The new Signal vs. Noise 10 Mar 2005

100 comments Latest by Filmy Porno

So, what do you do when you win the best business blog design award? You redesign, that's what.

Well, actually, earlier this week our Movable Type install blew up. Well, the truth is it vanished (Jamis can tell you about it). Nope, it wasn't Six Apart's fault, it was ours.

We've been thinking of a redesign and a fresh move to Moveable Type 3, so we'll just say the opportunity presented itself to make a change. And we took it. Introducing the new Signal vs. Noise.

We have a lot of ideas for the new SvN, and over the next few months you'll be able to watch us think out loud. The site may be different tomorrow. And different again the next day. The design will be ever changing until we settle on what we're really happy with. But instead of doing it all behind the scenes, we'll be doing it in the open.

What you see here is 2 days work. Tomorrow is a new day. Thoughts?

100 comments (comments are closed)

micah 10 Mar 05

i have a sweater that’s that color of purple. my girlfriend makes fun of me for it.

never let anyone tell you that lilac isn’t a wicked cool color choice. they’re just jealous of your pizazz.

Eric Hodel 10 Mar 05

I think the header letter-spacing is too close. The colors are alright though.

Colorman 10 Mar 05

Great colors, actually. Not what I’d expect from you, but I dig.

Anonymous Coward 10 Mar 05

A bit too active on the color front for my taste. My only real issue is that the date and comments link targets move around a lot based on the huge size of the title. I have to do a lot of scanning to find the comment link especially…

Matt 10 Mar 05

I love the new look. My first response was to think that the titles just had to be images, since they looked so clean and sharp. Crazy what you can do with Arial and CSS these days.

seth 10 Mar 05

personally, i was frightened by the change….what happened here? queer eye for the 37signals guy?

Vaughn 10 Mar 05

If you want my honest opinion, I really like the colors, but the overall design reminds me of Flickr. The spacing, underlining, etc, just is pretty similar. Nice overall though!

If Else 10 Mar 05

The colours have a very ‘dyson vacuum cleaner’ look to them. A bit too bold for my liking but a good starting slate. It’ll be interesting to see the evolution of the site live in real time.

Dana O 10 Mar 05

Everything is too big now. I liked that with the previous design I could read more at one time — without scrolling.

Too many elements seeking attention too. There’s not a strong eye path. I find myself following a set path, out of habit, but I still think more could be done to enhance the experience.

my two cents at least…

indi 10 Mar 05

I like the large titties and color —- easier to pick out topics. Might be interesting to see what a totally minimalist approach would look like … not to the Drudge Report extreme though

indi 10 Mar 05

OMG … OK … we need an edit function QUICK!

Steven M 10 Mar 05

Awesome new site guys. It really brings some color and life to the website. Now redo the 37signals site and everything should be all good. :)

hartmurmur 10 Mar 05

I like the large titties too! …but the titles are okay. :)

I love inadvertent typos. At a job I’ve been involved with I had to type the word “retarder” many times (as in “vapor retarder”), and for the life of me I always typed in “retarded”. That one doesn’t sit well with the clients.

typeweight 10 Mar 05

Wow! What a surprise! It doesn’t look like a typical 37signals site (if there is such a thing), but that’s what I like so much about it. Looks great in Safari.

Solomon Folks 10 Mar 05

Guys….not your style (at least I didn’t think so). Playful?!?!….perhaps…….clean?!?!?………ok………..fitting?!?!!….not at all.

Rory 10 Mar 05

Not their style? Why not? Cause it’s not black and white? Can color not be clean? I sure think it can be and the new SvN is a great example of that.

Steven M 10 Mar 05

I was really getting bored with the black and white everywhere it was depressing.

Fred, the real Fred 10 Mar 05

Eh, it’s ok. Maybe….no. Ask me in a week. The titles are too big.

Chris Vincent 10 Mar 05

At first, I was all like “AUUGH WTF!!1111!1!!111one”, but then I looked again and disengaged caps-lock, and I was all like, “Ahhhh…”

Good work, even if it is a quite different approach.

Kenneth Miller 10 Mar 05

The green is too neon. It really is. Burns my eyes. Makes me angry when I look at it. And the shade of gray for the date is really difficult to make out on my laptop screen. Right track…just trying too hard IMHO.

~bc 10 Mar 05

Hey, change is good. Lilac is good, but not how you’re using it ;-)
Look forward to your work in progress.

choonkeat 10 Mar 05

agreed. go easy on the green. pastel is nice. bright is probably not.

Bill Bradford 10 Mar 05

Looks great - make the titles just a TINY bit smaller though.

jason 10 Mar 05

i know big is in, but the headlines are way too big for me. colors look easter and jokey. it’s harder to take the site seriously now, and i’m not sure i’d come back if this were the first time to the site.. i like the side column design, other than the center alignment of the products. but the blog design reminds me of jelly beans and hello kitty.

Kevin Navia 10 Mar 05

I agree with Kenneth…

The green is a bit too strong and the date beside it is too light to be seen effectively.

Anyway I like the look (clean), looking forward to the final product! :D

Dave Ferrick 10 Mar 05

Ditto on the titles for me as well. They are really battling with the content of the post (maybe I have weak eyes though). I also noticed that you’re cramming a lot of different information into the H2s. Now that’s a subjective decision, however it doesn’t really seem to help the document flow much.

Andrew 10 Mar 05

It just won’t be different until you move the 37signals logo.

Tomas 10 Mar 05

What can I say, I love it. I mean, obviously, it was thrown together pretty quickly, but as you mentioned it’s a work in progress. I’m confident that in a few days this design of yours, too, will have me looking closely for ideas to use in my own designs.

Joseph Wain 10 Mar 05

Large (and huge) type is an emerging hot trend in blog design, particularly when used for titling. You can see it all over the place: Coudal Partners, Superflousbanter, designs on CSS Zen Garden.

Higher-resolution displays permit it and decreased attention spans demand it.

I think it’s all good… any my Powerbook runs at 1024x768.

James Archer 11 Mar 05

Isn’t it about time for 37 signals to build a blog/CMS tool?

qwerty 11 Mar 05

I go with Dana O. The old design was more subtle and elegant, this one is too WIRED for me. On my Safari/OS X I am also missing a left margin, the text is too close to the left edge of the window. Maybe it is my iMac display, but I find the colors don’t have enough contrast. I thought the attention to this was a hallmark of 37signal’s design in the past.

More details: the date of a posting is too close the name. Why is there so much room between the text and the right column?

A rebirth, please 11 Mar 05

I just hope with the new site we see more about design and customer experience rather than how you are spending your money. Seriously, the masturbatory posts are a big turn off.

Also getting tired of the “Hey, look at this product! Isn’t it wonderful! I just love the design! Gush!” posts. These really don’t take much imagination.

I used to visit this site on a daily basis, but at this point, I only visit maybe one or twice a month. Please take some time and reconsider the customer experience for SvN.

Jacob M. B�tter 11 Mar 05

Why is it that this site is just 10-20px too wide for 800x600? Why do you need that extra space?

Mike P. 11 Mar 05

Well, it should be fun watching this morph.

I like the comment layout, keeping it thin and easily readable without the meta data getting too much in the way. On my screen, the green names are easy to float right by while reading the comments in one flow.

Steve 11 Mar 05

I like the comments section in it’s layout, but not too big on the contrast between light and bright font colors.

As for the spending you money theme on the main site, I think it’s great. That’s what prospective clients want to know anyway. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a designer…

C McMahon 11 Mar 05

“These green headlines seem importan… What’s this large orange button on the righ… And these large BOLD links seem to mean some… Lilac?

Too many areas of the page demand my attention and the same time.

Also, the date on the front page is almost invisable on a PC laptop screen, not enough contrast.

Patrick 11 Mar 05

I like it. Not sure about the colors of the right column vs the left though, especially the rss button but overall, nice. I wonder what proportion of the “haters” are on PC, this design relies heavily on perfect font rendering to come through the way you intended, not sure if it happens on Windows versions with crapass font rendering…

Patrick 11 Mar 05

Ooookay. Always look at the front page before commenting on a design. Came straight to the “post page” which looks good, just took a look at the homepage and not sure about how it looks with multiple short entries one after the other, the green does overwhelm in that case.

JonB 11 Mar 05

I don’t mind the change that much. The new layout is uncluttered which gives a trong emphasis on the content.

On a practical level, the titles are shouting so much that I find them visually distracting when reading the body copy. This is because 3 typographic attributes have been turned up to the max - size, weight and colour saturation. Thankfully, they’re not capitalised as well!

It’s not so bad on individual blog entry pages but, in a list, I don’t think the titles don’t need to work that hard.

etherdust 11 Mar 05

I had to check it in IE to see if it was an Opera rendering thing. No, sadly (and fortunately) not. It looks equally bad in both.

The headlines are too big, the date field doesn’t have enough contrast on the main page and is even worse on the comments page.

The green and purple is OK, if you’re doing a site about the Easter Bunny.

Dean 11 Mar 05

I’m not a fan of the glowing green or the purple. I also agree with some others that the dates are a bit too light. And while I’m always amazed at how small text on websites tends to be now-a-days, I actually scaled the fonts down here - headlines were too screamingly glowing green!

But then again, you said that this all might change tomorrow - now there’s a trick to keep your readers coming back!

John 11 Mar 05

* I like the call to action for “grabbing” the RSS feed
* I like the BIG text headlines for posts with a lot of text
* I don’t like the grey text against the light blue background in the comments section. It’s impossible to read
* I don’t like the BIG text headlines for posts with little text
* I don’t like the prominence of the name of the person who posted. Seems irrelevant.

John 11 Mar 05

Oh yeah… I like the green. I’m on the fence about the purple.

Jamie 11 Mar 05

Jason and company, I’m wondering when faced with the decision to do a total redesign why you chose Moveable Type again? Have you looked into Wordpress? I’ve recently converted. Check it out if you have the chance.

Jeni 11 Mar 05

I’m sure I’ll echo about a dozen different people when I say that I just don’t like the titles. A lot of this has to do with the choice of Helvetica over Arial. Helvetica wasn’t designed to be a screen font and kerns very poorly on the web. Combine that with the -1 letter spacing and intentional lack of spaces, and you’ve got letters that run together. The colors, size, and weight together detract from the content. Overall, I find it a lot harder to scan the page than it was - the serif headers provided a nice visual distinction without being overly distracting.

The “Please, try our projects” section also adds to the visual clutter. By being so predominately strong color-wise (lots of black) the eye is pulled from the bright green headline to the bold black type without even spending a moment on the content. I’d be willing to be that the vast majority of your readers are well aware of the presence of Basecamp, Ta-da, and your book. It doesn’t need to be so predominent that it overshadows content.

It doesn’t really fit the feel of other 37signals sites. I think that’s a real detriment. The old SvN looked like a 37signals site without being completely cookie cutter.

I do have to admit that the font geek in me is happy to see that you stuck with Verdana for content instead of Arial or Helvetica. Some days I feel like I’m the only web designer in existence that still thinks that Verdana is a better choice for web than Arial. So what if it’s ugly? It’s readable, especially at smaller sizes.

Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad design - just not ready for primetime.

DaleV 11 Mar 05

I think it tries too hard. The previous design was ‘quietly confident’ . . this is ‘eager adolescent’ … .

DaleV 11 Mar 05

Also: I prefer the colors in the “We’re working on it” sidebar . . THOSE are hot.

Rome 11 Mar 05

Look at all the people afraid of change! OH NO! Colors are bad! OH NO! The text is so big that I can actually read it! OH NO! It’s not exactly like everything else! OH NO!

Rome 11 Mar 05

Is This text too big too?

Dan Boland 11 Mar 05

The green is giving me a headache. =( Other than that, I think it’s pretty sweet so far. You can’t redesign like this with tables…

DaleV 11 Mar 05

Rome: No: I love that page you link to . . design is good and colors rock. 10x better than this site for now. I’m a designer: I LOVE change.

German 11 Mar 05

I think agree with Dana O that the old design was more subtle, simple and therefore more elegant. But that’s very subjective.

By making the header so small, I think you over emphasize the posts (ok, they’re more important than the header information-wise, I suppose). But with the header you tell the user where she is, it’s an orientation thing. By making the post titles much more noticeable than the header, you make the user feel a little lost. The header shouldn’t take center stage, I mean… just don’t push it so far into the visibility background. I suggest less text in the header (or making the explanatory text smaller than the blog title).

Kudos for trying something new, tho!

Benjy 11 Mar 05

For the most part, I like the new redesign. My only comment is that the post titles are HUGE. Maybe take them down a little. The size of the commenter names above seem like a good size.

Don Schenck 11 Mar 05

I … don’t … want … to … be … too harsh, but I — personally, this is my worthless opinion — can’t stand it.

You asked, I answered. Feel free to ignore me — it’ll probably be in your best interest to! :-)

But it’s not like the design will drive me away. Ha! … come to think of it, perhaps THAT was your intent! *laugh*

8500 11 Mar 05

I’ve been hitting this site for the last 4.5 years and this change is hideous. Not a single good idea in the batch.

- Vibrant colors distract from content
- Title sizes are oppresive
- Letter spacing is way too tight
- Light text on a light background is a vintage mistake

Better start over or at the very least switch it back.

John Gleisner 11 Mar 05


Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me… Joker!

And as you can see, I’m a lot happier.

(queue music and shooting.)

I don’t mind the green and purple, but I am also colorblind, so to be honest, I thought it was light blue. The titles are a little large, but not as “oppressing viewers like china vs. tibet” like people are making it out to be.

Adam Michela 11 Mar 05

Give them a break guys.

Like they said, it’s two days worth of work. Their obviously just trying something new and will continue to evolve.

I mean yeah, they asked for feedback, so if you don’t like it then say that. Do you need to be insulting (or worse demanding) though?

Does being 37signals mean they should never try to bend their own mold beyond 11px fonts and a basic rgb color palette?

This is their blog. This isn’t Basecamp or some application for which you are using and maybe even paying for with the intent of getting something done.

This is their blog. Let them experiment. Let them see how far “simple” design can be evolved.

There is nothing wrong with a blog being a playground. It’s probably the best place for it actually.

So again… give an opinion but don’t be an ass. Have some courtesy.

JF 11 Mar 05

Thanks Adam! We appreciate the civility.

Anonymous Coward 11 Mar 05

I critiqued the ideas not the team. 37s will find a solution that rocks, I’ve no doubt.

They asked for feedback on their new blog experiment and I gave it to them. No pandering, no pulled punches - just like I know Jason wants it. They are pros and they can handle it.

Jordan T. Cox 11 Mar 05

It looks very good. Especially on OSX, with the superb font smoothing (alaising|aliasing?). I wonder how it looks without Apple’s wonderful smoothing tech. The large fonts look nice and sexy on OSX, but I notice that when you view them (generally, not these in particular) with other operating systems (Linux, OSX) larger fonts don’t look quite as sexy. Just my ponderances stated aloud.

8500 11 Mar 05

Since when does calling peoples asses count as being civil?


Adam Michela 11 Mar 05

JF — No worries. Squeaky wheel always makes the most noise. I’ve been on the receiving end of this more than a few times as of late. Do your thing and make us proud. Plenty of us dig it.

Anonymous — You’re anonymous… so I’ve no idea what you said and you probably shouldn’t assume my comments were directed at you. They weren’t directed at any one person or any one whole post. I see alot of quality feedback in here but also a fair amount of little comments that are just rude.

If you really don’t like it than how about some positive and constructive feedback rather than being so damned negative. Maybe Anonymous is right and JF & Co like being insulted… I don’t know… I just know that I don’t. I think you will find that, like me, the signals are just ordinary human beings. Ordinary human beings respond far better to positive and constructive feedback. Since you may not like the design and may be demanding a change… having them respond well to your critique would be far more beneficial too you.

You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Anonymous Coward 11 Mar 05

“Maybe Anonymous is right and JF & Co like being insulted”

This is often the mistake of a young or inexperienced designer. Critiquing designs, even with sharp, undiplomatic language, is not the same as insulting the designer. All designers produce crap at some point. JF presented this as an iterative process and that usually means the first design is not optimal.

So there is no confusion, the gist of my whole post is:
Seasoned designers do not confuse design criticisms with personal attacks.

Zelnox 11 Mar 05

I like this new design. Easy to read.

Adam Michela 11 Mar 05

shawn: I was thinking the SAME thing!

Not because of the fonts or colors… but because of the bubble icon on the comment links.

I don’t know why but it reminds me of Rundle. Maybe it’s because of the background image at Businesslogs?

JonB 11 Mar 05

I wish there was a “preview post’ feature on here. Sorry for the typo earlier (“trong” = “strong”).

Here’s an idea: maybe the titles could dynamically size themselves to reflect the quantity of comments? Depending on the layout, it could look a real mess, or it could give a more newspaper-like feel (a la Coudal’s site). Maybe too difficult to get it right I guess.

Dan Boland 11 Mar 05

Yeah, I like this shade of green much better.

In the new format, those links follow the heading without a preceeding break… so they wrap, etc. It would be cool if the link was always in one spot so I wouldn’t have to search for it.

I was thinking the same thing, Adam. I know I always keep that in mind when laying things out. I also wish there was a mouseover effect on each comments link.

louis 11 Mar 05

sorry guys, but i liked the old one better. this one i think takes simplicity too far, and its missing the aesthetic of the old site

One of several Steves 11 Mar 05

OK, I’m trying to separate the typical “Oh my god it’s different! Gack!” knee-jerk reaction to actually assessing what I think works and doesn’t.

My impression is definitely skewed by the fact that I didn’t look until today and was confronted with that hideous blue-on-red link box from New York Magazine. That’s enough to disrupt the whole color scheme and make the page look ugly. (Which, yes, I realize that was pretty much the point in displaying such an awful case of visual design.)

Overall, I feel like I’m reading the large-print/visually impaired version of SvN. If I adjust the text size down one notch, it looks much better. But I have to do that every page.

The body copy size is OK (although I’d still prefer a bit smaller) but the headlines seem way out of proportion compared to the body copy. Since this isn’t like a newspaper front where you need to use different weights to indicate importance, I don’t see a need to have ginormous headlines. And certainly not ginormous text for the poster and date.

On my monitor, the gray dates are nearly invisible, especially on the blue background of the comments page. And, for reference, I’m not on a laptop right now.

Overall, aside from the gray, the color scheme somehow works.

Aside from the huge headlines, the only real design “issue” I see is that the individual posts (oddly, given the huge headlines) don’t seem very visually separated from the next. Things kind of blend together into a giant swarm of text, rather than discrete blocks.

And, a couple functional things:

Please bring back the “remember me” function.

Please change link colors for the comments links if they’ve been visited, as in the old design. That made it easy to visit the main page and see at a glance which threads have new comments.

Looking forward to seeing how the design evolves.

Adam Michela 11 Mar 05

Great review, Steve!

The “Remember Me” function is the only thing of priority for me. Especially since for some damned reason Firefox Autocomplete is not working on these form fields.

The rest… I look forward to witnessing the twists and bends as time permits.

Tyler Jones 11 Mar 05

Doing a redesign of your own site is always a tough process, so I commend you on being brave enough to ask for all these comments :).

I do like the look of the redesign, I would just recommend making the titles and some of the other text (like at the top of the page) a bit less bold. The text just seems a bit too heavy for the rest of the design, which has a lot of white space.

Arne Gleason 11 Mar 05

I didn’t really like it at first - came back - still didn’t like it.

There’s something about the oversized titles that makes me expect to see the body text justified (expecting all straight edges or something).

I do like the can-hardly-see-it grey and the formatting on the dates.

8500 11 Mar 05

Well 37signals, looks like you’ve got yourself a horseshoe review. You just need to decide if the right people (ie your target audience) is on the favorable review side of that U.

On a side note, If I were you I’d be more upset that SvN was pidgeonholed into the Picasso category since your content and community is what makes the site worth a visit. Did you check out the site that won best overall and tech company blog? Nearly every post had less than 5 comments…

Nick 11 Mar 05

Sweet. Change the ads on the right… they look too much like google ads and I automatically ignore them. The little badge was cooler.

glass 11 Mar 05

I dig the left column. Only beefs would be the lightness of the dates and the lavendar color, but until you are finished, I can understand that a bigger scheme might bring it together more.

It’s the right column that bugs me. It’s that whole centering thing and that button looks oddly rendered with the faux underline. The color scheme over there though, is nice.

The two columns just don’t seem to be part of the same family.

Lastly, I like how you are openly experimenting. That’s neato.

Eric 12 Mar 05

Seen it today (yeah, I’m slow) and my first impression was “OMG on what link did I klick?”. It took a while until I realised that this is Signal vs. Noise…

For me, the other design was better because of it’s minimalism. I think I have to get used to it… this will take three months or so, but who cares :)

abr 12 Mar 05

Letter-spacing, font-sizing and all aside, my main problem is that the dates and comment links are so inconsistant. Keep ‘em in one place instead of forcing to user to search for them.

Also, the green and purple combination — it’s almost as bad as wearing pink with red or orange.

Other than that, well, it pretty much looks the same as before.

angelday true 13 Mar 05

Don’t over-elaborate, you guys. :-)

“Well, actually, earlier this week our Movable Type install blew up. (…) What you see here is 2 days work.”

This has happened to me a number of times. Instead of rolling back to the old one, you just configure a new MT installation. And while you’re there you throw some CSS def’s in the mix and while you’re there you reorganize etc. This is mixed with your actual design preference, in this case a little wicked colors, larger type, instead of tiny-trendy CSS pixel icons the Mac-osx-ish bubble icon and so on.

Nothing wrong here. Hail to the new 37SVN.

Jonny Roader 13 Mar 05

First time I’ve not been blown away by a svn redesign, but then this is the first time we’ve been treated to a ‘work in progress’ is it not?

And let’s face it, poor 37sigs work still craps all over a lot of other designs.

NM 13 Mar 05


Casey Gollan 13 Mar 05

I think this new design is fresh and exciting. It is bright and alive compared to the old, stale SvN. The headlines are big and crisp and the text is easily readable. I commend you on an excellent and out-of-the-box design.

Tim 14 Mar 05

Ew… The new design is awful. What’s happened to this fantastic site? Invisible black links with black text? Yes, I have link underlining turned off, the way it should be.

Adam Michela 14 Mar 05

Hey… NICE touch with the new “Latest [comment] by…”. Good stuff.

Like I said… it’s going to be fun watching a 37signals design process from start to finish :)

Noel Jackson 14 Mar 05

You don’t backup the site everyday with rsync? Silly.

Jonny Roader 14 Mar 05

“Hey… NICE touch with the new “Latest [comment] by…”. Good stuff.”

Even more useful if it was a link to the last comment…

Adam Michela 14 Mar 05

Noel: Maybe they do? I think, like they said, they just took the opportunity to upgrade/redesign. Nothing like a good kick in the pants (or rm -rf) to spur you along.

Jonny: True indeed.

Adam Michela 14 Mar 05

I just want to say… THANKS for putting a break before the “Comments” link…

and… if I haven’t just gone crazy… it’s hilarious that you’ve (appeared to have) made the headlines even bigger! LOFL

Nice work.

morty 15 Mar 05

The site looks edgier.
Is that a good thing? Not sure, given that many aspire to match the 37s cred.
Still, it would start a trend.

JD 15 Mar 05

The left margin is wack (IE6 Win). This is a problem that kottke has. And I think the huge headline idea is interesting.(Tough not to be influenced by coudal, huh?) But I do not think it works here.

Adam Michela 15 Mar 05

Site looks absolutely gorgeous on a 30” Cinema. Coincidence? ;)

Filmy Porno 19 Sep 05

Pretty good a article and also the website :)
Filmy Porno