Jason at 37Signals recently posted about how the Drudge Report is “one of the best designed sites on the web.” I just couldn’t let this one go.
It’s a load of bollocks, and one in a stream of “hey, let’s take a widely criticized site, call it awesome, and everyone will praise how witty and insightful we are.” It’s as if everyone thinks they can be hailed as geniuses if they rebel against the norm.
Design is not synonymous with utility, and the Drudge Report fails horribly at both.
THIS IS WHAT I SEE WHEN I LOAD THE PAGE .
It’s patently absurd to call this good design. from first load, I don’t even know what the page is.
Sites that are successful yet have bad design aren’t necessarily successful BECAUSE of bad design (therefore making it good?), but IN SPITE of. This is the same reason Fox is #1 in viewership despite their utter lack of journalistic integrity, taste, and quality. Fox isn’t #1 because it’s good news, it’s #1 because right-wingers have nowhere else to go. The Drudge Report isn’t popular because of its piss poor design, it’s popular because right-wingers surf it religiously.
The Drudge Report hasn’t changed the design, ever. This could mean that the first design was perfect. It could also mean that Matt Drudge simply doesn’t care. It doesn’t mean that the users love the design… they could be sticking around because no other site has the content they desire.
Let’s move down this point by point
- “There are no tricks, no sections, no deep linking, no special technology required. It’s all right there on one page. “But it’s a mess!” you could say. I’d say “it’s straightforward mess.” I wouldn’t underestimate the merit in that.”
- There ARE sections… if you can suffer to scroll down far enough. Straightforward = good. Mess = bad. Straightforward + mess = good & bad. Straightforward + non-mess = good & good, i.e., better design.
- It’s unique. Certainly. So is every dump I’ve squeezed out of my anus. There’s a REASON the news sites look alike. They WANT to look alike. When you go to CNN .com, without even seeing content, the users say, “oh, this is a news site.” Is it bad to have a news site look like a news site? Saying it’s unique and therefore good is flawed logic – you and i have discussed this before.
- It’s important. Drudge isn’t afraid to be noisy. Sure. That’s an appeal of the Drudge Report, and is totally irrelevant to the design. The argument here is for the philosophy of the site, which 37S claims to be good and extraordinary. Fine. Keep the philosophy. Keep a super noisy headline – the site could have top-notch design, and a screaming headline…(get this)… AT THE SAME TIME .
- It’s cluttered. It’s messy, and there’s no good flow to the information. “Jason” thinks that constitutes… good design? The design doesn’t “encourage wandering,” it just requires effort to plow through. It’s successful because the users feel that the plowing is worth it. Just because it functions now doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved. I wonder how many people don’t visit the site for specifically that reason.
- Breaking news. Once again, this is a philosophy of the Drudge Report, and not one of the website design. This could be maintained, regardless of design.
- One guy can run it. That’s a plus. One guy can also make a myspace page, or a geocities home. That doesn’t make good design, and is more a question of web authoring tools. With tools powerful enough, one guy could nearly run any site on the web. The design could be significantly improved, and still have one guy do it.
- No news… once again, Drudge philosophy and concept. Not design. The design is the implementation of the concept, and not having direct info isn’t implementation in this case – it IS the concept.
- Sending people away… see above.
- It’s fast. That’s definitely a plus. I’ll grant that. However, with a little organization, better fonts, and better layout, the design could be improved without sacrificing speed. It’s cheap. See above. It’s one page. See above.
- It makes him a great living – A site’s success can be completely irrelevant to design. See above discussion of Fox.
- All in all, it’s bad design. It may function. It may serve a purpose. However, Drudge’s design limps blindly on like the buffoon in the White House he was so fond of.