Student.Com, an online magazine for college students.
|Background||Student.Com, an online magazine about college life, was founded in 1995 by a group of students. By 1998 they had turned it into a real company, with venture capital backing and a rapidly growing staff. I was brought on as Art Director and oversaw the daily production of the site. In 2000, I took over the Managing Editor role as well and initiated a total overhaul of both the design and editorial style of the site.|
|Project||The 2000 relaunch was as much an editorial repositioning as it was a visual redesign. Up until then, Student.Com's focus was largely on hard news from the campus beat. The intention was to showcase the best college journalists from around the country. This was done well, but most stories would generally appeal to a single campus or a small group of student news junkies. Thus the audience was inherently limited.|
Taking our cues from the popularity of magazines like Maxim and Jane, we restyled the site as a lifestyle magazine by and for students. The hard news was scrapped in favor of softer stories with a broader appeal. New sections focused on health, fashion, dorm living, and sex. The latter, in particular, was carefully crafted to provide provocative but not vulgar content appropriate for our target age group.
The visual design grew out of the editorial repositioning. The look was hip and lively, with main pages designed to showcase a vast amount of content without overwhelming the navigation. We also added a number of interactive features like polls, discussions, member reviews, and the OnCampus directory (see User Interface) that built a community and inspired a sense of ownership amongst our regular readers.
I designed the overall look-and-feel and led the art department in the creation of numerous templates, story graphics, and interactive features. I also worked closely with the production team on the implementation of the designs. On the editorial side, I developed the new editorial framework and hired the editors and writers needed to bring it to fruition. I then oversaw the editorial staff as they produced a library of content prior to the relaunch and daily additions afterward.
|Results||Following the redesign, pageviews went up 75 percent without any additional promotion. Unfortunately, the site was still far from profitable and the investors pulled the plug at the end of 2000. The domain name and most of the content was later purchased by another group of college students, who have totally redesigned the site.|
|Status||Under new management (Link goes to screenshots)|
|Design/Production Team Members|
|Adam Trachtenberg||VP of Development|
|David Sklar||Chief Technical Officer|
|Charlie Berg||Project Manager|
|Joy E. Follet||Junior Designer|
|Ian Nordby||Web Developer|
Various article headlines from Student.Com
|Description||In the redesigned Student.Com, every article had a unique graphical headline that would appear at the top of the story and, in various sizes, on the main jump pages. If several related stories were packaged together, their headlines would have some common design elements. But by and large, each story received its own graphical treatment. These had to be produced very quickly and with virtually no budget. Thus many used digital photos taken around the office, such as the Do Not Disturb sign outside my door and the burrito I had for lunch one day.|
Tweak, an online magazine of politics, parody, and pop culture
|Background||Tweak, an online magazine of politics, parody, and pop culture, was produced and edited by myself and a few friends. Debuting in 1995, it was one of the very first online magazines. It received excellent reviews in many periodicals, was included in several early books and articles on Web design, and earned numerous awards including Cool Site of the Day and David Siegel's High Five Award.|
|Project||Most of the stories on Tweak came to us through submissions. Since we couldn't afford to pay writers, we had a hard time getting people to write the kind of muckracking journalism we had set out to produce. But we got enough random submissions that we could wrangle together an interesting yet eclectic read. Lacking butt-kicking articles, we turned our emphasis to design and the creative presentation of content. Each story was given a totally unique visual treatment, often involving experimental HTML or other newfangled technologies. This made for a very time consuming production process good thing it was purely a labor of love. |
Actually, it proved to be a very fertile ground for experimentation. Many of the techniques developed for Tweak stories found their way into client work later on, and many clients came our way based on what they saw in Tweak.
Although Tweak is still online, it hasn't been updated in years. So please keep this in mind: although many of the techniques used would be quite simple to do now, it was rather envelope-pushing for its time. Also, stuff that looked great on the browsers of the day (Netscape 3 and 4) might not render perfectly with modern software. But all in all, I think the design holds up quite well. Many people even think it's still actively produced.
|Results||Well, it wasn't the ticket to fame and/or fortune I'd hoped it would be, but it set the stage for a long and fruitful career.|
|Status||Online, but stagnant|
|Design/Production Team Members|
|Kurt Opsahl||Programming, Editing, Design|
|Davoud Kermaninejad||HTML Production|
|Derek M. Powazek||Initial Creative Direction and Design|
Web site for our Hawaiian wedding
|Background||My wife and I got married on The Big Island of Hawaii, where she grew up. Although many of her friends and family are still there, about two-thirds of the guests traveled from the mainland. As soon as we set a date, we launched a web site to help guests learn about the island and plan their trip.|
|Project||The design of the site is simple yet elegant and includes motifs used throughout our wedding collateral. From a production stand-point, the project was very much intended as a testing ground for new techniques.|
For starters, it's the first PHP-driven site I built alone. Although I'd been working around PHP for years, there were always expert programmers doing the heavy lifting. This time, I coded the templates myself and learned several techniques that I've used on almost everything I've done since.
Also, this site marks a turning point in my HTML coding style. Previously, I was of the "use whatever kludgery it takes to make HTML do what you want it to" school of thought. That meant using complex table structures for positional layout, spacer GIFs and other hacks to force things to stay put, all sorts of browser-specific code, and worse. For this project, I set out to do it all with proper CSS positioning and other standards-based methods. That meant I had to put a browser check in when my relatives with old browsers complained they couldn't read anything, but otherwise it worked pretty well.
Finally, I tried to design the site to work equally well on wireless devices as it did on full-size monitors. For that, I relied on the CSS "media" attribute, which I discovered is not ready for primetime. So I was only moderately successful with that particular goal, but I learned that coding for wireless delivery is going to make coding during the browser wars of the late '90s seem like child's play.