherwise why read ProBlogger?

    Get over the change… you will adjust to the difference and become ad blind in a couple of days.

  4. Hatem says:

    I have experienced this before and readers are more attracted to the old design, whatever the new design is about.

    But sinceraly for techcrunch.com I don’t feel the need to redesign the website, it’s very well visited, very well designed, and it’s not really time to make any change at all at that level.

    Making a change in such website is a strategic decision, I’d prefer if they took more time before launching the new version. Before they can think, now they can only assume !

  5. Eric says:

    Darren, if you want to see the “old” site design, go to the french Techcrunch version, it has not changed yet : http://www.techcrunch.fr

  6. eSearing says:

    Rachel Cunliffe wins. She (assuming female) is getting more publicity than anyone with almost no criticism of her design skills. Though she may take the posts personally when one of her designs is critiqued. If the design is what the customer insisted upon then Rachel has done her job.

    *conspiracy theory – this is all a ploy to get Rachel more business…and some more readers to TechCrunch who would have other wise never heard of them.

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    eSearing – I don’t think Rachel needs any more work – from what I’ve heard she’s booked solid and can pick what work she want’s she’s so good.

    As for TechCrunch needing more readers – I think that’s pretty amusing – they’re one of the bigger blogs going around :-)

  8. Jesse says:

    Darren, my biggest issue is this sentence on the Crunch Notes post you wrote:

    And if you’re wondering about the green theme, there’s a reason for it (hint – it keeps me focused on my goals)

    That’s really all I need to know

  9. Jesse says:

    I’m an idiot

    Darren, my biggest issue is this sentence on the Crunch Notes post you wrote

    Linked to, not wrote

  10. Bud Gibson says:

    I don’t really read TechCrunch. I found the new design to be easy to read, and it was easy to find things like where to comment. I decided to subscribe, so the design produced a conversion. Seems like one mark of a good design.

  11. Mike Rundle says:

    “Though she may take the posts personally when one of her designs is critiqued. If the design is what the customer insisted upon then Rachel has done her job.”

    I’m going to disagree on this one. As a designer, aka, one who is hired to make things usable and look good, if the client requests a site design that is so incredibly ugly looking that 85% of the people who comment about it think it’s awful, then that designer has NOT done their job. What’s the point of hiring a designer to redesign a site if everybody says the previous version not only looked better, but functioned better as well? If you’ll read deeper into the comments about the design, people are saying the green is too bright (aka, tough to read), the content isn’t the focus (aka, the design doesn’t lead the eye anywhere), and that ads are the primary focus (again, the design isn’t focused on the content.)

    Rachel probably knew that pushing live a redesign that looked like that would get chewed up by his audience, but it happened anyway. As a designer myself, the reason clients hire me is to make sure that a situation like this *doesn’t happen*, and that, at the very least, people see the new design as a big improvement. This definitely did not happen here. Michael could be happy with the design, but overall the project is a failure based on how many people dislike the new look and now distain Michael for making ads the center-focus of his site. Steps could have been taken to better integrate the ads into the site layout, but they weren’t, and although Michael might like it better this way I don’t feel as though a designer should sit back and just “let it happen”, especially when a high-profile redesign such as TechCrunch could dramatically affect her career, either positively or negatively.

  12. Jesse says:

    I think you’re dead on the whole way Mike, though I’m not sure I’d got so far as to say it will dramatically affect here career. As Darren mentioned, she already gets more work than she can do, so it’s not like she’s a struggling designer barely getting enough customers.

  13. Salman says:

    Why does WhiteSpace not fix those links on the top of his blog! About, Contact, Advertise, Archive ALL don’t work…

  14. Brian says:

    All I can say is Rachel is an amazing designer!

  15. Tahir says:

    I am no expert on web design but I do read a lot of blogs. Blog design really interests me as I am always looking at Blogs designs and thinking “How did they do that”. Unfortunately I still have not got 2 grips on designing blogs. Tech Crunch is one of my favorite blogs but I do not like the new design. The layout may be more organized but it no longer looks like a blog when you enter the site. It looks like a normal website with half of the initial screen you see when entering the site covered with ads.
    I admit I have not heard of the designer but if she done your blog she must be good. I admire your blog design as all the ads seem to just blend in perfectly. But on Techcrunch they seem to but you off. It may grow on me and I hope it does because Techcrunch is an amazing Blog and I hope the design doesn’t spell disaster to them and I doubt it will. My last thought is on the color. I love the color green as its my country’s flag color. But the green on Techcrunch is not very appealing at all. I hope there really is a good reason behind the color.
    This is no disrespect to the designer of the authors of Techcruch but just my opinions on the site design.

  16. Innoby says:

    With all of this hooplah surround the TC redesign I am reminded of recent episodes of “The Apprentice” where various team members have strongly disagreed with the project manager’s decisions, tried to talk them into going in a different direction only to be told to get on with the job they had been given.

    Ultimately, the team lost the task, quite considerably, and was sent to the boardroom.

    When quizzed about the loss, the project manager was asked why they didn’t listen to their team member while the team member was asked whether or not they fought hard enough for their position on things. The project manager was adamant that they were right while the team member said that they had voiced their concerns but it was not their responsibility to go AWOL and not participate in what the project manager wanted them to do.

    Who got fired in the end? The person who didn’t listen to the advice that was given to them or the person who disagreed in the direction the project manager was taking the team?

    Reading some of the comments on the web I am assuming that a lot of these designers who are riveting Rachel to the wall have no concept of ‘giving the customer what they want’. Many times, in all forms of business, trying to convince a customer that they should do/buy something when they have their own agenda set in their mind can be excrutiating. But at the end of the day, as a paying customer, it is their sole discretion. No amount of advice can sway them sometimes. And this is something that I think is being completely overlooked.

    In that instance, I would imagine working with some of the designers who are commenting to be a complete nightmare if, despite how wonderful their design may be, they do not respect the wishes of their client. Perhaps in their business, one of their motto’s is that the customer is never right?

    From what I understand reading from the comments, there are a lot of clients that Rachel has impressed and even the fact that TC have employed her to do the job says something about the way she designs and the way she conducts her business.

  17. I don’t think anyone is “riveting Rachel to the wall”. The general consensus and understanding is that 1) Rachel was hired for the job, 2) Rachel was given specific tasks for the layout, 3) Rachel delivered whatever Mike canoodled up in his head, and 4) the criticism is not aimed at Rachel, but more so at Mike’s decision to turn TC into the eyesore it is now.

  18. Dave says:

    There’s an interesting discussion here – not about Techcrunch but about designers working within constraints and give a different perspective than Mike Rundle does:

    http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000938.html

  19. I don’t know guys what sort of designe you found here, I don’t see much.
    Even Blogger’s simple designe looks better.

  20. L says:

    TechCrunch uglified? Well, the blog that has THAT article is not nearly as nice as TechCrunch.

    Wow, why do people hate green??

    It’s funny, I’d never heard of TechCrunch before now. :-)

  21. Graydon says:

    It’s ugly…
    It’s not web 2.0…
    Green sucks…

    If everyone else knows better… then prove it and help out the rest of us poor souls with bad designs and no money to pay to override a competent designer…

    http://marlincreek.com/content/view/66/35/

  22. tom sherman says:

    Graydon #23: Thank you.

    There is nothing special about that design. I’m not going to bother reading all the other posts praising/criticizing it, because I don’t really care about surveying such a subjective subject. Only my opinion counts. :)

    I initially viewed it in FF with all my normal adblocking and was underwhelmed. Turned adblocking off and was underwhelmed.

    Honestly, why is this even being discussed?

Trackbacks

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  5. [...] TechCrunch Writes about technology and receives the best juice of all: Featured Advertisers (which has grown, if I am not mistaken, from 4 features to 6). Tech companies pay for a visible perch on the top of the page. I am sure that is prime real estate. In fact this was a new feature after the redesign. The benefit, TechCruch has a higher quality ads that are relevant to the site. The relevancy is key, they are less annoying, and you are more likely to click them. Why not? You are there to learn about technology, you may be looking to purchase, sign up for, or just browse elsewhere to other technology related sites. $Cha-Ching$, money for TechCrunch. [...]

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