The Awesome Redesign I Didn’t Do

The New York TimesAlert 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.


Who Did This

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.

Below: Brand new home. The home page, shortly after its launch at 11:33p EST.

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.

NYTimes.com
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  1. Like all new launches, ours will have problems, so I’m going to ask you to refrain from adding your technical reports and/or bug reports here. To keep the dialogue on track, I’ll probably delete them unless they’re used to illustrate a topic of conversation. Thanks.

  2. Wow, that looks great. As a “mildly design savvy”, I can recognize its evolution, while still feel like it’s fundamentally “the same”, which I think is a good thing.

    On a side note, your link the article is missing a “.” ;)

  3. I had a feeling it wasn’t your design. It looks quite nice and seems like a quality redesign, but it just didn’t have that “Khoi feel” to it. :)

    Keep up the great work. All of us who design newspaper websites for a living are watching you. No pressure. :)

  4. I’m not totally convinced on the home page. The section pages are phenomenal, as their organization and the larger size of the images are wonderful. I’m also on edge about the My Times site — if it really is useful, it might be the first “My” site that I would realistically use.

    I think the most useful function that the new NYTimes.com has added is the “Today’s Paper” topic. Allowing a person to view the day’s paper online in their correct places is a huge step forward. And incorporating the AP & Reuters news into the main column is key — I can’t remember how many times colleagues have asked me where I’ve found those articles, ’cause they were with the ads rail.

    The only thing that does irk me so far is the width of the pages — viewing this on my 12″ PowerBook, with the dock on the left, produces a horizontal scrollbar (for about fifteen pixels or so). But then again, so does CNN and ESPN.

  5. Great work! The NY Times has always been my absolute favorite newspaper website, but it’s started showing its age as updates like The Onion and one of my current favorite publication designs — New York Magazine — have come into being.

    This is brilliant, though. And, as noted by another commentor, the Today’s Paper feature is wonderful.

    Oh, on a bug note (and damned if I couldn’t find a way to post an issue about the redesign on the site itself — where’s REPORT A BUG for that? — it seems that in Safari, most of the section and subsection pages seem to display a horizontal scroll bar even after my browser is opened much wider than the main content DIV.

    This doesn’t happen on the homepage, but does on almost all other pages. Also, it doesn’t happen at all on any Mozilla-based browser.

    Thought you might be interested and again, wonderful wonderful job to the team there!

  6. Wow, this is really much better. It’s the subtle typographic changes that make a much more pleasing to the eye, but the structural changes are nice too. Much better spacing and a lot more consistency.

    The “Inside NY Times” section is interesting although I have to wonder how many people will actually figure out the arrows/scrolling.

    Is the main feature section going the change up slightly based on content like the old one used to, or is it more fixed this time?

    Excellent job, congratulations.

  7. I know I said congratulations over AIM, but I’ve got to say again that this is a wonderful improvement over the old NYTimes.com. You’ve obviously got a talented team working with you to push this design process through.

    Whoever the original creative company was behind the design, it really reminds me of New York Magazine’s site, which follows a lot of the same style. The new NYTimes.com seems one part The Onion, two parts New York, and then a heaping dose of your own stylistic nuances thrown in there. The overall result is pretty nice.

    NYTimes.com was my daily news source before; now it’s my Firefox home page as well.

    Also, I thought I might add that if people do find glitches, Leonard Apcar posted feedback@nytimes.com as the address to use.

  8. Khoi, a very nice improvement over the old NY Times site. The previous incarnation always seemed a bit cluttered to me, and this one is immeasurably easier on the eyes.

    Nice work, looking forward to future iterations and whatever else your team brings to the site.

    Cheers,
    Kyle

  9. haah..i dunno.. i got blocked so i had to revert to html 4.0. i know how much you love it so.. ;)

  10. I don’t like it: too many things on the main page, tough to read, poor contrast between text and links, the navigation changes on me, too many distrations for someone who just wants a quick glance of the news, and not a simple site to use by any means.

    I usually use BBC for comparison when it comes to news sites, and in comparison, I feel the NYTimes front page could be simplified further.

    Another thing I have never understood is why a map is never used to navigate world news, atleast from a regional perspective, the way BBC has made use of a map.

  11. Anyway, congrats James, Khoi, etc. Fantastic work by all of you. Despite the bumps in the road, it’s been a pleasure helping you through this process. At the end of the day, I’m thrilled to be able to say I played a roll alongside the lot of you in the largest standards based re-design to date. Cheers!

  12. I wish I could say I liked it, but for me the font clash looks horrible, from the header: Date in Georgia, Last Update in Arial, different colour, different size, right next to it?!? A good dozen or CSS bugs (agreed, they’re easily fixable – but I’m surprised there’s elementary CSS bugs in Firefox). There seems to be too many fonts… That being said, it /is/ a struggle to get so much information on a page… and perhaps therein lies the problem?

  13. Where IS the place for bug reports? Because it’s horribly invalid. The W3C validator says 283 errors on the front page alone, although they’re mostly cascading from the XHTML-style tags in the head which don’t match the doctype.

    Visually, I like it. But in terms of standards it’s a huge disappointment.

  14. Compared to major newssources NYTimes.com seems to be better than most. CNN also did a major redesign which isn’t impressing at all…

    However I agree with KarmaDude. There are too many things distracting the reader from the content. And Robert… your final point hits the spot. If I may add; the trouble may actually lie with the editor/publisher. Too many times I meet clients who wants everything (and every message) exposed at the same time. My message to them is FOCUS. Content is good, but focused content is even better. Don’t clutter your own message!

    And a note:
    NYTimes is not printerfriendly – or should I say not readerfriendly when printing an article. Text is aligned to the papers edges in one column. I would prefer 2 or 3 columns for readability.

  15. Seems to be getting further and further away from the paper’s look. I guess that makes sense as newspaper web sites come into their own but as i miss the printed NYT (i live far away), i like the idea of keeping some of the print feel on the site…

  16. A very classy design if I might say. I live in Norway where all the major newspapers have gone tabliod, exept my favourite LeMond Nordic wich has switched back to large-format. I really prefer that to tabloid and the new homepage to nytimes.com gives me that feeling ! Excellent !

  17. The layout is wonderful. With that in mind, I was curious to see how much more the readability could be improved.

    So, by simply updating all typefaces in /css/common/global.css and /css/commom/screen/general.css to use “sans-serif” instead of “sans” resulted in a drastically more readable site.

    This image represents those changes. Note: the _only_ change was to use “sans-serif” instead “sans”.

    http://flickr.com/photos/mlpdesign/122567684/

  18. Not to sound the rare (lone?) negative note, but I really, really don’t like this design. I knew it wasn’t yours the moment I saw it, because I couldn’t imagine you’d ever have signed off on something so unwieldy.

    I see in the Times’ design notes that this version is intended to take advantage of the larger monitors an increasing percentage of their readers use, and since they presumably have figures to back that “increasing” up, I suppose I can’t argue with that. I do have to say, though, that it looks like ass on my 12″ Powerbook.

    Most of my frustration stems from the page grid – or lack of same, I should say. I haven’t looked at the site in any other platform/browser combo yet, but on Safari on the Powerbook the columns don’t align – my eye is pulled all over the place, uncomfortably. This also stems from a lack of what I’d regard as a clear visual hierarchy.

    And that’s particularly ironic, because it’s obvious that somebody’s designed things precisely to instill such a hierarchy – the increased type size not merely on the primary article’s headline but on its lede as well. But it doesn’t compensate for the odd positioning, and the abundance of type sizes on the page strikes me as jarring.

    I’ll give it a few days – only fair to let something as complex like this sink in a little – but I doubt very much whether it will come to seem natural and flowing to me. I hope very much for the Times’ sake that your own redesign comes through soon, as with TimesSelect I had already cut back on my use of the site, and this design will only accelerate my departure.

    This kinda sucks, because you can see where they tried to do the right thing…but it feels as if they never really appreciated the page as a gestalt.

  19. @James

    The image you provided is too small to see, so I did exactly what you mentioned. I used Firefox “web developer” extension and changed the font to use sans-serf and you are absolutely right, the frontpage looks ABSOLUTELY 100% better.

    @Khoi Vinh
    Will you look into changing the stylesheet per what James recommended. It keeps sans for certain headlines etc. but having most of the site use sans-serif makes a drastically different and better look.

  20. I wish I could say I liked it, but for me the font clash looks horrible, from the header: Date in Georgia, Last Update in Arial, different colour, different size, right next to it?!?

    @Robert

    I believe James’ comments from above helps address your concerns. What James recommends is to change all fonts in general.css and global.css to use sans-serif instead of sans. I have looked at the image and he is right, it dramically makes nytimes.com more readable.

  21. Congratulations on the launch, Khoi. Having gone through a similar launch myself recently I can completely relate to the numerous challenges of such a high-profile redesign.

  22. Home page is kind of jarring, internal pages are gorgeous. Both are an improvement over the old.

    Is the NYTimes planning on going the Washington Post route by adding all those blogging chicklets (del.icio.us, technorati, etc.)?

  23. Congratulations, the redesign looks great. Just the kind of polish the Times needed to look like a paper of record online as well as in print. There are lot of things in there that I’ve been thinking about with other newspaper site designs. In my opinion the front page is just really especially well balanced.

    Looks like the implementation was a huge amount of work. No wonder you had online art direction on your mind at SXSW.

  24. Boy, it’s amazing how much less ‘New York Times-y’ it feels like just by using Helvetica/Arial for the section heads (“Arts” and so on).

    Technologically it’s certainly an improvement, but it makes me wish every machine’s browser had a set of Times-y fonts installed and thus at its disposal. Or heck, robust support for typography.

    And the abundant use of Georgia (a font I love and use to death online) similarly gives me that ‘I’m reading the IHT’ vibe. It’ll pass.

  25. I think, that at first look it seems like not that much has changed since the visual design of the site is very similar to the old one, but in terms of IA it’s a lot more than just “adding a few tabs”. If you compare the new version to the old they’ve done a complete overhaul. Yes, it’s still pretty cluttered, but that’s pretty much unavoidable for a site that contains such a wealth of information. I think, they’ve done a much better job of organizing the available info and giving readers more prominent access to the content that used to be buried deeper, with a special emphasis on multimedia. I also think that they were definitely going for a look that resembles the newspaper even closer. All newspapers are currently struggling with a major issue of their readers not reading nearly as much content online as they do when they pick up an actual newspaper (and all the repercussions of this on ad sales and revenue). Online readers just read one or two articles and leave as opposed to newspaper readers who tend to read much more of the content before putting the paper down. I think, this is an attempt to solve that problem (especially the section Today’s Paper). Time will tell whether it’s successful or not.

  26. I am so very suprised to find you had nothing to do with the redesign. That said, I do find the site more elegant and most certainly more useable. Job very well done. I look forward to improvements led by yourself Vin. Cheers

  27. Is anyone on your design team over forty? You’ve managed to take one of the best media sites on the net and make huge parts of it very difficult to read. I would take all the input you get from fellow designers with a huge grain of salt- most of them are responsible for many of those awful sites out there. Listen to your readers. They’re going to tell you that the site is harder to read. I really am disappointed with this.

  28. Quite a surprise this morning. My humble opinion: above the fold is not bad–a little more contemporary looking than before. But for eyeballs over forty, below the fold is very, very off-putting. Too little contrast, not chunky enough. It hits me like one big blob of type. Not enough spacing between headlines in the sections. Much harder to pull out individual items than before.

    I am *not* one to be conservative in these matters, but I must say that this is not an improvement. I agree that the “at a glance” impression is “nicer,” but the usability went way down.

  29. I love the design but noticed a little bug in Firefox. The Most Popular tab switcher pops me to the top of the page instead of switching in Firefox on my mac.

  30. “those not among that vanishingly small subset of the general populace who can be called Љdesign savvy’”

    Huh? I had to read that sentence three times and I’m still not sure I’ve parsed it correctly. Are you saying that design-awareness is on the decline these days? That just seems silly to me..

  31. Overall I like the design but was disappointed to see accessibility given so little regard.

    Even small changes like link underlines (especially in large paragraphs) can make a huge difference. I’ve got (mostly) norma eyesight but still have to strain to detect the difference between medium gray and medium blue.

  32. nice… i guess… there sure is a ton of stuff on the front page! i still prefer the onion by far.

    do you have a screen shot of what it used to look like? i forget…

  33. Hi Khoi,

    Having worked at the NYTEMC many many years ago, I’ve always been interested and passionate about the evolution of the business. I’m gonna do this comment Eastwood style …

    The good:
    ~ The site is faster.
    ~ The page is wider and displays content in a more organized way.
    ~ Multimedia is front-and-center and works well.
    ~ Blogs are promoted on the front page.
    ~ Seems to be search and RSS index-friendly.

    The bad:
    ~ The font, while readable, is common.
    ~ The layout is boring and lacks brand impact.
    ~ There is too much information on the front page to digest.
    ~ Times Select, their paid service, takes up way too much real estate.

    The ugly:
    ~ A few sites, including The Guardian, mentions the MyTimes service … which isn’t available yet. I can understand promoting a beta, but since when is it smart to promote a service which doesn’t even exist? This is an uncommon move fr the Times, and I’m very surprised. Given all the other things that could generate buzz and excitement, why promote something people cannot even test drive? The Times is not a delayed Microsoft OS or a long-overdue video game.

    ~ For whatevever reason, I could not get the “most emailed, blogged and searched tabs to work.” Not like I’m using some crazy set-up or something: I’m using Firefox on a PC. There is no excuse for this, if indeed this is not a problem on my side.

    ~ Maybe it is just me, but I think the Times has lost some of its personality with this redesign. It just looks more like other sites. Is it just me? At their last major redesign (5 years ago, I think), I remember thinking that they added to the user experience (much better navigation and better use of photography and breaking news, for example) but they did not take away the feeling that I was on the New York Times site. Other than the masthead, I’m not sure if I still feel that way. This could be the Wash Post or Herald Tribune. They’re great publications and sites, don’t get me wrong. But the Times is the Times and this new design does not reinforce that.

    More here:
    http://www.i-boy.com/weblog/2006/04/letter-to-our-readers-new-york-times.html

    Feel free to drop by,
    ~G~

  34. The “Today’s Paper” section is new in name only. It was previously called “NYT Front Page” and was exactly the same thing, except with the old look. I’ve been going to that page for years.

  35. Counterpoint to all these 12″ Powerbookers: The page looks GREAT (indeed, better than almost any other info-rich webpage I visit) on a 24″ monitor.

    More notes here if anybody’s interested.

  36. Khoi,

    I am from that small subset of “design savvy” folks. As an everyday user of NYTimes.com, I think the new site is much improved from a design and user friendly point-of-view. At first I did have some trouble reading the smaller type but the design is so much more pleasant I do not want to go back to the larger type. The only thing I had trouble finding was my link to the “weather” in the side bar, I will start to use the link in the masthead that I seem to forget about.

    Are you able to release the name of the consulting design firm?

    Good luck with your new position and success of the site.

    Robin A.

  37. The new site is bland, boring, and much more difficult to find information on.

    I’m sure it met every one of its requirements based on the spec given to the team, but in terms of the online face of the NYTimes, it’s a big step backwards for the reader.

  38. I think it’s a shame more wasn’t done on the home page. The home page navigation and layout are quite awkward.

    And I find the move to 1024px wide an interesting move – gives me something to continue the debate around the office.

  39. Some improvements here, but some big complaints. I think “designers” will like the new “look”, but regular users have to suffer now:

    1) The fonts are way too small for headlines and article summaries. Small fonts should be reserved for bylines, captions, and photo credits. The new design causes too much eye strain. Remember, we’re reading off of monitors, not newsprint. I see this as a huge usability miss and something quite unforgivable in 2006.

    2) Links should be underlined. The designers got too cute with the subtle color difference, but no underlining. Now I have to hunt around for what is a link and what is not. Either make the color difference greater, or put the underlining back in. I’m sure the “designers” will hate both ideas, but the paper is supposed to be useful, not art.

    This design is a win for Design Gurus who primarily care about prettiness. It is a big step back for regular readers who want a paper they can easily use.

    Two thumbs down.

  40. I have to say as a reader who gets much of his news throughout the day on the Times site, I’m really disappointed. Both the font choice and color (in Safari on a Mac) are horrendous. To my eye the site now looks like a Miami High School’s attempt at their first website. Lost is the black and white clarity and austerity of the former site. I didn’t mind when the paper went color, as it was a restrained approach which implied its restrained editorial approach. The blue font is just horrible and, in my opinion, really detracts from the stories’ impact. Would that the site design used the simple, clear, B&W approach used here on subtraction.com

  41. I am interested to know the nature of debate that led to the decision to go 1024+ width. Those who know know this is a more common desktop resolution now than it was even 2 years ago and fixed-width 1024+ sites are going to be quite normal within 2 years from now. What was the NYT’s justification for being among the first to ‘go wide’, especially given the diversity of NYT subscribers?

    Also: in my skirmish with journalism, I learned that in newspaper design the ‘top story’ is consistently placed in the upper right of the page with a photo to the left. I recall this was the case with the old version of the website and still holds for the Post. Personally, I look to the right-center for the main headlines and the shift to left-center seems jarring and inconsistent with journalism design.

    My third and final point concerns the masthead and its relative largeness. As a web designer, I often steer clients away from large mastheads because visitors already have a number of sources that inform them which site they’re visiting ([title], domain name, favorites icon, etc.), and the screen real estate used for branding could be better used to highlight content. Generally, while I’m aware of the purpose of an enormous masthead in print, I think that the headline links on website can and should be larger than the masthead on the homepage. This opinion was formed without any inside knowledge of the publisher’s aims, so I’m curious to know what those are in relation to this decision. Nevertheless, I rather like the header treatment on article pages.

    I don’t mean to sound critical; I’m generally quite impressed with your work and enjoy reading your analyses. I’m looking forward to your comments on these points.

  42. I love the new redesign. I just wish our local newspapers (IOL, etc.) would take a leaf out of the NY Times book and design a clean and functional website like the NY Times where navigation is easy, looks clean and professional.

  43. While I think this is a very attractive design, I agree that the readability has taken a hit. I read the Times online every day, and even ponied up for Times Select. I’m way under 40, but the type is too small and the contrast too low for my youthful (though challenged) eyes. Bumping the size up in Firefox causes all sorts of things to break. I admire all the effort that went into this, but I just can’t read it.

  44. At work, I can only look at the Web with IE 5.5, which seriously trashes the new column layout (especially above the fold). Upgrading is not an option for individual users here.

    I know older browsers cannot always be supported, but I think there is a workaround for this problem (but I don’t know it).

  45. ‘Design Savvy’ it may be, but ‘Web Design Savvy’ it most clearly isn’t. Aside from the amateurish validation issues, inconsistent navigation and the overload of fonts mentioned above, its rigourous adhesion to a larger screen size is a throwback to the bad old days of (this website best viewed at ZxY resolution).

    If, in 2006, your graphic designers cannot understand the concept of fluid design that will make the most of available screen real estate while degrading gracefully for handhelds and other media besides desktop PCs, they are not so much graphic designers for the web as they are illustrators. You might as well have gone for a bunch of .gifs and a multitude of longdesc tags. At least that might have validated.

    Poor show, old bean.

  46. Khoi, congratulations on guiding such a complex redesign to completion. It must have been really hard work negotiating the myriad issues that come with a redesign of this scope.

    Given the prominence of the Times and the size of your audience, though, I guess I’m a little disappointed that you and your team didn’t try to come up with a fluid design – you can still adhere to a grid while making a design readable at different resolutions, and I wish you’d been able to do that. Maybe next time. :)

    The other thing that worried me a bit is the number of validation issues – does your CMS introduce errors? Or perhaps you didn’t have quite enough time during the transition to the new site to iron these out? Anyway, I hope you get a chance to correct the bulk of these. Set an example for the other papers!

    Good luck in your ongoing work at the Times.

  47. The new design, at least of the home page, is horrible. I loathe wide-format web sites, whether I am using a large monitor at work or my laptop at home. Vertical screen real estate is cheap. Horizontal real estate is expensive. I will not give the NYT more of my monitor to use for advertising, the obvious and central aim of the redesign.

    This is particularly true for news sites. The fonts are too variable in size and override my own choices in an irritating manner. Georgia is an ugly font.

    I am delinking NYT from my own home page and I will cease to use its content except when referred to specific articles by aggregators.

    The Times just lost yet another reader – yet another under-forty, urban, professional, highly-educated, reasonably well-paid reader.

    Nice job on the implementation. Glad the design error wasn’t yours.

  48. It’s not a stick, it’s a spade, and I’m calling it one :-)

    But I was only scratching the surface. Try running it through a screenreader. Where are the accesskeys? Why does the NYT hate the disabled? These non-existant elements of accessibility and useability, along with the lack of validation etc are basic, not exactly time-consuming to implement and seem to have been ignored in favour of ill-informed graphic design theory. I would have thought the NYT, as a professional, commercial enterprise, actually wanted to attract as many readers as possible, which isn’t usually done by placing unnecessary obstacles in their path.

    Please don’t get me wrong – I have a great respect for the NYT, and I’m interested to see where the new content direction takes them – but this step seems, as I said, a return to the bad old days of cowboy web design. Get the basics right first is all I’m saying.

  49. I have to confess substantial disappointment in this redesign, particularly as I often read The Times via my PDA (a Sprint-system Audiovox PPC-6601). For some reason, when the home page loads it routinely tosses me out of Explorer and on to whatever screen I had prevuiously displayed, and there are huge swaths of white space between the masthead and subsequent headlines, etc. Navigation here is far more cumbersome. And frankly, as some others here have observed, the impression is of less substance, less genuine New York Times. The brand has been diluted, IMHO, and this is not simply a matter of me resisting change.

    I should add that I’m closing in on 49 and myself work for a pretty large newspaper (The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY), where I’m classical music & dance critic. So I have a bit of perspective on web presences, journalistically speaking.

  50. Given that the nytimes.com homepage was just updated, I’m guessing that it will now be atleast 1 year minimum before they change the look/feel again.

    How unfornuate, the choice for typeface is driving me crazying because it’s distracting.

    For more information about distracting interfaces, see the video below produced by an interface analysis company.

    http://www.etre.com/usability/eyetracking/showme/

  51. The wider format is a problem even on screens that are 1024+, because it assumes that I have the window maximized to 1024. It also assumes that my sidebar is hidden and the page has the full width available to it.

  52. “Why does the NYT hate the disabled?” is my nominee for the funniest bit of non-intentional troll-provider humor ever created. Thanks, Sam, you made my day!

    Seriously, my sides still hurt after reading that :)

  53. To anyone who hasn’t ever designed a newspaper website but has the balls to come in here and tell Khoi and the NYT team what they “should” have done, I have three words:

    You. Try. It.

    It’s not as easy as it looks.

  54. It is wonderful!!! This grumpy old (59!!!) webbie thinks it works just fine out of the box.

    How so wonderfully ironic to see Times Roman get tossed where it belongs, and Georgia get a great implementation. It sure makes me pleased to have spec’d my last client’s site with that very readable font.

    And it works in Firefox!!!

  55. I saw it earlier today and liked it a lot. One thing, though. Since the International Herald Tribune and the Times are related, had there been any thought given to using the excellent IHT design in some way?

    Excellent work, though, and I look forward to using the site a lot more!

  56. By the way, though, I’m on Safari on a Mac, and I’m getting the “flash of unstyled content” bug, or a variation. When the page first loads, it chides me to upgrade to a modern browser, then suddenly the styles load perfectly. What’s up?

  57. Love the new site, always take a lead from the NYTimes in decision making, hope you are considering a design patterns document similar to that over at Yahoo!

    Having spent the last 3 years designing and building newspaper web sites in the UK your team has obviously achieved so much. I’m very interested in the comment regarding the involvement of an out side agency in defining a creative strategy — let face it an internal department is too close to their own products to make informed sometime brave decisions.

    I will have to disagree with a number of posts here regarding the design decisions, non-valid code typography etc. Unless you have experience of working on projects of this size involving large numbers of stakeholder and historic style guides then you seem very naive in your statements. Blogs and brochure ware site are simple when compared to large scale publications such as this where 100’s of pages are created each day all of which need commercialising often in ways not yet even conceived.

  58. Just for the record:

    I have coded (both as webmonkey and programmer) for newspaper sites, including multiple title conglomerate publishing sites. A couple of times using TCL and Vignette, which should at least date me. I can still taste the bile. Also monopoly national telecomunications sites, banks, gov sites and some smaller fish. Don’t think I’ve ever done brochurewear for money, though I’ve written some on-line docs for OS apps I’ve used where the developer wasn’t much for the english.

    I have previously been taken to task for ignoring the kind of issues I raised. I argued the point, and had to admit the arguments for taking that kind of care are warranted. While I accept that it can be judged a matter of opinion to pay attention to such such issues (raised, I notice, not only by me, though I do seem to keep harping on about it) as validation, fluidity and accessibility, I have yet to see a valid argument put forward for ignoring them beyond “well, it looks good for me”.

    We can all learn something new, at any time. Does anyone have a rationale to give for their exclusion that I haven’t considered?

  59. First, I don’t mean to too critical as I think the inside pages look fantastic, and the site as a whole has a much cleaner look about it – but I live in NY and NYT is my paper, and the new homepage is a problem. I have to agree with other people here who have issues with the 1024 resolution. 3 things that I personally find wrong with it:

    1) It seems to be based on an implicit assumption that users will not scroll down below the fold (which of course online happens to vary widely across different resolutions) and will therefore miss anything that isn’t visible on first glance. Is there some evidence that users won’t scroll? Anyway, it’s beside the point as even if a browser is open wide enough to view the entire site horizontally, users must now scroll both across (eyes) and down (scroll and eyes). This is just plain an unpleasant experience.

    2) It looks like the designers had trouble actually filling the 1024 in a way that makes sense. The content really looks like it just kind of fell in to whichever place it would fit. That spot to the right of the “video” headline, about 600-800 pixels down….it looks exactly like the designers had a block of empty space that they couldn’t find anything else to put in there, so they just threw some random headlines in. I don’t mean to be overly critical or an ass, but this makes the homepage actually painful to scan or read. If you can’t fill all that space in a way that makes sense, why bother?

    3) Most screens resolutions today are actually much bigger than 1024, but this does not correspond to being able to design larger web sites as was the case when most users finally had 800×600 or larger resolutions and web sites no longer had to fit inside a 640×480 resolution. Like others above have pointed out, we use our larger screens to view many things simultanesouly – email, IM, word, whatever. This is in contrast to the days when 640×480 or 800×600 were so small that it was natural to use as much space as possible for the browser window. But at larger the resolutions, I think it’s safe to assume that users want to use that extra screen real estate for something other than maximizing their browser window.

  60. hate to change the subject here but…
    Can someone help out the boston globe site boston.com? it is the worst.

  61. Simple question for those of you complaining about the 1024×768: do you feel the same way about ESPN.com, washingtonpost.com, cnn.com, and most other major news sites, which are all now catering to 1024?

    My point is simply that it’s not as if the Times is doing something new and revolutionary here. They’re actually following a trend towards embracing today’s larger screen resolutions and widescreen format.

    In my mind, there’s a very simple reason why most people have their browser windows at the size the do: because it fits most of the sites they visit. I believe most users who discover the new Times site doesn’t fit in their current browser width will simply resize their windows and never think about it again. In fact, most of them probably already have resized their browser window, because they did it when ESPN or CNN went wide.

  62. The redesign does two important things that I require before I can put down the print edition:

    1) I can see a list of all the articles in today’s Dining In/Dining Out section.

    2) Links allow me to go to the next article in a section, so I can browse the way I would a newspaper.

    It sounds simple, but I find that web newspapers rarely find a balance between maintaining old articles and highlighting today’s editions.

    This is the first online newsletter that I can actually read the way I read a paper newspaper. I don’t feel like I’m losing something by going online.

    I’d like to hear a lot more about how it was done, who did it, and why decisions were made.

  63. Sam: When you say things like “Why does the NYT hate disabled people?” you lose all credibility, and when you claim lots of experience without any links or even a last name, you sound even more silly.

    If you actually have serious criticisms you should have made them in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a moron.

    Sorry to everyone else here; I don’t know why I’m even feeding this particular troll, but he’s somehow got me hooked :)

  64. I do encourage politeness here, but I’d prefer not to inveigh against even the folks who are impolite. Let’s just focus on how much you all like — or hate — the redesign! Thanks!

  65. “Simple question for those of you complaining about the 1024×768: do you feel the same way about ESPN.com, washingtonpost.com, cnn.com, and most other major news sites, which are all now catering to 1024?”

    Yes, for the most part. I think the layout of those sites are better organized, especially cnn or espn. Your eye can snap easier from main story to latest news and basically “scan” the page for the news. nytimes.com is much more haphazard, especially as virtually every font and headline is the same style and size.

    But – and maybe it’s just subjective – I think in general there is so much thrown at you on these sites that it’s overwhelming. I understand there’s a lot of sections and info that they want to feature, but it’s as if the extra real estate leads not to more information but to chaos.

  66. I imagine Khoi is not too pleased with this redesign. It’s come under his watch and after giving it a 60-second once over it’s clearly not top-rate work at all.

    The first thing I see as the page loads is a note telling me that my browser’s not good enough. Ah, but it is; that was a display:none thing that I saw until the CSS loaded. Not exactly encouraging. Did nobody test this thing?

    I like the wide screen — at last, horizontal photographs on the nytimes.com homepage.

    But the fonts! Marty, you’ve got to do something about the fonts! As someone wrote above, this looks more like a Miami High School web site than the New York Times. Anyone not notice the word “Times” in the name of this paper of record? Someone’s head should seriously roll for this. I think it is the most egregious design mistake I’ve ever seen, given the high(est) profile of the site.

  67. “Why does the NYT hate disabled people?”

    Jacob: Sorry – that was supposed to be hyperbole for amusing effect. Sardonic doesn’t come across well on the page. Also, my last name is in my email address. I’m not trying to hide. The reason I don’t present links is that linking to them would be to insinuate that I was entirely responsible for their design/code decisions etc which isn’t the case – I know how many people in different fields it takes to get a large site up and running (and how many not so clever decisions by the higher-ups get made to satisfy the whims of designer folk and customers).

    But if you can ignore my apparently abrasive personality for the moment – I’d still like to hear:

    Why not a fluid design that could take advantage of bigger screens but didn’t handicap users of other devices and screens?

    Why no validation?

    Why no basic accessibility?

    Why the huge number of fonts?

    Others did it this way first is a pretty silly answer (just to try and ward that one off at the gate). And ultimately, my experience has little to do with the answers either. I think they’re valid questions – if not, why not?

  68. Adam Khan: Times New Roman, which was previously the NYTimes.com standard font, has nothing to do with the New York Times newspaper. It’s based on a font originally designed for The Times newspaper of London and I don’t think it has ever been used in the print edition of the N.Y. Times (at least not in all the years I’ve read the paper).

    I think the switch to Georgia is fine (though I don’t buy the argument that it’s any more legible than TNR). My font quibble is with the photo captions and story bylines: tiny gray text. I find it very difficult to read, especially on my laptop. Small, light text is scattered through other parts of the site, as well. I hope they decide to bump these smallest sizes up a notch and darken some of the grays to improve legibility.

    That said, I give the overall redesign a thumbs-up. Very clean, with better use of the paper’s great photography (if anything I wish the photos were a bit bigger yet). Compare the Times site to visually cluttered competitors such as Wash Post and MSNBC and it’s simply no contest. The Times has upheld its reputation as one of the web’s best-designed news sites.

  69. Sam: “Why the huge number of fonts?”

    I only count two fonts on the redesigned site (excluding legacy pages): Georgia and Arial.

  70. Mr Anderson: D’oh – I had that orininally down as “font overload – with the weird sizing and hard to distinguish links”, but changed it because I am clearly a moron :-)

    Thugh I must say, aside from the fluidity issue, the non-front pages do look nice. Flawed but pretty. I identify ;-)

  71. Obviously I’m not Khoi or anyone on the NYTimes team, but I do design newspaper sites for a living, so let me take a stab at this:

    “Why not a fluid design that could take advantage of bigger screens but didn’t handicap users of other devices and screens?”

    Because there’s no such thing. If you can show me a newspaper site that features as much content and multimedia as the NYT with a single layout that works equally well on both high resolution desktop monitors and cell phones, I’ll quit my job.

    “Why no validation?”

    Because it’s damn-near impossible when you’re dealing with legacy CMSes, a hundred or more different content inputters, god-knows-what for an ad management system, etc. You said earlier that the lack of validation makes this site less professional. I disagree. I think validation is a tell-tale sign of an amateur site, since blogs and personal portfolios are about the only thing that can ever really accomplish it. Again, find me a newspaper site with the depth of content on the Times site that does validate.

    And I’ll ask you a question in response: “why do you care?” Does the lack of validation somehow make it harder for you to browse the site? If so, isn’t THAT the problem, and not the lack of validation? Validation is a great goal and we should always strive to achieve it, but in reality it’s rarely possible on CMSed sites with any depth of content.

    “Why no basic accessibility?”

    “Basic accessibility?” What the hell is that? Define it, and maybe someone can answer that question.

    “Why the huge number of fonts?”

    I guess I don’t see a “huge number of fonts.” Two or three different fonts is quite typical in all forms of graphic design. Why is this a “huge number” in your mind?

  72. “I have coded (both as webmonkey and programmer) for newspaper sites, including multiple title conglomerate publishing sites. A couple of times using TCL and Vignette, which should at least date me.”

    Right. And whenever I want visual design advice, I always look for the nearest guy who has experience with an antiquated scripting language and a good-for-nothing CMS. Programmers make great visual designers. *rolls eyes*

    On second thought, if your background is in TCL and Vignette, maybe you are an expert on how not to make newspaper websites.

  73. There’s a reason paper newspapers look the way they do – it works.

    Displaying information on a screen is not a lot different and the same fundemental rules apply. The new NYT site has no focus, is complex and busy, basically it’s a bitch to USE.

    Looks nice though, and I guess in the “Web 2.0″ world that’s all that matters…

  74. P. Anderson, I know the name “Times” doesn’t come from this paper necessarily, but still, there’s a tradition there. The nytimes in print *looks* like itself, like no other paper. That’s quite important. Georgia is an OK-looking font, but it’s got too many associations with other things now.

    Coming back and looking again today, there’s no doubt that the homepage is more exciting than before; it’s good to see something new and the width allows for more juicy things. But Georgia is wrong for nytimes.com, I’m pretty sure of that.

    Still, as an iteration towards something great it’s a step in the right direction in my opinion. (Except for Georgia — did I mention that?)

  75. “Looks nice though, and I guess in the “Web 2.0″ world that’s all that matters…”

    Right, because the quintessential “Web 2.0″ applications are real lookers (see Flickr, del.icio.us, Basecamp, etc.).

    “Georgia is an OK-looking font, but it’s got too many associations with other things now.”

    Given that web developers have about four reasonable choices of fonts, it’s kind of hard to pick something truly unique. Each of the four or five reasonable web fonts are going to have associations with other websites because there’s only four or five fonts and millions of web sites.

    Georgia is considered the most legible of the available serif choices for the web because of the fact that it was specifically designed for on-screen use by Matthew Carter. It is wide and has a large x-height, which is said to aide readability on-screen. Times New Roman, on the other hand, was designed for print and definitely has it’s fair share of on-screen legibility issues.

  76. Its looking pretty good, though I wouldn’t call it a redesign as much as I’d call it an experience design optimization. There’s still a lot going on visually, but its easy to scan and the navigation (which could have a little more “punch”, in the upper left) is a move in the right direction.

    That being said, this optimization realizes only a fraction of it’s potential. I’m not sure what’s in store for pending “My Times” section; but I would love to see them embrace the ideas of Windows Live, del.icio.us, and plain-old mashable goodness.

    Perhaps they’re taking baby steps. Maybe this isn’t a direction suited to the Times. I’m interested to see where they’ll take this.

  77. “On second thought, if your background is in TCL and Vignette, maybe you are an expert on how not to make newspaper websites.”

    Exactly! This is the reason that I didn’t link to previous sites I’d worked on – people would take the decisions of others that I had no control over as evidence of either my ignorance or hypocrisy. Bugger that. The accusation was made that those who criticised should try it themselves – I was merely pointing out that I’d been involved in going down that road. What companies with more money than sense choose to run their websites on is no fault of mine.

    Thanks for actually taking the time to provide some actual answers, though. Good answers, too. And in parts, I agree. I clearly had underestimated the role of cumulative effect of CMSs and content editors in making life difficult for what comes after. There are currently CMSs that will attempt to adhere to web standards in a much cleaner way than previously – but it was foolish of me to assume that the new look was in any way tied to something in that realm. My assumption – Mea culpa.

    Why do I care? I’m sure you’ve heard all the arguments for adherence to web standards, so just insert them here.

    Basic accessibility? I already mentioned the use of accesskeys as an example. It’s a small concession to accessibility that can make a great deal of difference to some users. Others have commented on how difficult links can be to identify, a design choice that weakens the use of hypertext in the first place.

    As far as the fluidity argument goes: well, we may have to agree to differ. “Other people don’t” is still a silly reason and not, to my mind, an indication that it’s impossible. Assuming the CMS being used is capable of delivering such a design, I think it could be done (though I’d use a handheld media CSS for your hypothetical cellphone). But the proof of that would be in the pudding, so I’ll leave it for now (though I may try, just to satisfy myself I’m not talking through a hole in my head).

    And yes – I stuffed up the font question, see my comment a couple of posts below it.

    But anyhow – thanks again for taking the time to actually answer my questions. I’ll bow out now (really, I should have just kept my mouth shut in the first place – 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing), but I’ll just point you to the requirements of my current employer. If you think I’m being a web standard stickler – you should see what these guys require. And yes, we’ll be using a CMS (as is the linked site – though it’s not, obviously, of the scale of the NYT).

  78. Good post, Sam. :)

    I’m a big web standards advocate, too — I just believe that at some point you have to do what works and what is practical, and if it’s not possible to do that and still achieve 100% validation, then so be it. The reality is that virtually no major news site on the web is 100% valid, and most of them work quite well. And, if you were to make one that was 100% valid, I think you’d be hard pressed to demonstrate how it actually worked better than those that are only 90% valid. Like I said, validation is a great goal, and I’m all for trying to get there. But if you can’t quite make it because of legacy systems and legacy people, then you can’t quite make it. I just get annoyed when I think a site in trying to do the right thing by being as standards-compliant as possible, and people get all over them because they have a few errors. Get all over the people that are still stuck in the 90s — not the ones that are trying, but only get 90% of the way there. :)

  79. I don’t like the redesign at all. My main gripes are as follows:

    1) PAGE WIDTH: I like to keep nytimes.com open in my browser on half of my monitor as I work in another window, allowing nytimes.com to refresh itself as news happens. I can’t give my broswer the full width of my monitor, because I need the space for other windows. The new design takes up too much screen real-estate.

    2) FONT SIZE: It’s just too small. If I increase the font size to make the text legible, the headlines and section names in the navigation bars outgrow their columns and overlap the text, and the text on other sites becomes too large.

    3) FONT FACE: It’s too hard to read. Serif fonts add to readability in print, but on a pixelated screen, they are harder to read at smaller sizes than sans-serif fonts. The headlines below the fold are particularly difficult to read in this font.

    4) BROWSER DEPENDENCY: Many things on the new site just don’t work in Firefox. The navigation bars split between lines (the “Times Topics” button appears on a line below the other buttons, and “Autos” comes below “World”). The site is totally unusable on PDA’s.

    5) CLUTTER AND LACK OF NATURAL FLOW: The home page is way, way too cluttered. There is no natural path for the eye to follow. The unequal widths and asymmetrical formats of the columns are very distracting.

    6) NARROW COLUMNS: Above the fold, the colums are so narrow that, at legible font sizes, there are as few as two words in each line of text. Below the fold, with three long, narrow columns of headlines, the reader must scroll down and up, down and up, and down again, making reading more of an exercising in mousing than an excercise in visual tracking.

    Overall, the design is beautiful — for a print newspaper. But this isn’t a print newspaper. The website should be designed as a website, for ease of use and clarity of presentation on the web. It would be nice for branding purposes for the website to resemble the print newspaper in some respects, but in going so overboard, the Times has sacrificed usability. I really thought the old site had great usability, plain as it looked. It also had brand identity, despite not looking like the print paper: even when looking at only a small sample of an old nytimes.com screen, I could tell you that it was from nytimes.com. With the new design, even with time, I don’t think I could do that because it looks so much like so many other (poorly designed) sites.

    My reaction to the new design, in a word: UGH!

  80. I’ve been trying to get used to the new interface, but I can’t. I want to; I’ve reserved judgment until it’s had a few days to sink in.

    It just really bothers me. There is way too much going on, and I don’t know what to look at first. It’s too wide for the way I use my desktop. And it doesn’t look like the NYT any more — Georgia is just too casual to be taken seriously (what’s wrong with Times New Roman, at least?) It’s getting that Apple bubblegummy look that is hard to take seriously.

    Some of the columns just look silly, with one or two words per line.

    I do like the tabs at the top.

    I guess what bothers me most about the design is it looks like a clone of too many other web 2.0 websites. If I landed in the middle of the old NYT screen, I would know at a glance where I was. With this new design, there is no sense of place, or branding, or whatever you want to call it.

    It also bothers me that I have to change the font size in order to read some of it, and when I do, it mucks up the layout a lot. And if it’s based on a grid, it just doesn’t line up properly.

    I hope this is just a beta redesign.

  81. I liked the site when I first used it on Monday. Now that a few days have gone by I still like the site. I am getting used to the changes and I like them. Cheers to the Team! And, yes to all the complainers, there are much neccessary improvements needed (it come in like shit on Explorer, etc.) but I would like to think the Team will get things worked out in time (no pun, indended).

  82. Haven’t read all of the remarks, but I’d love to have a [A] [A] [A] [A] device on the NYT to increase text size without breaking the navigation heads (which is what happens with command +). As someone just old enough to need glasses a lot of the type is a bit of an effort for me on a 12″ at 1024. I’d imagine most people over 40 would agree. I read the site in depth every day, and overall nice work. I’m getting used to it.

  83. “I guess what bothers me most about the design is it looks like a clone of too many other web 2.0 websites.”

    This line baffles me completely. I guess I don’t know what the “Web 2.0 look” really is. I guess if I have to imagine what “Web 2.0″ looks like (which I try not to think about, since it was a silly buzzword from the beginning), I would say it’s the 37signals style — big text, colorful, friendly, rounded typefaces, lots of whitespace, limited imagery, etc.

    …and I see none of that on the New York Times site.

    So I must have the “Web 2.0 look” all wrong. If the “Web 2.0 look” isn’t defined by sites like Flickr, Upcoming, Measure Map, and 37signals — then what is it?