Feedback on Design and Legibility

While on the one hand it’s self-indulgent to devote so many column inches to discussing the design of this site and its legibility for my readership, on the other hand I’m sure many of the opinions would apply to any blog, so in that spirit I’m going to quote from some of the public comments and private feedback that are influencing my design thinking:

I vote get rid of it. It reminds me of a cam girl page with the really large, slow loading and distracting background image.

I use lynx, and I don’t see any images. (BTW, I’ve been meaning to say that I really appreciate your moving the bloggy bits to the start of the file. THANK YOU!)

But, my advice would be to lighten and tone down the contrast in you background, and to make the file a smaller one.

Bothers me too. Too much noise. The background competes with the text and wins.

… for me, non-scrolling backgrounds are more distracting, because they work differently than what our brains expect from a scrolling page. I much preferred the original Salon-like design.

I use Mozilla 1.0 for Mac OS X and I find the new fancy graphics background kewl and all, but it really puts a stain on my browser — it stuggles to scroll, stuttering and sputtering and going busy-cursor on me and all. This is impacting my desire to continue to read the blog. I come for the words, not for the pictures.

There’s more to the web than text… I wouldn’t let others dictate your design… at least not if it’s just a few readers. It’s your website and should reflect your taste, as long as it’s usable and legible.

I agree that your move from the Salon design was a good move: differentiates you from the rest of the crowd. But don’t overdo it. I’d say remove the background and make the content column wider. You’re leaving a lot of screen real state unused.

What about keeping just the image of your blog’s name at the top?

Ditto on the non-scrolling = slow for Mozilla on Mac OS X. This is because every time you scroll the browser has to re-compute and re-composit elements of the page, rather than copy a different bit of the page it has already rendered to the screen.

I kind of liked the background, or at least the style (I’m glad you’ve kept it in your site’s heading image), but the performance hit of a non-scrolling background was taking its toll on my enjoyment of the site. Thanks for changing it to a solid color.

I didn’t particularly like the noisy non-scrolling background. Then again, I think plain and simple is king.

Here’s another little beef I have with most weblogs (particularly MT-based weblogs): fixed column widths. Right now my Mozilla window is sized such that your content column takes up half the available space, leaving half my window a fuschia colour. Now, I’m all for leaving some padding and white (or fuschia) space, but it somewhat bugs me when the content doesn’t widen with my browser window. I feel that content should make use of all available space, but I’m weird that way.

Try setting the width of your blog DIV to something like 75%. I usually try and avoid pixel-widths if I can and instead go for percentages whenever possible. Barring that, I use the ’em’ measurements in my stylesheets.

You should add a choice:

5. I don’t care about the design, I read the RSS feed in my news aggregator!

The new design is too red, too busy, to slow to load (I’m using Mac OS 8.6, G3, Netscape 6.1 and IE 5.1, cable modem), thus violating the design dictum of using layout to emphasize ideas — seems to be emphasizing the nifty design instead. I’m not suggesting a return to the generic Salon format, but a major simplification would address all the above.

Lots of feedback there, some of which I have already responded to. A few comments. The site is now readable in Netscape 4.7 but it has a very 1994-ish design there, down to the grey background. I don’t know if I want to go to the trouble of adding style settings for NS 4.7 but if I’m bored maybe I will. I also sorta think that people still using that browser deserve a no-frills experience.
I felt the Salon-ish design was very boring though. Unless Salon wants to pay me to blog here (instead of the other way around) I’d rather apply my own branding and leave them to promote theirs.
I tried giving the masthead a fixed width and letting the blog div get the rest of the space, but it seemed to fill up the width and force the masthead down below, which may be a consequence of letting the blog div get first crack at the page. It’s not worth moving the masthead div first becauase that ruins the design for lynx, nonvisual browsers, etc. Maybe some CSS magician can help. I wish you could do math in the style setting, like set .blog’s width to “100% – 200px” or something like that.
I’m worried that the lest comment, which came in just an hour and a half ago, refers to my new design with no background graphic. It’s still too red, too busy, too slow to load?
Not sure what I could do to speed it up except remove some or all of the blogrolls and other third-party plug-ins on the page?