New, Improved Original Flavor!

Version 7.0This is it, the site is launched. As soon as I’m done posting this, I’ll send out an email announcement and update the feeds so the new posts will start showing up in news readers. Not everything works perfectly yet, but it’s mostly here. If you’ve been patiently waiting for this day, I thank you for coming back.

Things have changed around here fairly dramatically, but I’ve tried to keep some sense of the old design. For comparison, here’s a post from last year with the Six.5 design, and here it is again with the version 7.0 design. Different but the same, right?

Below: Black and white and read all over. The Subtraction 7.0 look and feel.

Any Color You Want, So Long As It’s Black (and White)

Straight away, I know some people are just going to hate the color scheme. This is based on established evidence; I had a few people to whom I revealed the design in previews greet it with dimmed enthusiasm, to put it kindly. I really struggled with whether to impose such a stark departure in color on readers, and went back and forth on it several times.


In my early design comps, I tried to imbue the site with a bit of the lush, Aqua-influenced interface aesthetic that has become popular in Web design. This is a style of which I’m a huge fan, and for which I have a great respect, but in the end, I came to the conclusion that it’s not a style for which I’m particularly well suited. I’m much more comfortable with a reductive language, and I decided it was logical to try and embrace that sensibility as much as possible, and have as much fun with it as I can. The black and white palette is an attempt to emphasize that mindset — and satirize it too, a bit. As I mentioned in an earlier post, during the course of production, it’s really grown on me, and I hope it grows on at least a few of you, too.

A Few of My Favorite Things

I had intended to have a few more posts published before relaunching the site that would talk about the various details of the redesign, but time is a thief and I came up a bit short. What I did manage:

There’s more to be said about the rest of the site, but in lieu of full-fledged entries at this point, the things I’m proudest of are the the new Archives page, the monthly archives calendar which looks best when I’ve written lots of posts, and the new Elsewhere ratings system.

Happy New Year!

All weekend, I’ve been rushing to tick items off my list of tweaks for this redesign. I want to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, but I also want the site to be in a state that won’t cause me complete embarrassment when someone cleverer than me discovers some glaring mistake I made in getting it launched. The pressure is so preoccupying, I forgot to wish everyone a happy new year. So, happy new year!



  1. Great to see you back up with a new design. The archive section is great with the most recent months listing the individual entries and later months with a straight link. The calendar view gives a nice breakdown of posts. I also like the ‘quick access’ widget.

    You can always add some color later, if needed through your stylesheets. Looking forward to some great posts.

  2. It strikes me it’s not a huge departure from the last one, actually. This isn’t a bad thing. The new one lends a solid structure, free of excessive adornment. If you need to in the future, you have a lot of options for expansion. It’s a refreshing change from the expected, anyway. Put me down as liking it.

    One bit I’ll miss is the graded content areas; content being on a white background, comments being on, what, a light cream? and then the comment form below on grey if memory serves. That was a sharp combination.

  3. Black and white. Who would have thought? I think it takes more cognitive power to be familiarized with the layout but the details you’ve given for each section of the page compensate greatly. You’ve broken away from the norm – great job!

    I think this blog gives the most “magazine” feel. That’s not a bad thing. You’ve given thought to the details.

  4. Khoi,

    Well done, and welcome back. The monthly and category “overviews” are excellent. The relative absence of color is striking at first, but in no way offensive. The overall wash of b&w makes the bits of color which do pop up (hovers, aqua form widgets, the screenshot, etc.) stand out well and mean more. Also, it seems to me that the grid is what harkens most to your previous design (the link to the screenshot of your previous design is broken, so I can’t compare directly), but that this revision uses horizontal space more effectively.


  5. I must admit to wanting some color in here, but other than that I don’t think there’s a lot to argue with. I especially like the touch with the archives in the bottom of a permalink.

  6. Thanks a million to everyone for the kind comments. I’m relieved the redesign has been well received so far! Narayan, I’ve fixed the link to the old design (and actually chosen a different post to point to which is a better illustration of the way it worked):

    Dave, this link shows the old graded areas you mentioned. I missed them too; they were among the hardest things to give up when I went black and white. Maybe one day they’ll come back. I can see that happening. 🙂

  7. Overall I really like the visual feel and layout.

    I also think the star ratings are interesting. I was a little confused by them at first, it’s the first time that I’ve seen them in a personal blog as opposed to a news place like slashdot or macslash. Most of the time these sorts of ratings are set by visitors reading the entry, it might make sense to allow that also (maybe your could start things of with your own heavily weighted rating) on this site. Anyway they are a neat idea, it will be interesting to see how they are used.

    Great Job.

  8. Outstanding work. The grid layout is superbly done, and I agree with Narayan – the black and white look means that any color that does appear is a pleasant little surprise.

  9. This site is awesome. I’m in a b&w transition myself. I would never think of coming up with something like this though.

    Complex simplicity. That’s what I like to call what you have going on here. Great work!

  10. Okay, it’s going to take me a while to get used to; it’s like seeing a black and white comic for the first time after only reading color. Nice work, very nice.


  11. > It looks like you’re using Internet Explorer…

    It doesn’t look like it, I am using IE6/Win. And I do so of my own accord.а There are millions of people who may not have that luxury. I never joined the now-defunct campaign.

    I’m not a designer but I love to see beautiful websites. When my team develops a site I reserve the right to code CSS.

    I don’t like the current design.а To me it looks funereal.а The Six.5 design was very nice.а In my blog, I wrote about it as one of the three best designed blogs of 2003.

    I took the liberty of peeking under the hood of your blog.а If you must use target=”_blank”, you shouldn’t use XHTML 1.0 Strict.а There is a good reason for it.

  12. Wow! You know what? I visited your site about a year ago, and I was very impressed by the design of your site. Not just the graphics, but especially the layout too.

    About fifteen seconds after I entered the frontpage (I was reading the content before I looked at the design) my I fell on the indenting that was grouped by day, and I instantly remembered your site! That’s just too cool.

    What I like in special about your site is that the design is more about designing the content than about graphics, just all the kind of little things (e.g.: categories in four columns) _make sense_.

  13. Thanks to everyone for the very kind comments, I’m incredibly flattered by the praise and the notice. It really makes all the late nights worthwhile to get such a positive response. Also, my regards to those who find the redesign not so much to their liking; the differing opinion is valuable to me, too. You’re all the greatest!

  14. I am torn here. While I think the the site is the apitomy of what a content driven site should be, I have to agree that it does seem a little bleek and funereal. Maybe some subtle colorings in the time stamps or rating stars may give it some life? I know that here in the northeast US at this time of year there is plenty of grey and little sunlight, I don’t necessarily like seeing that while I’m on the web. Excellent job overall!
    FYI, when I attempted to preview this post, I received “Build error in template ‘Comment Preview Template’: Error in tag: Can’t find included file ‘includes/pulldown_dates.html’

  15. Ack, sorry about that. I had fixed that bug on Sunday night, and then inadvertently unfixed it when I started monkeying with the template again. It should work now.

    As for looking bleak and funereal, I wouldn’t argue that. Actually, I initially hesitated to go all black and white because I felt like it would send the wrong message about me: I actually prefer lots of color, and while I have some black clothing items, I’m always a little embarrassed to wear them. So there’s a good chance that, over time, some color will sneak back in here. Thanks for the thoughts.

  16. You’ll be fixing the validation errors, I trust? Your use of a Strict DOCTYPE rather removes the option that readers can overlook validation errors as minor or unintentional.

  17. I don’t know nothing about no technology, all I know is that it looks great and it’s easy to navigate. I hear black and white is the new color.

    Nicely done and worth the wait!

  18. Actually, the main navigation would be much easier to navigate if it made use of Fitz’s law. Just making entire rectangles a link area (instead of just the small text) would make it a “navigational heaven” – minor change, gigantic return.

  19. really nicely designed site… I was wondering how you do photos that have text wrapping.

    Also your categories on the bottom are fantastic.

  20. My first thought was “wow I like it”, followed by “I can already hear people complaining there aren’t any colors”. But this being your own space it’s up to you whether or not you give a darn.

    Some people’s (negative) visceral reactions to the lack of color in a design confounds me. Is it really that hard to maintain your focus without bright colors? If a layout doesn’t clearly establish focus or hierarchy, that’s a valid point, but methinks it’s more commonly a lack of “pretty” people are griping about. Sorta like that painting they made that had all the aspects the highest % of people wanted in a painting? I must go Google it, it’s priceless…

    Did McSweeney’s encounter similar criticism when it first went online? Maybe it’s b/c you have a “designer” tag, not “writing”. And not the US Government’s RDA of Colors.

  21. Ah found it. Down at the bottom – direct link.

    Paint by number has been used as a metaphor for decision-making based on opinion polls. Russian жmigrж artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid adapted that idea to devise a new way of painting “by numbers.” Beginning in 1993 they conducted telephone surveys to discover Americans’ taste in art. They then used the survey data as the basis for two paintings: America’s Most Wanted and America’s Most Unwanted. These embodiments of popular taste have a standardized look familiar to anyone who has contemplated paint by number.

    According to Komar and Melamid’s survey, Americans prefer representational art, landscapes with lakes, portraits of historical figures, wild animals, children, and the color blue. The artists obligingly packed all of that into one canvas. The companion piece, America’s Most Unwanted, is a small geometric abstract composition.

  22. Thanks Jason, that was a very flattering post and I appreciate it greatly. I suppose I should implement TrackBack on this blog. I hesitated, because it would make the pages incredibly tall, but it may be worth the effort to figure out a non-disruptive method of integrating TrackBack data for instances like that.

  23. Adam: Yes. I had that on my list of things to do this weekend. But I got caught up in trying to fix up various bugs in the site, and in trying to get everything valid XHTML 1.0 Strict (in fact, Elsewhere is one of the biggest causes of the validation errors). What a a pain in the ass. But yes, I’m going to do that very soon.

  24. Your site design 7.0 is closer to great swiss typography than any other other site I have come across. Currently one probably can’t get much closer with html & css on a 72ppi screen. Great work & very inspiring!

Thank you! Your remarks have been sent to Khoi.