A New Approach

January 31, 2010

The simple fact is, I like to design websites. I like everything from art directing the layout to actually coding the backend. This explains why I really enjoy the initial process of creating a website, but get bored with maintaining one. Take for example, the previous version of this site. In January of 2009, I converted it to a blog. After several months I lost the drive to post new content because I was simply plugging text into a design template. My role with my own website went from designer to writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value and importance in generating good content. After all, without content there is little need for design. But, why does good, original content have to be dumped into a generic template when it comes to blogs? Why can’t each new blog post have a fresh new layout accompany it?

If you look at websites such as Apple and Nike, the content of each page is married to an appropriate layout. Content and design are one. But when you look at websites that revolve around articles or blog posts, such as CNN, Smashing Magazine, or The Ministry of Type, the design template reigns supreme. This raises a big question. Can art direction even attempt to keep up with the speed at which content is generated?

There are a few sites and designers that have dared to experiment with this concept. Jason Santa Maria, a web designer out of Brooklyn, has created a new layout for each new post on his site since June of 2008. Travis Gertz and The Bold Italic both have systems in place that allow for each of their articles to have a unique design.

Although creating a unique layout for every new post or article within a site may not always be feasible, for some sites it is proving to be a new approach to online publishing. For the designer who thrives on creating new layouts, this idea is both exciting and refreshing. I’m looking forward to getting in on the fun.

 

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BG
February 1, 2010

Good luck, sounds like a sweet science to me–especially if one design revolves around a giant cardboard and paper tape fish.

 

Doug
February 1, 2010

BG – Ah yes, good times. I just might have to do something to commemorate the cardboard fish sculpture.

 

Travis Gertz
February 2, 2010

Nice first post Doug (also thanks for the link love :-) ).

I think you’ll see that, as you go, designing each article is actually easier than it looks. Sometimes, the customization doesn’t need to mean much more than changing colours, playing off the grid, and adding in a strong image or two.

Typically, it only takes a couple hours to design and code a post for thestraymuse.com or travisgertz.com. If a publication were to dedicate the right combination of staff, and the right setup, keeping up with content would be totally doable (even if custom articles were reserve to features and departments were left templated).

Right now it’s a tough sell, but I have high hopes as more of us venture into this territory. It will become more viable and even more expected.

It sure makes for a more exciting internet for both designers and readers.

 

Doug
February 3, 2010

Travis – Thanks for your response. You’re right on with how subtle changes to the layout can make a big difference. It’s so energizing to know that each post has so much potential in regards to design. I am also hopeful that more sites adopt this approach.

Thanks for pointing me to The Stray Muse, as well. Although I was familiar with your own personal site, I hadn’t seen this one. I love the idea of launching our garbage into space.

 

Yuri
February 8, 2010

I like the idea. It makes sense. Even as a writer, I understand the importance of design, photos, visuals and layout. I think your concept makes it even more important for the writers to be in on the communication plan or project plan from the very beginning. The content should be built with the same ideas and goals as the design so they serve as compliments to one another…if that makes any sense.