The new msnbc.com: Designs we left behind
~ 14 November 2007 ~
UPDATE: Upon request, I’ve linked the image showing my notes and the screen that followed.
If you haven’t paid it a visit already, the new msnbc.com is worth a look. Nearly two years of research, planning, iterative design, and development went into this behemoth overhaul. It isn’t merely a redesign with a more lively, vibrant brand, but a genuine realign that thoroughly repositions the website as a separate entity from the cable channel, among other things.
This redesign is of particular interest to me as I had a minor role in shaping the outcome. Creative director Ashley Wells offers an in-depth, behind-the-scenes debriefing of all things design in his post-launch commentary titled “Designs we left behind,” in which he mentions my role as well as that of Greg Storey and JD Hooge. I won’t reiterate Ashley’s account, but I will offer a few details about the role I played.
Ashley approached me nearly a year ago with an offer to fine-tune a design his team had been working on. Seeing how I almost took a position with them (more about that here), I’ve maintained a working relationship with Ashley’s crew and therefore jumped at the opportunity.
When I’m given the chance to offer design critique and enhancement, I do my best to become cognizant of every detail, knowing a body of work is undeniably greater when each individual element is at its best. I’ve said before details a great designer maketh, but I’m certain we can all agree details a great design maketh, as well.
To assess the details of the design I was provided with, I spent time pouring over the Photoshop template, eventually printing a copy and filling the margins with notes regarding improvements to the hierarchy, typography, and iconography — all of which were minor enhancements to what I felt was already a very solid design.
My enhancement, therefore, doesn’t appear to be earth-shatteringly different. A few aesthetic adjustments and type changes were implemented, while the largest changes altered the lower fold to improve hierarchy and to create a better snapshot of the day’s content higher on the page.
Obviously, the new version published last week is a good deal different than the original design, but such is the path of a year-long iterative design process influenced by new thinking, a major media campaign, and so forth. I really like what I see. The new version is an incredible improvement and an impressive body of work, to boot. Further, aside from all the embedded scripting and CSS, which is likely a result of the CMS or other three-letter curse word, the code under the hood is pretty clean. (Although a DOCTYPE might help, guys.)
Compliments to Ashley Wells et al on a stunning makeover.
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