Web Critique Week: TheNextWeb.com

Web Critiques is a take on examining a current piece of web art and breaking it down. We show off the good, the bad, dos and dont’s, why and how it works (or doesn’t), and the list goes on. This week we’re going all out and doing a Web Critique a day—second on the list is TheNextWeb.com

As always, careful consideration goes into breaking down a blog’s infrastructure. While we were careful in looking at Mashable, many of the same rules apply for TheNextWeb—how is content arranged, is it distracting, how are the ads, and perhaps most importantly, how well does the blog keep your intention both through content and design.

Function and Style

I wanted to start off by talking a little bit about TNW’s style and then move into their homepage, because I want to put emphasis on their style. TNW takes a much more bold approach to their style—I love the orange, blacks, and off grays. Contrary to Mashable, TNW pushes a brand that is original and is seemingly, without trends (despite the minor ribbon effect in the logo). There is a distinct feeling of being aware of the site that does not fall flat on generic branding for sake of being safe. The strong statement of the logo helps users know where they are and builds familiarity; while many blogs place their logos in these same spots, the contrast to the rest of the content is not the same—it smells like confidence and I love it.

What else makes this powerful? When we think about guiding user eye, or navigating our customers around our website, it can be easy to over look the simple contrast of white and dark colors and what they might do. Here, the stark contrast of the dark gray as part of the header fixates us on the homepage, feature articles, and logo, further strengthening their brand.

Chad’s Take

At first glance, TNW is bold, clean and gets straight to the point; the large orange logo works nicely on the dark background. The top portion of the site is clean and offers easy ways to popular articles, minmal advertising banners and a content feed—some of the most relevant content.

Homepage

We establish in every blog critique that these blogs are about ROI (return on interest) and life revolves around traffic stats; these blog types are SEO and conversion junkies. TNW takes an approach that subtly, and barely, shows off their ads in favor of showcasing lots and lots of content. A bold statement that is held up by their faith in their quality writers and content developers. I can really appreciate this as a customer and find navigating the homepage a breeze and a pleasure. The articles aren’t hidden, nor are they a secret. I can navigate categories, by location, search, or see what’s popular—all without being distracted.

More importantly, our eyes falls down from the logo to the content, right to the popular posts, then back out through the feature articles to the logo. A brilliant move to keep us looking for articles and reinforcing their brand; that’s why they are the TNW. The name is becoming synonymous with their presentation.

Details, details, details

Their detail pages don’t stray too far from their formula of the homepage. That’s not a bad thing at all, but I feel like because of this, they miss some moments where they could add emphasis to a post’s point. It is rather difficult trying to distinguish one page from the next and eventually becomes confusing if you have multiple pages up. There needs to be a more clear distinction of content. They also lack the social media bar we saw on Mashable’s detail pages that I thought was incredibly important and useful; a very easy way to sell a page to other folks. With that said, it is still easy to read the content and navigate to the comments without disruption, which is easily the most important part of the page.

It is easy to see how it can be confusing to find where one page ends and another begins. While TNW does a great job of consistency, it is perhaps a bit too much. More time should be spent on distinguishing these post detail pages so that the user does not get overwhelmed or feel lost.

Chad’s Take

As Mike noted above, the post detail pages are clean and simple. I disagree with Mike, however, on the topic and think the consistency is well deserved; I prefer the simple easy post details! I am a big fan of the post UI details you can find on the left, the mac’esq home, arrows and channel sidebar really fit nicely with the site and add some great functionality.

Oh My! What big footer you have!

TNW’s footer is huge. Huge and beautiful. While I am partial to footers that have a clear “sitemap” of some navigation options and other misc info you wouldn’t otherwise put in the nav, TNW’s footer looks really nice. They have chosen to show their partners, which add a nice contrast with their logos, and they reinforce the current featured articles. This is a good idea to get you to revisit or visit some new content you may have missed scrolling or if you landed on a post detail page. Otherwise, I do prefer more content on the footers for when we are looking for specific information. It just makes it easy.

You Turn

The idea here is to take real world examples and explain what we think were the design decisions and share those thoughts. This is a great way for novice and veteran designers to find things to debate and hopefully learn from. We are showcasing the Inspiredology Web Critiques this week by taking some big names and breaking them down, one day at a time.

We also want to encourage user submissions—break down a fan’s portfolio or website—submit it and we’ll take a look. Recommendations or suggestions just send us a tweet @inspiredology,@thejellymon, or email me.