Gawker Media’s Redesign Across the Network

The sites within the Gawker Media network, sites such as Gizmodo, Kotaku, and my favorite, Lifehacker have all seen a new design take place today. It’s an unconventional design, using modern technologies such as HTML5 to employ a more interactive interface. They claim it is lighter and faster, and they’ve written up a post on how to use the site.

The problem is, I hate it. Apparently I’m not the only one, as the web is abuzz with negative feedback on the redesign. You’d think as a web designer myself, that I’d support it. I’ve done my fair share of trying new, unconventional tricks on websites over the years. Yet I’d do this on my own personal sites, as a way to learn and find new, possibly better ways to present content. For Gawker Media to do this, where money is at stake, is inexcusable.

It’s just a bad business decision to try new ideas and then not test them before making it live. If it were tested with user feedback, I’m sure they would’ve seen the kinds of challenges visitors would face with the new design. Then they would’ve seen it being a bad idea in the end. Unfortunately, it is possible that someone’s ego got in the way of common sense, and usually this person is high up with the kind of power to not care what others think about the idea and the subsequent new design. This is something that needs to be looked at and considered by anyone who is hosting a website or doing any blog hosting. The feedback that you get from your users is very important and can often make or break your website or blog.

Normally I’d just find myself simply not visiting the sites in question. It’d be easier to find alternative websites with similar content and interests and just move on. However, one of my most favorite sites to visit happen to fall under that bad design — Lifehacker. I visit and read the site multiple times daily. I love their content, and make use of many of their tips and tricks to find ways to improve my life and make it more efficient. I’d really hate for this new design to hurt the site in the end, and cause it to fall apart.

As someone else said, perhaps this was inevitable. With the arrival of HTML5, many websites are now going to try to find new ways to present content to readers that, hopefully, benefits both parties; the website owner and the visitors. This had happened with the advent of XHTML and CSS, and we’re likely starting to see it happen with HTML5. It’ll just be a shame for good sites like Lifehacker to end up being a victim of it.

3 Responses to “Gawker Media’s Redesign Across the Network”

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  1. Liam

    I hear you.
    I am a UI and web designer too and I know a new design can have positive and negative feedback. I know it is easier to get negative feedback as people who like something tend not to bother to let you know.
    It happens and you work to tweak your site.

    These redesigns are terrible though. I do not know where to start. It just is really bad from top to bottom.

    You can see the concepts and the attempt to produce a clean look but I have not had or seen anything that has not only annoyed me but really got me angry.
    How this came out as it is, it being sooo bad in this day an age an more. I just do not get it.

    Over the last few hours you have seen them already trying to salvage things by changing things. Gawker now has a list view by default, but others different. Gizmodo is an even more of a layout mess.
    The very thing you see first is huge adds, not the content – Terrible.

    The big thing for me is the branding – Branding and your style is very important. Gawker have basically killed all brand feel to all the sites. A logo and the content is the only thing that tells them apart.
    Yeah you create a uniform site when you have a family of websites, sure but to this cold format its dire.

    Kotaku for example, while the site layout was a bit poor to todays standard it was useable and the colour scheme was unique. The site had personality, While I would do a really nice new modern design for them I would keep that character for sure. I respect that and the team’s writing in their style with that site worked.
    Other game media like Giantbomb read their site, know and like the team there – They had character.

    Gawker have just obliterated that completely.

    Gawker now trying to hack what they have trying to find something that people will be happy with will just create a hacked layout. As you probably know this will end up being worse. Gizmodo already feels like this with some of the changes already made.

    They just need to pull it, put the old styles back up and go back to the drawing board. They can take some of the goals and style elements they intended to do but just do it again – and properly.

    That for me is all they can do to save things now.
    Lifehacker’s changes though are better I have to admit but it is still nothing close to what it needs to be.

    They do not play nice with mobile stuff either.. List goes on.

    Another thing that I have seen when I have seen graphic designers try and design a website is if they try and make a site with the 960 width they some how manage to make it very cramped. I try hard to create a feel of openness and easy to read content but they have managed t make it worse.

    I love their comments about making it easy to use. I keep trying to but its just terrible.

    AHHHHH, makes me mad, lol.

  2. Liam: Your comments are all spot on, I completely agree. I probably should’ve named some issues as well, but I felt my post has gone on long enough. Some of the issues I experienced and shouldn’t have been on a live site are:

    – As you mentioned, seeing the ad first is a bad deal. Even worse is when some of the ads cover up the content as they’re loading up.
    – Scrolling is really iffy, especially in the right sidebar, which incidentally doesn’t even have a scrollbar.
    – Focusing on the top story is well enough, but leaving out all your other stories is going to hurt your search engine ranking, and therefore your overall audience.
    – Trying to make the site lighter and faster is a good goal, but not at the expensive of common sense practices such as branding, less content, and usability.
    – I’m not even going to bring up accessibility because it’s a HUGE mess on that front. Not just for disabled visitors using specialized software and hardware, but also for alternative devices such as mobile phones, tablets, TV’s, and so on.

    Like you said, the only real option they have is to ditch the design, swallow their pride, and start over. Save the best parts, scrap all the bad. More importantly, TEST it before making it live. Do some focus testing, invite beta testers, welcome feedback, and make sure it all runs smoothly before unleashing it upon an unsuspecting and unprepared public.

  3. Liam

    Apperently the did test it and the people who saw it gave it bad feedback. They chose to ignore it.

    Have you seen what they are doing as well now? You got CRAP coloured (really 1990’s style) bars at the top and bottom with “sponsored by” and they look terrible.
    They are changing the layouts trying to save it and as I suspected making it all just even worse.

    Just about everywhere people chat be it twitter or forrst – No one likes it and web designers can not believe what they done.

    Gizmodo’s live blog section is just a mess now too.

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