Nip/Tuck For Romenesko; Beta Launch of New Poynter Site

poynter082508 Nip/Tuck For Romenesko; Beta Launch of New Poynter SiteThis weekend, The New York Times‘ ‘Social Q’s’ columnist Philip Galanes received the following question:

An acquaintance had her breasts enhanced. She never announced the fact or discussed it. Should I have commented on her new look the first time I saw her? She hasn’t sought my opinion, so I’ve said nothing. But it seems odd to me.

A tough question for sure, and the lawyer-novelist-interior design consultant -turned-advice columnist has some choice advice ("I’d avoid a direct reference to her chest and make a general-purpose compliment instead, like ‘You’re looking awfully well today.’ She’ll understand the coded message…"). But what if a Web site you’re acquainted with has some work done? What are you to do then?

Journalists who click on Jim Romenesko’s Poynter Institute-hosted media news blog may notice that site has undergone a dramatic redesign. This weekend, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan noted the new look and wrote:

Romenesko, the quintessential journalism news site, has redesigned itself from a green-and-muted brown palette to a green-and-black palette. Is this the end of our hero? Eh.

Bill Mitchell, the Poynter Institute’s director, explained via email that the site’s facelift is far from an overnight change. As far back as December 14, 2007, the Institute’s been floating design concepts and soliciting user comments.

"Among the 38 comments posted to that item and sent via e-mail was the suggestion that we make it easier to find Romenesko from elsewhere on the site," Mr. Mitchell told Media Mob. "We paid attention. We made Jim part of the main navigation of the site. Since then, about 1,100 people have joined our alpha group, many of them chiming in with suggestions."

Why redesign now? "We were overdue. We’ve added a lot of content to the site since we last did a significant redesign nearly six years ago. We’ve been hearing from people for a long time that there’s a lot of valuable stuff on the site, but they have a lot of trouble actually finding it. We’ve tried to address that with a cleaner, clearer design and navigation. We’ve also introduced advertising—both help-wanted ads for journalists and display ads—and needed to do a better job incorporating those ads in our pages."

As with any redesign, the Institute risks alienating its core readers. In 2002, Mr. Romenesko’s blog underwent a redesign that offended many longtime readers. As Mr. Romenesko told Media Mob, "This is the third major redesign of my page and it’s safe to say that all of them were heavily criticized when launched. Many readers loved this version of my site and screamed when it was updated, which is hard to believe now." (Remember how upset readers were when Salon redesigned in 2005? Of course you don’t.)

"We hope readers/users will appreciate the improvements, and feedback so far indicates that a lot of them do," Mr. Mitchell wrote. "We know we can’t please everybody, though, and will do our best to listen to critics, especially critics with specific issues or suggestions."

Even if they just say, "You’re looking awfully well today."