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Python.org Redesign Update 1: Addressing Design and UI

Project Evolution is making the Python redesign an open process. By that I mean we will be more transparent about the status of the site, what we are working on, what some of the current thinking is, and what the general progress is. Unlike the rest of the sites that we work on, which are only talked about once they have been launched, Python.org has a following and a large group of people that would like to know what is going on, and maybe even offer some useful feedback before it launches to the public.

We are very excited to be part of this great team, and we know that the community is excited as well. While we can’t help but to watch the comments roll in on forums like Reddit, we won’t get too bogged down with them either. It’s not useful to respond to every comment, as we will never be able to make everyone happy, but there are a few that we’ve read that are worth addressing.

Generally positive

First, on the positive side, everyone seems to be very happy that the UI and structure of Python.org will be addressed. Not many users out there are enamoured with the way the current website looks, and contributors to the content of the site are downright frustrated. Our favorite positive comment was from Cambridge_Shoulders:

Man, this is exciting! Like a new suit for my favorite language. Maybe I can bring girls to the site now. Permalink

Not all the negative commenters are trolling

There are also some negative comments that I would like to address, and only a few, for as I stated earlier, too much of this can drive a person crazy. First, this one from threading, which was somewhat echoed by other commenters:

To be honest, I didn't like this design. It looks like a website for a product or a startup. This is a "heavy" design and it's going to make website load slower. From the developer perspective, I can't care less if it's css-less plain HTML document as long as it does the job. This is going to be made for developers. It should be a simple design. Permalink

Python.org is not only for developers

In the forum thread, Jesse Noller followed this up quite nicely, but we would like to take this opportunity to agree. Python.org is not for developers exclusively. Of course, the community of active developers who support and evangelize Python is a key audience, but they are not the only audience. New users, including ones that are beginner programmers, IT professionals who need to support Python, and corporate sponsors are other key audience members. The new Python site needs to make the language accessible to a larger audience.

What this means in large part is that we will not touch the sections of the site that Developers hold dear. The documentation section, for example, will remain as is and focus exclusively on the documentation. No “heavy” design elements will be added.

Conversely, new sections will be added to address these new audiences, and other sections will get more real estate to draw more attention. The Success Stories are a great example of that – currently buried on the homepage, they will be given a top-level navigation spot to get the attention that they deserve.

Design is development, development is design

Any design needs to address and be cognizant of page weight – at Project Evolution, it is part of the design process, and not something that front-end guys pass off to back-end developers to let them worry about.

As far as “heaviness” goes when it relates to download speed, we have already put thought into page weight for mobile vs. larger desktop screens. There are new methods for making page load light and we are looking to Filament group's Ajax-include pattern as a model for our own progressive content methods. Beyond that, page weight will continue to be monitored and HTTP requests kept as minimal as possible.

Everything will be played out – Everything will be cool again

Other comments talked about the “played out” use of gradients and such in the current design samples. Let me be the first to say that gratuitous use of gradients and rounded corners, especially glossy effects, are on top of my list of hated things. But notice that I said “gratuitous use”. They are still useful design tools, and can add depth and distinction when used with the proper restraint. Its like anything else – these effects are a tool in the toolbelt. A hammer can remove a screw, but it will make a mess because it is not the right tool for the job. Use the appropriate tool when it is needed and not when it is not.

At the same time, while these effects might be thought of as “dated” and “played out” by some, we think of them as classic effects that have roots in design since the beginning. Just because they were suddenly so much easier to add to a project with the advent of CSS3 and have had wider use as of late doesn’t mean that they are no longer useful design effects.

And for those that gave us some of the examples of what they thought were new and cool sites that Python.org should emulate (the new Hulu, the new Ebay[1], etc...), let’s see what those sites look like in another year. We do not want to design a site so steeped in what is currently “new” that it looks dated in a few months, and we think that is what some of these examples are heading towards.

Heavy is not always a bad thing

Most of all, as in all of the work that we do, we wanted to impart a strength to the new site design. As much as this word can be used in a negative fashion, I think “heavy” can sometimes be a good thing (Heavy Metal is great!). Python needs to come across as serious, professional, and powerful. Some of the design elements in the header were intentionally made “heavy” for this effect. When the user gets down into the weeds, though, and is reading content, the heaviness is gone and the focus is on legibility and usability. In this way, we think that we can impart a strong brand presence in the site to make Python continue to stand out from the pack.

And for anyone who has missed it, we are going Mobile-first and future-friendly for the Python site. Project Evolution wouldn’t design it any other way.


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