Mon 03 Apr
Alert and not-so-alert readers of NYTimes.com will notice a little something different this morning: a major redesign of the site’s look and feel, from top to bottom (almost). In a Sorkin-esque, marathon session of exhausting and exhilarating proportions, our team spent all weekend implementing this new design, pushing it live in progressive stages starting Sunday afternoon. The home page, that hugely symbolic focal point of any site, went live at 11:33p Eastern Standard Time.
I think it’s a sterling piece of work, a great example of how to evolve a user experience rather than reinvent it: the best reaction it could receive from readers (those not among that vanishingly small subset of the general populace who can be called ‘design savvy’) would be something along the lines of “The new design looks just like the old design.— That would suit me fine, because it would signal a continuity that I think is completely appropriate for such a closely watched site like The New York Times’, and besides, I know for a fact that it’s more elegant and more useful than it was before.
One little detail that I should clarify: I did not design this. Ever-changing marketplace and business pressures had made a redesign necessary long before I even began talking to management about the possibility of joining the company. By the time everything fell into place and I started work, the fundamental creative strategy had been set, a select few representative new templates had been designed, and all that remained was applying the new look and feel across the entirety of the site.
I’m being cheeky, of course, because it was still a major effort. For the past two months or so, I’ve been learning a lot in a very short amount of time about all the major sections of the site, their innumerable anomalies and special instances, and the complex method in which the whole production is turned out on an hourly basis. And that whole process of ramping up was compounded by the need to continually make low-level art direction decisions, interpreting the original, approved look and feel as it manifested itself throughout the hundreds of regularly-viewed pages on the site. It was an intensive but endlessly fascinating education — and it continues.
As you can hopefully tell from what I’ve written so far, this isn’t an attempt to disavow myself of responsibility for this major overhaul. I stand by it, largely because I genuinely think it’s an excellent piece of design, and I’m unflinchingly proud of the work that I did on it. Moreover, I want to give credit where credit is due: The Times went out-of-house to a design studio to help with the original creative strategy, but none of it would have been possible in practice without the extraordinary effort that the designers here put into it.
Most all of this extremely talented team were here before I arrived, and they really came through on this gargantuan task; it’s no exaggeration to say that they breathed life into the whole thing, and made its tremendous scope possible in the short amount of time we had to make it a reality. This redesign is really theirs, and along with the technology and editorial teams, they deserve the credit for every way in which it succeeds. In the coming days, I’ll try and write more about the intricacies of the redesign, but looking at the final result today, just a short while after we launched it, I can say honestly that I like it a lot. I’m proud to be here.