Rob Goodlatte’s site is a prime example of an evolution in the right direction – the improved version of the previous incarnation and the developed maturity of its designer. It’s quite fascinating to track the changes that led to the site’s makeover that was unveiled last July. Obviously, Rob went through an extensive redesign process: rethinking and justifying every decision behind his site’s new look.
A rather standard blog layout was replaced with a grid-based structure. The most recent article is featured more prominently with an image and a two-paragraph excerpt, while the four previous posts are showcased in an attractive two-column arrangement with thumbnails and shorter extracts. This setup whets readers’ appetites and leads them to a deeper exploration of the blog’s archives.
Even Goodlatte’s rebranding has gone through a major overhaul: the original logo mark was ditched from the header (though kept as an icon in the footer’s breadcrumbs), leaving the beautiful Sabon to speak for itself and the designer’s maturing taste.
sifr, comprende moi?
Both previous and the current versions of Goodlatte’s site rely on the power of sIFR to display article headlines. However the choice of type has progressed from the over-stretched, though fashionable, DIN to the elegant, contemporary, tall and condensed Chalet Comprimé.
Yet a few design elements were kept: the burgundy-chocolate background from the previous version now decorates the new site’s header, Rob’s illustration in the about section stayed the same, and the distinctive brush strokes once again embellish the site’s grunge look in the header, footer and in the comments area with artistically alternating posts.
What I like about Goodlatte’s site is the meticulous attention to details and a clever approach to some of the things that are often overlooked on other blogs. Items such as the date formatting below the headline that reads: “Published 5 days ago, in the early morning under Personal”, rather than your dry May 26, 2008. The text that greets commenters on individual posts is rotating with quick-witted remarks such as: “5 comments from the Think Tank” or “74 comments from Snooze-Ville”. I’ve seen similar approaches on several other blogs, so there’s nothing ground-breaking here. Nevertheless, I get amazed every time I see such detailing.
It’s always nice to come across blogs with an inviting and user-friendly information architecture. Rob’s categorized showcase of recommended posts in the footer allows new readers to better familiarize themselves with the blog’s past articles. I like how the post’s meta data received lots of breathing space by getting placed on the sidebar rather than in a typical for blogs fashion – below the headline, all squeezed on one line. An interesting styling of the Archives on the homepage’s sidebar is worthy of attention as well.
There’s a sort of playful beauty that results from the combination of typeface choices, and for some reason brown seems to have been the perfect color to accentuate the palette without overwhelming a viewer.
I’m also quite fond of the image replacement technique for the titles of the three most popular posts on the single post’s sidebar, with the poster-like look and feel. The column-set Garamond here is a beautiful touch.
Rob also makes use of some small typographical enhancements, such as replacing all ampersands with a version in Baskerville rather than the default Lucida Grande ampersand which is rather bland. If you’d like to do this on your blog you could use a plugin such as WP-Typogrify. Small changes like this can make a huge difference even though most normal users won’t pick up on them.
As much as I love this site, there are a few things that I would personally change if I was the designer.
It makes more sense to position the search bar somewhere near the top of the site. I would prefer to see it above the Archive, rather than at the very bottom of the right sidebar.
However, what puzzles me the most is Rob’s decision of using one long image for the homepage sidebar, where he uses a precise positioning in pixels for displaying each of the sidebar links. That leads to a rather horrible outcome whenever I try to increase the font size by a notch.
As a reader and commenter, I would also prefer to see the trackbacks at the bottom of the page, rather than mixed with the rest of the comments. As a designer, I’d like to see Rob’s portfolio page updated with some of the newer pieces of work. His latest featured site, Wiser, is an absolute beauty, and I can’t wait to see more of Rob’s talent at work.Want more? Check out the archives for previous reviews, and don’t forget to subscribe for future reviews, posted weekly.