The TechCrunch Design

Filed as News on May 14, 2006 9:39 am

Tech Crunch Logo

I am not a designer.

Throughout my thirteen years of working on the web and related technologies, I have never been able to design a single site that looks good. I can use Photoshop, but really only to make minor manipulations to pictures from my digital camera. I know enough about CSS to be dangerous.

For design, I hire great people like Chris Pearson, Ben Bleikamp, Rachel Cunliffe, or Mary Dunne. I outline my expectations and then listen to what they have to say.

Almost universally, their ideas are better than mine. After all, I know I can’t design.

The Tech Crunch Redesign

Popular Web 2.0 news blog Tech Crunch launched a redesign of the blog a few days ago.

The new design is quite a departure from the previous design. Where the old design had the content front and center and used subtle shadings to denote different parts of the layout, the new design uses bright vibrant colors and contains quite a bit more advertising.

The designer of Tech Crunch, Rachel Cunliffe, comments briefly on her blog about the design. More details in her comments as well.

Tough Feedback

And universally the feedback on the redesign has been poor.

Mike Rundle, the lead designer at Business Logs and someone whose work I admire greatly, has this to say in his review of the Tech Crunch redesign:

The previous design of TC was very slick and was a good representation of what “good blog and app design” looks like, or if you want, what “Web 2.0 design” looks like, and it was easy for clients to communicate that to designers. “Hey designer, I really like how TC is rendered and slick, I’d like something like that.” Now, because the new TC doesn’t exhibit any of the previous rendered “Web 2.0″ look, it’ll be tougher for designers to pitch a nice 3D-esque layout because they won’t be able to say, “Hey client, check out TechCrunch for an example of what I mean” and immediately be on commonground.

Others are not so kind:

Purely because this is the worst redesign I’ve seen since well that dream about Google changing their homepage to a big ugly flash portal. This actually might be worse.

Other feedback as well from Resiny and Aaron Brazell.

The Real Disconnect

Beyond the obvious face of the design, which personally I don’t believe to be that bad of a design, is the disconnect amongst what I’ll call the “Web 2.0 Community” between content and advertising.

Many would have us believe that blogging is solely about the content, and the ability to earn an income from advertising is always secondary to having the content of a blog be front and center at all times. One only has to think about allegations at various times in the last year of some blog networks using interstitials or popups / popunders and the outrage that those accusations caused.

Much of the feedback about this design was focused on the amount of advertising on the site. At Whitespace, Paul Scrivens takes Arrington to task in a post titled “*uck you, Pay me…”:

I know about monetizing sites and I know there is a fine line between keeping readers happy and making your bank. Actually, scratch that, keeping users happy usually just involves keeping up with your content. Arrington could put 5 more ads on the site and I doubt he would notice a dropoff in traffic.

Tyme White also comments on the amount of advertising inherent in the new design.

Michael Arrington has chosen to monetize the huge amount of traffic that he has coming into Tech Crunch – and I’m not sure that I blame him. He used a great designer – appears to have given her explicit direction in some cases – and made design compromises in order to achieve the balance between content and advertising that he wanted on Tech Crunch.

It might not be the balance of advertising that I would have chosen. But I read his blog via a feed reader anyway…

Other coherent thoughts on the design from Darren Rowse

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  1. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on May 14, 2006 at 11:34 am
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    So what if there’s a new design? Some may like, some may not like .. but I can’t believe HOW STUPID some are … that say stuff like .. “There’s too many ads on the page, so I unsubscribed the RSS Feed” …

    Last time I looked, techcrunch offers full-text feeds, and yes there is an advertisement in the feed too .. just like Problogger …

    If you don’t want to look at the ads on the page – just read the RSS feeds ..

    Oh wait – it’s not about an opinion (by other web designers who probably bid for the job and didn’t get it) – it’s about pimping more traffic to their own site to get more jobs and have nothing better to write .. You know who they are .. they are linked in this entry.

    Me? Have been a subscriber in my bloglines for a long time, and rarely visited their site. I note today that one of the $7500 ads doesn’t even support my I.E. 7 browser and it sent me away or suggested I use firefox or I.E. 6 .. I guess that’s the value of $15,000 in advertisements today

  2. By Ben posted on May 14, 2006 at 12:21 pm
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    I don’t think anyone is criticizing the design beacuse they didn’t get the job. I think the problem is that the design lacks the coolness factor that the previous design had. Usually a redesign is an attempt at moving forward – Michael basically admitted he didn’t care how cool it looked as long as it made money.

    For a blog about Web 2.0 companies, that seems like the wrong way to go.

  3. By Matt posted on May 14, 2006 at 12:29 pm
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    I didn’t mean to imply that anyone is critical of this design because they didn’t get the job – I think some are critical of this design because Mike’s chosen to monetize his traffic aggressively. And then there are those that simply don’t believe in ads on weblogs at all – and certainly not at $7500 / month / each.

    On the other hand, while I would have made different choices, I think the design is solid and have no complaints. Like I said, I read the thing via a feedreader anyways.

    ~Matt

  4. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on May 14, 2006 at 1:18 pm
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    I’m the same way – I couldn’t care less about the design – or reasons for the design to monetize or not. It’s the comments elsewhere that irks me ..

    Ben .. you are right and I didn’t tend to imply that designers are pissed from not getting any jobs .. its like any profession where you tend to notice things that are in your related field of interest – designers are more likely to look at the design from a design point .. Darren was looking at the site from a monetization point … Geeks may look at the site at seeing new tech items that are out there .. I’m sure competing gadget blogs are also looking at their site to see where they are going, getting scoops of information, etc .. for myself, I only read my tech & gadget blogs in my bloglines on the weekend and are more interested in seeing the comments .. (low or high counts) etc to see if that’s something I should be paying more attention to – but, never the design.

    To Each His Own.

    There are some out there writing articles and telling us reasons why they are a Sell-Out, not Web-2.0 anymore, and also that we should unsubscribe – because they did – or at least bragging that they unsubscribed .. ditto with some of the comments that either want the same thing – or, just say that and will probably still keep them in their feed reader (see TYME’s blog) … That is the part that irks me. But, just a little because I think of it as entertainment .. and good for others for thinking ways to promote their own blog by complaining about others.

  5. By HART (1-800-HART) posted on May 14, 2006 at 1:20 pm
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    PS .. you don’t get much comments anymore .. but, now seeing them centered like that .. It really does seem harder on the eyes :D (i.m.o.)

  6. By Ben posted on May 14, 2006 at 6:13 pm
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    I agree that designers are going to be more critical of the design. I personally think the color scheme that Mike chose looks pretty bad, but I’m a designer and I’m picky about the design.

    Obviously it’s Mike’s blog and we have to respect his decision to monetize it. As long as Mike continues to write unbiased reviews of companies, I’ll keep reading. I never went to the site much anyway.

  7. Blog Marketing, Blog Promotion for Newbies » Blog Archive » Soon, The New Design Won’t MatterMay 14, 2006 at 8:32 pm
  8. By Matt posted on May 14, 2006 at 11:35 pm
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    The comments will be different in our next design. ;)

    ~M

  9. By zenyenta posted on May 15, 2006 at 8:58 pm
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    I think the old one was much better looking, but this one is more appropriate for the content. The old one looked more like a really good looking personal blog. Still and all, in the redesign area, I think that Techdirt’s recent one is nice and easier on the eyes.

  10. » The last word on the TechCrunch mess The Blog Herald: more blog news more oftenMay 16, 2006 at 10:23 pm
  11. Chrono Tron >> World Wide Weblog » Blog Archive » Classic comments about the Techcrunch design changeMay 20, 2006 at 5:27 am