Chronicle Redesign in Admittedly Top Form

I was surprised when I visited SFGate.com (the San Francisco Chronicle’s website) yesterday and was suddenly presented with a whole new layout. Damn. It was about time. The old look was from a redesign that according to the Internet Archive, it was deployed some time around November of 2001, but it might as well have been from 1995. It was clunky, not very extensible, and just flat. Of course, on the comments for the article on the new home page you’ll see that there were a good number of people who preferred the old design. Read in to these a bit closer and you’ll realize that the main thrust of the ire is because people now have to learn where things are again, which is to say that people don’t like the new look, because they’re lazy. Obviously malaise is never a reason to avoid progress and I’m very thankful that the Chronicle redesigned the site, since I get my local news from there.
For those that really don’t get it, there is a graphic to show what things do. I find these things about as amusing as the manuals for cars. It’s a tool. It should be intuitive enough for people to figure out, just like a car should be intuitive enough for anyone to hop in and drive who has driven other cars. If this is not the case, then something went horribly awry. I think that this was just put up pander to the lowest common denominator given that they’re a news publication. I don’t know why they bother as people who don’t like this will never really like it no matter what you do, short of going back to the old design.
As far as improvements, I like the flyout (‘Index’) in the upper right menu that gives you immediate access to all the sections in the site. This new layout of the page also allows them to tuck the ads in, in a much more classy way. I realize that for a commercial site, you have to have ads and I much prefer this manner than how they were just stuck on to the far right edge of the site. Lastly, while some people might complain about how “busy” the new site is, I find that it presents the newspaper’s information in a much more organized form that is more compelling for me to spend time on. The way it used to be, I would just see an article, read it and go. This has more of a ‘wikipedia feel’ wherein I’m invited to click around a bit more.
So, good job folks and I know it couldn’t have been easy given the endless meetings, committees, and hands that try and get in the mix when it comes to rebuilding a site of this scope. Maybe now your PageRank can climb back up from a five, because honestly, I’ve got a four and I do this for free!
Chronicle Redesign in Admittedly Top Form