Web Critique Week: ThinkVitamin.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—bringing in ThinkVitamin.com to round out the week.

Style and Function

When we talked about some of the blogs we’d want to take a look at, that were relevant to our community, we really jumped on the idea of looking at Think Vitamin’s design blog. Bringing in some new flavor to the blog atmosphere, Think Vitamin brings a lot of style to what looks like a sea of generic styles (though not always a bad thing); I was very quick to welcome the refreshment. Since their style is so important on the actual function of the homepage, I have included both parts of the discussion in this heading. Unlike the other blogs we’ve looked at, the styling (I use that term somewhat loosely to determine pretty colors, fonts, graphics, and etc) didn’t really affect the page in the way that it changed how users navigated. Smashing Magazine did create some negative conflict with all the ads that they use, but I am referring to how design reinforces positive browsing on the blog.

With that said, one of the best things going for Think Vitamin is their unique use of circles and colors. While their style certainly is “trendy”, it isn’t really trending for design blogs. The circles and rounded buttons contrast perfectly to the big, background box that encompass the lead article. This contrast really hones in on the main topic as a focal point, coupled with large and inverted (color) type, you have something that brings the audience in. It is a very clean and simple way of creating emphasis without getting too fancy with gradients, bevels, shadows or what have you. Think Vitamin doesn’t do anything special in the way of how you navigate the site’s pages. We still see the typical two column layout, with page navigation on top, though TV (Think Vitamin) uses asymmetry to balance their page. Careful decision was made to have their social media icons and topics near the top of the page. This position alienates white space which the left column tends to use up. The social icons, and ads, add color variety so when our eye sees this, we get this wonderful push back to the content column (left). This is a pretty elegant tug-of-war that goes on.

With all the cool things going on and creative style in both function and aesthetics, I am disappointed in the treatment of their logo; I would have preferred a more prominent stance and put less emphasis on “Curated by Carsonified”. That said, there isn’t a lot to dislike. The blog could benefit for a little contrast in the content column to give the audience some base, otherwise I really enjoy taking a look at the site and browsing. I am a big promoter of using large type; I think that is because I stare at small pixels and smartphones all day, so my “design” eyes get stressed. Think Vitamin does a nice job in creating a responsive layout, very similar to how Smashing Magazine built there’s. It does not suffer from the blunt ads on some sizes, and is overall successful.

Chad’s Take

Think Vitamin offers a unique design, and it’s one of the best blog experiences. Not like Smashing Mag, Think Vitamin keeps you focused on the content feed, their topics and page menu are by far secondary areas. TV does a great job of highlighted their featured story, and keeps you scrolling down through the other posts. I prefer this way of browsing a blog, I would bet TV has much more loyal readers than SM – based on this design.

Post Detail Pages Get Some Love

Finally! We see some discrepancy between the homepage and post pages. After really looking at so many blogs, maybe I am alone in this. As a user, I want a very easy browsing experience; whatever the designer can do to make it easier, I am all for it. Being able to tell I am not on the homepage is a big plus for me. TV brings a very subtle touch to their detail pages, because overall, not much does change. What does change, however, is the introduction to social buttons like twitter and facebook. They also leave an artifact from the homepage…did you guess it? The dark gray bar is the artifact you see from the main article and is the divider that says: “Here is the rest of the post you were looking for”. Brilliant, simple and effective—I can easily browse.

Chad’s Take

Really enjoy the dark horizontal bar that separates the content title, meta details and share buttons. It allows you to dive into the core of the content. I agree with Mike – love the large type – easy to read – looks great, and the nice 80% black works really well. My only issue is when the site has a short post – it doesn’t work well with their design. With the different strong horizontal lines and buttons, it’s really hard to tell where the core of the post is, and you can easily skim over it and be lost by the time you see the comment feed.

The Chicken Finale

Well then. If you have been following these critiques, you’ll know I have an affinity for good looking footers. I couldn’t tell you why, but I think every site needs a great base to ground it in. No question TV falls real short in this category. With a nearly nonexistent footer, TV attempts to seal the deal, close the sale if you will. What it turns out is that if you land on their footer, you’re out of luck—there’s nothing there for you. Though I am slow to say things like this, but it looks like a bit of laziness kicked in here. No question designing big blog themes is not a quick or easy task, but go all the way, not 90%. I do enjoy the placement of the Think Vitamin logo, however. A little chicken, if you ask me, to not continue their bold design approach to the footer.

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.