Design Critique: The TechCrunch Redesign

Michael Arrington’s web 2.0 startup news blog TechCrunch isn’t just a huge success, making Arrington the poster boy of the tech blogosphere, it is also a very prominent leader in the blogosphere. When TechCrunch changes something, other bloggers look at it, and sometimes copies it. It was like that with the 125×125 pixel button ads, the de facto industry standard in the blogosphere right now, which I daresay got big because of Arrington’s design change in 2006 (from this version, I might add, to the previous one, screenshotted in this post).

And now they sport a new design, which in turn have sparked a lot of commentaries in the blogosphere, as well as 300+ opinions voiced in their Yep, We Redesigned post. Everyone’s got an opinion, it seems, as always when it comes to something as personal as design.

In other words, I won’t shut up either.

Screenshot of the new TechCrunch design

Screenshot of the new TechCrunch design

The Good

  • I like the whitespace, the easy colors, and the choice of fonts.
  • Front page using excerpts tightens the design a lot, toning down the need to scroll, and brings a better overview. I don’t care if the main reason is to get more pageviews, this adds to readability in TechCrunch’s case.
  • Top story on front page works, although I would’ve wanted some more schwung to it perhaps.
  • I like the middle column in the front page, only present for as long as needed. It works surprisingly well and almost gives the stories left of it a sort of a sub-top-story feel to it. Almost…
  • Previous/next post links on single posts are always good.

The Bad

  • The far right ad column is cluttered. Also, ads aren’t ideally aligned/placed, however, this isn’t something that is easily resolved, and ads are always the great EVIL of a design, so I won’t say more about it.
  • The site looks pale on high resolutions with maximized browser windows. Granted, that’s hard to do anything about if you want a clean and sober look.
  • The footer is simple, which is good, but I would like something more there. Especially on short posts with few comments, where the right ad column is a lot longer.
  • The subscribe element on the top of the right column is confusing. I expected some sort of tabbed box, instead I got links. I also miss the RSS icon (available in the footer), since it is something I think should be pushed.
  • A network menu is good, but it is not obvious that it is a network menu, it could just as well be a TechCrunch menu.

The What Now?

  • Why do you have previous/next post links on top of single posts? Sure, they might come in handy with short posts, but I find them unnecessary.
  • A blog like TechCrunch could really use a little more elaborate archives page. This one is just lazy.
  • No dates on the front page. While this is something I normally think is OK, the news orientation of TechCrunch makes me think it should be there.

Final Thoughts

Among the criticism of the new design is the fact that it isn’t “TechCrunch green” enough. The previous one certainly was. Personally, I think it does alright on that area, with a simple green bar in the absolute top of the browser window, green links and green hovering on headlines, and so on. It works, sure, it could’ve been picked up a bit more had they wanted to, but I don’t think there is any actual need for it, really.

Also, while clean, sober, and whitespaced, the design is a bit boring. I should like it, and I do, but it is a bit too corporate for my taste. That is a fine line to thread, and I think the real issue there is the use of images. Just doing logos, and always having them on the same spot, certainly doesn’t help with de-corporatifying the design. Then again, it is a business focused blog, so it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, trying to be something you’re not isn’t something for the faint of heart, so why go out and about trying to look like a magazine, when you’re a news blog about startups?

My verdict: A step up, clean, sober, suitable, I like it overall. Good.

What do you think of the new TechCrunch design?

  1. By James Paden posted on August 28, 2008 at 6:31 am
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    Great review! I wrote a review as well and also noted the lack of a footer on the design. With a site that large, I think a nice footer could have a great impact.

    In regards to the Next/Prev posts at the top, I think those will be very useful. Keep in mind that with the switch to Excerpts, in order to read every single post from top to bottom like I normally do, I have to use those Next/Prev links. And just in case I run across a post I don’t want to read, it will be easy for me to skip to the next post without scrolling to the bottom of the post.

  2. By Dave P. posted on August 28, 2008 at 8:21 am
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    I am intrigued by the new design, and understand that change is often slow to be accepted. That being said:

    Having poured over the new design and reminisced about the old, I have realized something about my web surfing experience: I really do NOT mind scrolling. In fact, what made the old TechCrunch design so appealing to me was the flowing and consistent experience it provided: title,skim,scroll-scroll-scroll… title,skim,scroll-scroll-scroll… title,skim,scroll-scroll-scroll… all the way home.

    This experience is effectively killed with the new design, on account of the reduced width of the main column, the display of only an excerpt of each post, and clunky header typography (bold headers that frequently span multiple lines). Re-training your eyes to do a familiar task can be frustrating, especially when they want to get into a groove and take off… but instead run out of run-way.

    All the same, will be curious to see how this grows on me.

  3. By Thord Daniel Hedengren posted on September 1, 2008 at 3:22 am
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    Thanks for your comments, guys. Always good to hear what other people think in matters like this.

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