I promised not to focus on web design, as it's not my niche. But I remain a keen amateur designer, as all Web junkies are, so I want to jot down some notes on Jason Kottke's re-design. I haven't read through the 995 comments that people have left on his site, nor have I seen any of the design community's thoughts (I've barely had time to read my RSS feeds this week). So my opinion is currently unsullied by popular opinion...which is something I hope to achieve most times anyway ;-)
The first thing that struck me was how spare and non-colourful Jason's re-design is. The distinctive yellow-green Kottke 'brand' that used to cover the screen like wallpaper, has now been condensed into a very thin yellow-green banner right at the top of the screen. The new design is very white-space heavy, reminiscent of the designs of Dave Winer, Mark Pilgrim, Robert Scoble and others. Now to me, this is not a bad thing. I like that 'minimalist' type of design, more so than the colourful Simple Bits-like designs that most of the web design community have. A personal preference.
Back to the Thin Yellow-Green Banner. Jason has named this a "tag". He explains:
Like the red tag on Levi's jeans or even the red stripe on Prada shoes. It's small, out of the way, but when you see it on something, you know exactly what you're holding in your hands.
My guess is we'll see a lot of these tags suddenly sprout up across the blogosphere over the next few weeks. But that'll be a sign of what a great little innovation this is, because I really like the idea of having my own Levi's-like tag. It also has Kottke's main links in it, so it's functional as well as fashionable. It would perhaps be one way around my current dilemma of not being able to design a logo for Read/Write Web. I've been doodling away in my notebooks, trying to think of a compact and utterly original logo to stick in the top-left corner of my site. But inspiration is hard to come by for me when it comes to graphical things... Also my header currently is very, well, green and doesn't have much utility - other than housing my search box. But the search could easily be shifted elsewhere. I've also been thinking of sticking a photo in the header as background - aka Scripting News, but my favourite example of this is jill/text. Hmm, it's good to have options.
Overall, I like Kottke's re-design. It's clean and functional, and that yellow-green tag is a deceptively simple but highly distinctive touch. And yes the font looks gorgeous in a Mac (I have both a PC and Mac on my work desk at this point in time, lucky me!).
I'll finish by mentioning my own humble efforts at incrementally improving my weblog design. Over the past week I've tampered with the CSS in the left and right columns and changed the font (to a serif - Georgia). Now the left and right columns match each other in style and so are more balanced. Thanks to my friend Code is Mandatory for giving me the feedback I needed to hear in order to make those changes. The other change I've done is swap to MT comments. For now they're pop-up, not inline. I'll probably change to inline later, when I get around to styling it. And by then, hopefully I'll have thought of a way to re-design my header.