When I started Abduzeedo, almost 10 years ago, in 2006 I had no idea what it would become. I started blogging as a side project, the whole idea of blogs was something quite new in Brazil but it was already relatively mainstream everywhere else. It was a great time, Web 2.0 was the revolution. Designing for that meant to know web standards, CSS and of course being able to create your Wordpress theme. I chose Drupal for the CMS because it was a more robust tool for my design studio and we using for most of our clients.
Abduzeedo Redesign Case Study
After months of study, designing, and developing, the new Abduzeedo is up. I know it might sound quite dramatic but this probably was the design I put most thought into. I tried to define exactly how the user experience would be and also what I could do to make that happen without losing reference from the previous designs.
Now that the site is up, even though I am still fixing some minor issues and I know that will never end, I will share with you here a little bit of my creative process and what directed me to make some of the design decisions I made.
The first thing to do on any design project or anything you want to do is to define the goals of the project. For this new version of Abduzeedo I had tons of ideas and things that I wanted to do, but I am only one so I picked up just a few that I considered the most important, so the goals of this new design were:
- SHOW MORE CONTENT
- EASY TO BROWSE
The design must be simple in all senses of the word, the UI must be almost invisible in my point of view for a site like Abduzeedo in which the content is what matters and the only way to drive the user’s attention to the content is to make the UI as simple as possible.
Show more Content
After almost 4 years we have an incredible amount of content, and the best part is that most of this content is atemporal, they are pure inspiration and they will always be, so we needed to find a way to make this content more reachable to the readers like even random articles.
Easy to Browse
I love some iPad apps like Pulse for example because they are easy to browse through the content. Abduzeedo’s previous layout was very blog style with all the posts piled in a column. It was necessary to scroll down a lot to cover 10 articles. We needed to find a way to make that less of a hassle.
With the goals defined it was important to set some constraints so I would be able to start the labor work. In order to make a site simple my decision was to simply not use any graphics on the interface. The UI would be simply text and some gradients on the navigation to separate it from the rest of the content creating a hierarchy.
To be able to show more content the site would have to use more screen area and also be fluid for some resolutions.
Another really important thing in my case was the resources I had in terms of who would do what. Basically this was a project I did solo, with some feedbacks from Fabiano Meneghetti and a jQuery help for the User News form from my brother Eduardo Sasso, and I have to work with my available skills and also learn things that were necessary to make it happen, however I couldn’t try to reinvent the wheel because I wouldn’t be able to make it. It’s always good to know your limitations so we know where we can improve ourselves too.
The visitors statistics were really important to set some constraints in terms of browser and resolution usages, important areas and what to show to them.
As I mentioned before tons of things inspired me for the new design. First and foremost I wanted to change the grid style to a more magazine-ish grid style, therefore I could present more content.
Below you can see some of the references I took in consideration.
Before going to Fireworks I sketched quite a lot especially trying to come up with a fluid grid. I also did something that I think was very good and I will definitely do that more often. Before designing the UI in Fireworks I went straight to HTML first. So I played with solid colors and basic shapes in order to have a look and feel of the real deal and not a static mockup.
My first concept was a total fluid layout that would adapt to any resolution and fill the screen with content. I really like that idea, however after testing the HTML I noticed that in certain resolutions the main content was sort of weakened by the amount of content next to it on the sidebar. Once again, that was only possible after testing the HTML, because in my static sketches the idea looked killer but in reality it would be a flaw.Below you can see some of the sketches and the first HTML concept.
I also tried some jQuery plugins for fluid layouts like the Masonry one, which looked awesome in their demo pages, however once again, as I tested it with the real Abduzeedo content it didn’t work well. I mean, the plugin did what it was intended to do, what happened was that some content would radically change its position depending on the resolution, weakening the consistency of the UI. For example, in my computer the User News is in the top left and in my iPad it’s in the bottom right. That would make the user think too much in order to surf the page and what I want them to do is to get inspired and not to learn how the Abduzeedo UI works.
We use this plugin for the User News section.
Final DesignAs you can see the final design is what your looking at right now. Just a few highlights about the design.
The new header now uses much less of the screen, in the past it was like 250 pixels high, now we shrank it to 110 pixels. Therefore we gain more space for the content. We kept the original black style and added a gradient for the navigation bar so it differentiates itself from the content area.
I am a huge fan of noisy backgrounds especially dark grey ones, probably because they remind me of the Atari 2660 console which has that rough texture very alike the noise background we have on Abduzeedo now.
Home-page and Section pages
The posts now have a smaller thumbnail with description and title. They are organized next to each other instead of piled up in a gallery style. We had this sort of style in the previous version but it was a different view option for the home-page and a laboratory for us :)
User News and Tutorial of the Week
This area is really important because every week we have a cool tutorial and lots of user generated content. In the former design the tutorial of the week was buried a day after it was published, which is really bad. Now it will be visible on every page till a new one comes along. The same applies to the User News...they will be visible on all pages.
This is a little experiment I wanted to do. We want to show you some random inspiration, let the odds show you what's cool and inspiring for you at any given moment :)
The tags are now in columns, the end of the tag cloud hehehe, and we have some other blocks with the link to our iPhone App, which wasn’t promoted in the previous design, and of course our magic mug for you to buy us some coffee because we are all human beings in the end and not aliens.
The site now has 2 layouts for different resolutions, so those with higher resolutions which represents more than 65% of our audience will have less scroll with the same amount of content.
Layout for iPads, Mobile Phones, Netbooks based on 1024x760 pixels resolution
Layout for resolutions higher than 1024x768 pixels
Well there are many more new features like focusing all the sharing features to the Meebo Bar, the new post design with larger images, tons of CSS3 little effects and transitions such as the Not-found page and we are also working on new features while fixing some minor bugs the site might have.
I hope you all like the new design and feel free to send us suggestions, opinions and critics about it. Our goal is always to deliver the best content to you and to ourselves because we use the site for inspiration as well, so it's as much mine as it is yours.