Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A clean Slate.
I have to throw Slate some massive props. Not only is it probably the most long-lived online publication around (due in no small part to all the Microsoft Moolah that supported it for so long) but it is one of the few sites that has managed to make me go, "Huh – now there's an idea" with its new redesign. The idea is simple: use rollover buttons on the left nav to trigger massive menus that replace the main body area with the table of contents. When I first heard about it, I was unimpressed, but when I actually saw it in action, my jaw dropped. Its a dead-simple, genius solution to a classic problem, and it left me saying, "Damn, I wish I'd thought of that."

The redesigned site and its new logo is part of a 10-year anniversary celebration, which is definitely saying something. (Inkblots passed the 10-year mark sometime last year, and if it weren't currently on one of its infamous long hiatuses we'd probably have launched some serious fireworks ourselves.) Slate editors Jacob Weisberg and Julia Turner themselves describe the relaunch thus:

Why the makeover? Well, it was about time. It's been more than three years since we last updated the look of our "cover" (and longer than that since we've tinkered with the basic appearance of our article pages). A lot has changed since then. For one thing, we're no longer owned by Microsoft, which for some reason seems to make it easier for us to build a site that works as well in Firefox and Safari as it does in Internet Explorer. And now that larger computer screens and broadband have become commonplace, we felt Slate could do more to take advantage of both. The new home page, for example, is wider than the old one and has graphics so numerous that a dial-up modem would have choked on them...

There's more to the article – a lot more – but I wanted to touch on these as excellent points that I've incorporated into my own design work on various projects. The relaunched Comparative Media Studies site that I've been working on, for example, uses much of the same thinking, especially about file sizes and broadband access. The editors go on to describe other functions that I've been eyeballing myself for some of my projects, including tighter integration with Technorati and other logging tools. What I want to do next is more integration of podcasting and RSS (which Slate is already doing) and even video (which, I believe, Slate isn't). It's fascinating to watch the way that content delivery evolves online – right now I'm building a new project that incorporates the new challenge of dealing with cell phones. Trying to figure out how to integrate things like text messages and downloadable ringtones and wallpapers is really difficult, especially when trying to figure out how to do it with zero budget. Some things, of course, never change. Nevertheless, the integration of even more rich media is where the web is definitely going.

Sorry, mom and dad. Dial-up isn't going to cut it for much longer.

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