Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 1 Apr 9th, 2004
Welcome to the first official Gurus v. Bloggers Design Shootout. What exactly is that? I’m glad you asked!
I’ve gathered examples of web sites of a few well known — and highly respected — web, design, and technology Gurus, along with a few web sites of a few well known Bloggers in the design sector.
What are we going to do with them?
Have them duke it out, Celebrity Deathmatch Style! (Ok… without the fun claymation or witty writing. You get what you pay for.)
Playing for the Gurus: Richard Saul Wurman, Bruce Tognazzi, Peter Merholz, Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, Gerry McGovern, Donald Norman, and Myself.
Why me? Am I bold enough to claim myself a guru? Not really, but since I do consider myself fairly experienced in the field, I’m gonna play on their team. Neener neener!
Playing for the Bloggers: Jeffery Zeldman, D. Keith Robinson, Andy Budd, Didier Hilhorst, John Gruber, Greg Storey, John Hicks, and Josh Williams.
Who is on the judging panel? That’s easy — Me. How is this possible when I’m batting for the Gurus? Don’t worry. I play fair. What is the judging criteria? Whatever hits me while I’m viewing the sites. Isn’t that unfair, you ask? Of course.
So, step right up, and join in the fun. Read the results of the very first Gurus v. Bloggers Design Shootout!
Wurman v. Zeldman
Both are giants in their fields. Both are idol worshipped by their peers. Both are requested to speak more than Scott McLellan. Both have names ending in “Man.” So why is Zeldman on the Blogger side and not the Guru side? Hey, us Gurus have to give the Bloggers a chance now, don’t we?
Looking at Wurman’s site, one can really only ask one simple question: Is this it? Is this all I get? (True. That was two questions.) A poorly formatted bio, a link pointing to the Wurman.com site with those bizarre red squishy balls, and to add insult to injury, a frame based layout? Disappointing start to say the least. (I could have used the Understanding USA web site, but it’s about as confounding a design as any I’ve ever seen, not to mention it breaks every rule about Flash and usability. Nielsen be damned — Flash really is 99% bad!)
Switch it over to Zeldman, whose recent compliant, standards-based redesign is smart and snappy. Zeldman uses orange, which everyone knows is the new black, so that wins major points already. He also uses a simple layout, with clean, reasonably sized type, along with well placed links. Besides, Zeldman knows that aesthetics really do matter, and one can’t argue with beautiful women placed throughout the site rather pictures of the man himself.
Merholz v. Robinson
Okay, information architect versus the self-proclaimed web designer. Should be a knockout for the Gurus.
But wait, Merholz is using one of the default MoveableType templates! One that uses pop-up windows for comments even. Oh no, this can’t be. This just won’t do. The template is a prime example of poor information architecture at best, and does Merholz no justice. In fact, that template will go down in history to the same fate as Los Angeles. (The font on the original Macintosh, silly… not the city.) This is over before it even began.
Meanwhile, Robinson has organized his site into a cohesive, simple structure that makes just about everything he has ever written extremely easy to find. If you are somehow having difficulty finding what you want, which probably means you are just too lazy to be reading blogs, his site’s got music to listen to while you peruse the place. (Did I just contradict myself?) Further, since Robinson dropped that awful black-pattern in favor of a new, classier, more pleasing blue pattern, it’s easy to declare victory.
Tufte v. Hilhorst (& Rubin)
I’ve pitted my favorite Guru and personal inspiration against a lowly student. Better yet, a student who doesn’t even remember Photoshop 1.0 because he was ten years old at the time, and one who is studying economics of all things. I did this just to prove how biased and unfair I am when it comes to judging these things.
Sadly though, as much as I admire Tufte and his work — the man’s work changed my life for crying out loud! — I simply cannot admire his web site. It’s stuck in some early web form of thinking and design, uses a really poor message board format, and has rendered type for its menu system! Ouch.
Hilhorst, and recently missing cohort in crime Rubin, constantly impress me with smart illustrations that follow many of the principles found in Tufte’s own Envisioning Information. That, along with well-thought out write ups about design, and I have no choice but to give them the nod.
Winner: Hilhorst (& Rubin)
Nielsen v. Gruber
Ok, if anyone can break this streak for the Gurus, it has to be heavy-weight Nielsen, right? His web site is one of the most well-known on the planet. So how on earth could someone like Gruber even compete?
We all know Nielsen’s faults. He’s put them on display so often in the past there’s no reason to bring them up again. (Ok. Here are some: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.) To add insult to injury, Nielsen can be a bit, shall we say, overbearing. Having said that, can Nielsen’s blinding color system, poor layout and unreadable typography be forgiven for someone who is attempting to convert designers towards better usability practices? Not in this lifetime.
Damn if Gruber isn’t witty, smart, intelligent and still able to pull off that cynism thing that Nielsen seems to miss by a mile. Damn if Gruber can lay on the criticism, while also explaining his point of view cleary and succinctly. And damn if Gruber’s site isn’t the epitome of simple, unobtrusive, smart typography and layout. Gruber has easily out usabilitied the king of usability. (Yes, I made up a new word.)
McGovern v. Storey
Here we have the man who claims content is king, and a guy who is king of content!
We could if only Storey wasn’t so damned good at providing both great content in one of the most bang-up designs this side of the blogging hemisphere. I think we have a new move to introduce to the Design Shootout: The Storey Smackdown.
Tog v. Budd
It’s the battle of the monosyllabic heavies. One’s from the old school and one’s from the old country. Whose gonna take this one down?
We all know and respect Tog, the man who was there in the glory days of Apple. This history certainly gives plenty of cred to Tognazzi. But wait, what is going on? Tog’s site is better than Nielsen’s, but not that much better. Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the attention to details. Where’s the design that makes one weep at the mere sight of it? Anyone who worked at Apple must surely create something that makes the rest of us feel completely and utterly unworthy of its presence.
This is becoming hard to stomach. Once again, the Bloggers are pushing their weight around. Andy Budd’s design looks more like what we would expect from someone working in design at Apple than the person who did work at Apple back in the day. Great use of shading, nice soft colors, along with amazing little details like comment previewing while you type! That’s the kind of detail we expect from Apple, not a Blogger, right? And don’t miss that photo gallery. Smart design. Very smart design.
Norman v. Hicks
Ok… this has gone too far. Time to bring out the really big guns. The man responsible for validating emotion and aesthetics in design, and the man who brings emotion and aesthetics to design. It’s Norman versus Hicks!
So, one can only hope that Norman will bring religion to NN/g with his new book, Emotional Design. Norman has always struck me as a happy man, the one Guru if any that would apply what he has researched to his own little spot on the web. So, after loading up his web site, was I happy about what I found? Did I connect with it? Did it make me want to lick it? Not even close. Sigh.
Over to Hicks, and one can see this whole contest is quite rigged. Hicks writes clearly, has great content, and I feel all giddy and emotional every time I load up his blog on my screen. The guy knocks it out of the park with his design work. Checking out Hicks.com must be akin to what it was like watching the Babe point to the bleachers and then BOOM! Homerun.
Herasimchuk v. Williams
Alright. I got myself into this predicament by putting myself on the Gurus team. So surely, even poor little old me can take whatever the Bloggers have to dish out. I can win at least one for the team, right? So bring it on! I’m ready.
As mentioned from the get go, we all know orange is the new black. So I score major points there. I also recently added stylesheet switchers, larger fonts default sizes, more web standard compliant code (with a few problems here and there). I even did all my own layout, coding and artwork, and it works reasonably well. What you see on DxF is mine. Plus, what about all that work I did on all the applications most of you people use? There. I win.
But wait… Williams not only uses orange, but yellow and every other shade and compliment one can find for his design of Yellowland.com. Further, his layout is both more elegant and intricate, while not feeling overpowering. It’s well structured, and the content is great. Hell, even his icon work makes the stuff I did on Adobe’s products look ancient and weak by comparison. How can this be? I’m the judge here and even I can easily see how Williams has absolutely owned me. Oh, sad day!
The final score
It’s no contest.
The Bloggers win in a shut-out, 8 to 0. A total Guru smackdown. Completely knocked out of the ring. It’s as ugly as watching Stanford lose to ‘Bama during March Madness.
I was going to bring out the likes of Dave Shea, Doug Bowman, and Dan Cederholm for the Bloggers and match them up against Jeffery Veen, Mark Hurst and Jesse James Garret for the Gurus, but I can’t take watching this anymore. I have to end it before things get out of control.
Let’s all hope that Round 2 will see the Gurus getting back into shape and kicking some Blogger butt. Until next time…