Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grading the Late Summer Makeovers

I know the calendar agrees with me, even if the shop windows would like to convince us otherwise, so I refuse to call it "Autumn" just yet. For a few weeks still, "late Summer" it is.

What's being made over in late Summer 2011? Apparently most of the online sources for news on art I regularly read. How they've redesigned their sites suggests perhaps some interesting things about their future plans.

A while ago (ok, in mid-Summer, I think) came the freshening up of Artnet.com's look and navigation:


I like the bold new home page, but it does bother me a bit that the link to the Magazine fell below the fold. I know the scrolling images that dominate the page will take me to a particular magazine story, but I used to begin by scanning all the stories and then diving in. It took me reading a few stories about artnet.com's rising success in their online auctions to begin to suspect the new design is meant to steer readers even more directly toward that functionality.

It's just me, I know. Artnet.com does describe itself as "the place to buy, sell and research fine art online," and I suspect most of their readers visit it for such. I personally rarely browse its gallery section, now that most galleries have websites of their own, so I don't mind that the link to Galleries falls below the fold, but I so read their magazine religiously.

Otherwise, the look is crisp and they've done a pretty good job of organizing a great deal of information and navigation options. I'd give them a B-.

At long last, ArtNews.com has a look that feels post-1990. Not that I terribly minded the old look and feel (it felt nostalgic and I liked that), but as the mainstream media (finally) begins to figure out the new digital delivery channels, it was perhaps time for ArtNews to freshen up its site:


There's a lot of information on the home page that they don't reveal until you begin to scroll, but that may actually be a clever mimicry of a print magazine cover. My internal jury's still out on whether I like that or not. I do like the Popular Posts section to the right, and the tags that tie the articles into the print issue they appeared in (helpful and clear).

I'm not so sure I like the mixing of icons for the various social networks. If you click on a story, you see a customized icon at the very top for ArtNews's Facebook page, and then the story's "Like on Facebook" link under the title (will say the depth of social media options here feels about perfect...not crazy, but rich enough to indicate ArtNews gets how they work).

As for the two Facebook buttons, though, I get why they're different, and understand one is persistent and accompanies the site, while the other is particular to a story, but I'm not a big fan of re-branding other site's visuals. Again, perhaps that's just me, though.

I have been all over the site, but still can't find one of my all-time favorite columns that ArtNews publishes, their Retrospectives look at the ideas and criticisms from 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Maybe this is a subtle signal that ArtNews is looking more toward the future than the past, I don't know. I do hope they're going to continue to put Retrospective online.

Overall, I'd give the new site a B- as well.

Over at artinfo.com, it's a bit hard to tell if they've done much more than change their background color from black to white (notice a trend??), but either way, it freshens the feel of the site up quite nicely.


Murat will tell anyone that he visits artinfo.com more that most other arts sites because they add new stories more often. I've noticed they "rotate" their stories a bit more than they change them, but I would agree with Murat that it keeps you coming back.

I suspect they're still in the process of converting the different quarters of their site. The jarring return to the black background when you click on the Culture + Travel link felt like a digital flashback, but the ever growing list of bloggers suggests artinfo.com is seeking to become a portal for ideas beyond just its magazines' collective purview.

Overall, I'd give them a solid B.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Gam said...

strange though, i do like the white, but it is a known advertising schema, so I wonder, that as they all seem to have jumped to it in their revamps, if it is a measure of the commercialization of internet usage, or if they are simply all following the same band wagon? - great minds think alike and all- ( i realize they are all commercial entities, it's the usage becoming a commercial construct that I wonder if the white bg represents)

9/13/2011 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

The sites look clean and very visual with all the white but Gam makes a good point. They are on my list of monthly stops. Thank you for the informative reviews.

9/14/2011 07:47:00 AM  

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