The folks over at A List Apart recently launched version 5.0 of their website, featuring a new responsive design and I’ve found myself exploring it an awful lot over the last few days. Considering that these guys also exist as A Book Apart, who publish a well-known series of web design/development books it is difficult not to expect something out of the top drawer.
Firstly, take a look at its predecessor…
A Book Apart – Version 4.0
I never had any problems with this version of the site. And to be honest as I’ve only been reading it for the past 12-18 months, I don’t actually recall any of the prior versions. The site was easy to navigate, the typography, imagery and colour palette all worked well together and for me it just gave off that certain academic quality which sent a signal to my brain saying: these guys know what they’re doing.
Of course, sites must and often do evolve…
A List Apart version 5.0
The first thing that struck me about the design, and this is very much confirmed in the above article is that there is a significant content-first focus here. ALA (as it will now be known) has always been a very wordy site, given the plethora of articles and blog posts spanning several years or more which have seen veterans (like the authors) and newbies (like me) flock there week after week.
Everything just has so much room to breathe. The whitespace is plentiful, the scale of the type from the headings right down to the lesser elements such as social media links etc is just right, and of course they’ve really put their love for illustrations centre stage by dropping in a generously sized image at the top of the page. Beautiful.
For me the typography is just absolutely spot on: they’re using Georgia Pro which is so easy on the eye, and the colour palette is simple yet effective. For me, the site feels like a web-based publication rather than a website, if that makes sense?
They’ve even opted for the classic blue links which is a nice nod to the early days of the web, but works really well as by now we’ve all been indoctrinated to understand blue equals hyperlink!
This design is just so simple, and maintains this simplicity when you view at different viewports. I’ve re-sized my browser right the way down from 1280 x 1024 (Macbook Pro), through tablet and down to mobile sizes and it just works.
On my iPhone with Wi-Fi turned off, the site absolutely flies which is testament to the fact that the site is still very wordy, using images only where absolutely necessary. It is a very pragmatic piece of design and they’ve clearly gone to great lengths to make sure that “content is king” no matter what device you’re using. This site not only looks good but it performs admirably.
One thing I will say though, is that the design is very plain. As a piece of design in a general context – and believe me I’m making this comment purely based on my amateurish view of its aesthetic qualities – it doesn’t blow you away. It’s missing a wow factor, and I’ve read a number of tweets that echo this: but the site just caught my attention and encouraged me to browse its wares and find its treasures so…job done?
Bloody bravo. I’ll be snooping through the source code of this one over the next few days no doubt!
What do you think?
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