I don’t have much to say about the visual design of the Gawker sites. I am a regular visitor of only one of them, and I usually visit from a desktop computer. I don’t have any trouble getting around the new layout. But Gawker made one big error, and that’s in the functionality for directing visitors who link to specific articles on a mobile device (at least, on iPad and iPhone): visitors ends up at a listing of headlines, which may or may not contain the headline that interests them. If they even know what that headline is, since they may have arrived from a shortened link in a Twitter message, introducing the article with a cryptic remark.
It’s fine to say, “Keep your hair on. They’re working on a fix.” or even “Sounds like you follow faux-clever jerks on Twitter.” You’re entitled to that opinion. But a basic principle of sound Web design is to make sure the user always has a “scent of information” to follow. If users find themselves someplace unexpected, a good design will help them on their way. And that’s just for people navigating the site. If they’re following links to specific pages, getting them there should be a no-brainer.
If a person follows a link to a specific page in your site, it’s just silly to think it’s perfectly fine to send them anywhere else. If your developer knows enough about the device making the request to shunt it to a different layout of the site, the site should be capturing enough about the link the user selected to get all the way there. If it dumps the user on a TOC page, your developer simply didn’t complete the job. And if hash-bangs, or whatever the new hotness is, don’t work well enough or consistently enough with the major pathways into your site, then maybe you should resist the temptation. Who knows? If an iPhone can’t find your page with your newfangled whatsit, maybe Google can’t, either.
Those of us who have been using mobile for a long time are familiar with this half-assed approach. We’ve been seeing it on television and newspaper websites for years, going back long enough that some of us could kind of understand why a Web team’s use cases didn’t capture us. But that’s not the situation today, even for those legacy outlets. So why would a new-media darling, which surely has a massive base of users on the current It Device, whatever that may be, repeat such a classic old-media mistake? Engaged audiences already greet redesigns with suspicion—why not take the time to make sure the functionality is solid?