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Woah. Slashdot-style.

My primary criticism is that it has an over-engineered look. That is  
to say, everything is in its own box, and boxes have more boxes  
within them. Intellectually, this makes sense, but artistically it  
looks anal-retentive. As a result, the design has a lot of whitespace  
gutters that push the eye in confusing directions. More specifically,  
I think the horizontal whitespace bands are more harmful to the  
design than helpful. I'd push the "News Updates Projects Meetings"  
block up to merge with the one above it. The same goes for the  
sidebar parallel to it.

Consider removing "top-level" boxes and titles. The titlebar  
"Navigation" is really superfluous; if you honestly have to say in  
your design "This is where you look to navigate the page", the design  
has failed to be usable. Neither Arstechnica or Slashdot title their  
various means of navigation because it's immediately obvious where  
that happens. So, instead, I suggest that the navigation menu just be  
there, on a gray or gradient background.

I think this also applies to the three-column box in the "News  
Updates Projects Meetings" section. Either remove the titles from the  
three horizontal columns, or drop the title bar on that section. As  
it is, it's a bit redundant to say what kind of information is being  
displayed twice.

For more on 'module madness' layouts, Design Meltdown (a brilliant  
web site, BTW) has a great list of successful module designs: http:// 
www.designmeltdown.com/chapters/ModuleMadness/

I'm sorry if I maybe came off to critical. I think it's important to  
throw out something, if only to get strong reactions from it. I  
really do think you could be headed in the right general direction,  
but have some scrubbing to do to make it a really clean and aesthetic  
web site. I have exactly the opposite problem when designing; I tend  
to settle on obsessively minimalist designs that are as unusable as  
overly complex ones, but it's because they're so empty of visual  
queues for the user to pick up on.

Nick

On Apr 27, 2007, at 9:18 PM, Michael Evan Karpeles wrote:

> Small update with the new CSSA Website template...
>
> I managed to design a beta template just so we have some idea how  
> everything will be structured. Right now the site linked is just a  
> graphic embedded in HTML. In terms of graphics, placement,  
> structure, etc; everything is subject to change. I just wanted to  
> throw something out there that we could all start on. If you have  
> any feedback, suggestions, or absolutely HATE the layout, make sure  
> to let me know!
>
> - Michael E. Karpeles
> Updates @: http://www.uvm.edu/~mkarpele/CSSABeta.htm