is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Here᾿s how it works: at the top of our home page, just click on the toggle that says “Try our Extra home page” that now appears just below the New York Times logo.
What you get is the exact same home page with an additional, scrollable box of links beneath each of the major news stories. We’ve color-coded these outside sources in green, so that’s your cue that they lead to external content.
Actually, I should say you’ll see these additional modules beneath most of our major news stories. This process is entirely automated, relying on Blogrunner intelligence to match the stories our editors pick with relevant headlines from the thousands of blogs and other news sources that the service is constantly crawling. So sometimes, because of the delicate combination of human curation and automated formatting that drives our home page, no matches come up. We’re working on improving that over time, though.
Fear of Design
Finally, one more point: as far as graphic design goes, this is pretty unremarkable stuff. We went through a few iterations to decide what these links would look like, but in truth there’s nothing here that will win points for visual innovation. Or even good looks: the automated manner in which the scrolling boxes are added can create some unintended and undesirable gaps in the page’s layout.
And there’s a legitimate argument to be made for the sheer density of what we’ve created here with all of these additional links; our already crowded page only gets more crowded with Times Extra.
Sometimes though, design is a matter of trying to effect material changes to the experience at the expense of aesthetic purity — and opportunities for graphical showmanship. Times Extra is an experiment in modestly redesigning the user experience; whether it’s a success or not is up to you and all of our users. Hopefully enough people will find it useful for us to evolve it further; I don’t think any of us suppose that this is really the last word in how third-party links can be expressed on the site. My point is that, as designers, an aversion to flouting the rules of visual decorum often doesn’t serve us well. Nor for that matter does a fear of failure.+