We all design and redesign in public, but the public rarely cares unless we’re Jeffrey Zeldman. His recent redesign of zeldman.com would not have garnered as earth-shattering a response if it were done by anyone else. And, response received, Mr. Zeldman was duly moved to issue yet another ‘manifesto‘ defending the choices he made. It’s an unnecessary manifesto, in my opinion, one that takes the form of an open letter response to one of his bemused readers.
His new stripped-down, single-column page design is presumably intended to both showcase beautiful web typography as well as to act as some type of Instapaper-repellent rendering powerless such apps that siphon content from ad-cluttered, content-rich sites and display said content into much the exact same “content-first” format used in the zeldman.com redesign. Almost like a “gotcha!” to those apps.
Zeldman even admits that this type of page design is at least in part a response to those apps that are themselves responding to poorly designed content sites, much like two dogs chasing each others’ tails in a single circle ad infinitum. The net effect is a mobius strip of design responses to which I say woof.
Frankly, his redesign is more of a de-design, having removed much of what anyone would recognize as a design at all. Zeldman claims that columns are “so ’90s” yet his own single-column design ironically resembles a large print edition of the mid ’90s webzine, Suck.com, which, not surprisingly, looks great on a modern day smartphone (and pretty much like doodoo on a desktop).
Just as many of the comments appended to his “WEB DESIGN MANIFESTO 2012” (as he so proudly proclaims) complain about the extra large body copy font size as do praise it. Most folks praising it admit to being of an advanced age with poor eyesight and I’m not surprised. Mr. Zeldman himself is 57 years young and wears glasses, very much the target user for such a design. But, when did we abandon default font sizes, em values and letting the user determine their ideal font size—or did I miss that manifesto?
Granted this redesign is of Jeffrey Zeldman’s own personal website that he’s been redesigning for the better part of twenty years and one which he will continue to change as his whims dictate. However, his unquestionable opinions and influence over this entire industry are more a more recent phenomenon and I really do hope that he doesn’t:
- forget that hoards of web design professionals hang on his every word, waiting to implement his (and his colleagues’) next great idea; or
- get so caught up in the fervor surrounding mobile-first/content-first that he abandons all logic and reason—a slippery slope upon which this unnecessary manifesto proudly creeps.