There’s some hullaballoo over this insanely long and diversely designed article on the death of the blog post. Jason Santa Maria, one of the first to talk about this, calls it “art direction in web design”. Smashing Magazine calls it the “blogazine” trend.
And while many people, like me, are thankful this discussion has reached mainstream status, since Smashing Magazine is one of the hottest web properties out there, and their word is basically gospel for a lot of people, others found problems with its actual message.
Let’s start at the very beginning. The title and first paragraph alone make the likes of Shaun Inman cringe:
ugh, I don’t think @smashingmag could have missed the point more. http://shaun.in/g/3j Design for content’s sake, not design’s sake.
Although original talk of art direction laments the lax in creativity that has stemmed from the death of hand-coded personal pages and the rise of automated content management systems that power blogs, I don’t think you should attack the blog post format just because it looks boring. Unfortunately that’s how most people understand the purpose of design—to make things look more interesting, and little else.
Pushing yourself to create original layouts and designs customized to the content of each post is a fascinating and entertaining way to build a blog. […]
Designing a creative layout for each new blog post, based on the content itself, requires skill, patience, dedication to the content and, most of all, effort on the part of the designer!
Those are pretty good reasons for pushing a custom layout reminiscent of magazine design, but there needs to be more. That’s why it’s important that the term “art direction” should be the term used. It’s more than just a trend. It’s actual understanding of how content—text, images, video, numbers—can be arranged so that it is consumed effectively.
Ironically, many have complained that the article itself is difficult to read. Throwing chunks of content around and away from the typically linear layout for the sake of demonstrating your point is not going to cut it. If people have more trouble reading this way, your design failed and you’re better off dropping the embellishments.
I think overall, Smashing Magazine did a noble deed in introducing the concept to the masses, but it needed to be a little more refinement than your run-of-the-mill list article. The upside is, their topics are certainly leveling up, as with a lot of things in web design these days.
Is this art direction/blogazine “trend” the future? Maybe, maybe not. It’s great to look at the long history of print design and try to apply some part of it to web design, but the best thing about the web—its dynamic nature, from clicking and scrolling to serving API calls and database queries—should be factored in too.