When I met Vitaly Friedman for the first time really, I was on a road trip with him to the New Adventures Conference in Nottingham. I can’t remember if we met before, or if that was really the first time, but this definitely was a time, where we got to know each other, being locked into a car for two or three days with five people. We had very intense discussions and I remember, that we chatted a lot about ideas we had and much, much more.
Later in 2011, I ran my very first beyond tellerrand in Düsseldorf and Vitaly was a speaker. That lead to Vitaly and me starting Smashing Conference in 2012 and me being the chair of the Smashing Magazine supervisory board nowadays. So yes, there is a strong connection and I admire Vitaly’s passion for what he does – though it can be difficult sometimes to be passionated as he is :D
Smashing Magazine Redesign and Relaunch
Though I haven’t been part of the whole redesign process, I have been at a couple of meetings, where we worked on it, sat down with Markus and Vitaly quite some time to brain storm many things and come up with new ideas or suggestions. I have seen how much attention to detail the whole process was having and how many times things have been changed to improve things or the user. Not only when it came to design or usability decisions, but also when it came to responsibilities for certain tasks after the relaunch or content-decisions concerning new features of the website. Andy Clark started working on the redesign and later Dan Mall took over. Many other people where were involved and the whole site is not yet finished, but very usable already. A lot of people criticised the usage of red as main color, so Smashing listened and added an option to switch to white for example. There are many hidden features, little details and cats to be found. Play around with the new website and report bugs or suggest new things on GitHub or via email.
Smashing Magazine always was a place, were content had the main focus. But a Magazine like Smashing needs to also earn some money to be sustainable. Up until now ads were one thing to do this, even though people behind Smashing Magazine never were huge fans of ads at all. Of course, there are books and the Smashing Library and when starting Smashing Conference, another source of income was established, but certainly – as you ever ran an event – none that is anything like a money making machine. So, how could a Magazine make money to pay their authors, their team and everybody involved, but move aways from showing ads to their readers?
Many meetings, emptying brains over paper and digital note taking apps, finally Smashing Membership is here. I remember sitting at a coffee shop (it was a cocktail bar actually) with Markus and Vitaly, brain storming about which tiers should be created for members, how they could be packaged to be attractive and how to make it a no-brainer to become a Smashing Member. Discussing all this, the main subject we always came back to was, to get the existing Smashing community to actually become a real community with real benefits of being a member and feeling like being part of Smashing more than just paying for the content. It is hard to explain, but I am sure, and I actually know, that Vitaly and the rest of Smashing Magazine are working hard on making this happening. Creating a membership experience within the whole Smashing ecosystem.
The new design – Ugly? Good? Bad? Unusable? Great Usability?
Surely like with everything that is new and were people, for years, are used to a way something is, a new design of the website you always read and loved to visit is something crazy. You first impression is either Wow … great! or the complete opposite with Fucking hell! What is this?!. And I certainly understand this. But what if, instead of puking a quickly written ”That sucks” into the comments or on Twitter, you give it some time, let it rest, and then make a constructive about it? Make way more sense and might even change something into a direction you like. Right?
Don’t forget also, that this is just a start of a new website and it is not printed or set in stone, which means, things change over time. This new website certainly is far from being perfect and reading preferences are always a matter of taste. As is the reception of design. People responsible for this website worked damn hard on this and they want to make it a good experience and joyful. And with constructive critics you can actually help improving, what is not perfect yet. I myself have to say I do like the approach of it, I like the courage in trying something different and not do yet another standard website, where everybody is complaining about the website, looking all the same with no fun and joy anymore.
Therefore, I’ll give it a try. I use it, make notes of what I think is not good or what I personally don’t like and give these to Smashing. I am sure they gonna listen and check every single suggestion and comment of you.