Ars Technica launched a new design today, with a much-needed change to their color scheme. Black text on a light gray background is infinitely more readable than the old white-on-black migraine-inducing site they’ve had for years. Previously, the only way I could stand to read their content was by highlighting the text (which inverted the colors to black-on-gray) or to follow the “discussion” link to read the article reposted in the forums. Don’t have to do that any more, so now I may be more inclined to read Ars on a daily basis. They’ve also included some handy widgets to change the typeface, font size, and yes, to even switch back to white-on-black if you prefer. There’s also a widget which switches the layout to a slightly wider semi-fluid design, but the usefulness of that seems negligible. They’ve included a nice writeup on the redesign, discussing their strategy and outlining the features. Overall a very nice and attractive update.
SpamCop also launched a new design yesterday, which comes on the heels of a standards-based overhaul a few months back. The latest version has further simplified what was already a pretty bare-bones site, centered on nitty-gritty functionality over excessive style. The left navigation has been converted to a series of tabs across the top of the page, and a text-size widget has been added there as well. The new SpamCop is more usable and pleasant to be around, looking less like a command-line application and more like a real website. I like it.
Both of these sites have eliminated their left-side navigation menus. Could this be a conscious effort to get away from the whole “everything looks like a blog” trend? Are left-side menus on their way out? And when the hell is Slashdot going to redesign?