Just like it’s easier to give advice to others than to receive one, we’re better at criticizing someone’s else designs than creating something perfect ourselves. But by scrutinizing the works of other designers we learn to look at things from a different perspective, we discover and refine our own style and we get a chance to analyze which elements of design are justified better than the others.
So while I’m working hard at completing the re-design of Inspiration Bit, I’m grateful to be given more opportunities to continue with my Design Critique series. This time, a very talented Simon Pascal Klein asked me to take a look at his wonderful creation—Klepas.org.
Simon Pascal is passionate about typography, and it definitely shows up in the design of his personal site. The clean layout is based on a strict four columns grid where the section in the middle spans over two columns. The typographic choice is very straightforward: most of the site’s content is displayed in Georgia, while Helvetica (with the fall-back to Verdana) is designated for auxiliary notes on the left sidebar and the introduction text in the comments area.
I like how Simon injected the site with a few personal touches like the Lion symbol on the homepage that represents his sign of birth (Leo), and the black&white photo with a cup of coffee that manifests Pascal’s love of java. He also started a very interesting sister-site inadvertently called Typenuts where he showcases some very curious and interesting typography-related finds, like the photo of “a personal letter, signed by Goethe”.
As much as I like the look and feel of Klepas.org, I would refine a number of things there:
One of the first things that caught my attention on this site was the use of the exact same fleuron in the date treatment as the one in iLT’s byline. Perhaps had I visited Klepas.org prior to seeing iLoveTypography, I would’ve simply noted an interesting ornament that goes really well together with the medieval and understated style of the site. Personally, due to an epic popularity of ilT, I would change it with some other decorative element, while sticking to the same classical feel.
An odd colour scheme
At first it appears that Klepas is adhering to a typical minimalistic colour scheme of black & white with one accent colour that becomes increasingly popular with many sites that focus on type and achieving a rich typographic colour rather than employing various hues of chromatic colour. But upon further exploration of the site we notice that besides the prominent red, Simon Pascal is making use of other colours to differentiate links from the rest of the content: orange for hover links and purple for visited links. To me this colour scheme looks slightly odd, the purple visited links look a bit displaced, what do you think?
Furthermore, I find it slightly confusing to see different link treatments in various parts of the content: some flash with a colour of orange on a hover, others simply brighten up from a light grey to a darker shade, while others display an underline.
Shouldn’t the note be noticed?
While I do like the attractive red fleuron that precedes the “notes” on Klepas.org, I don’t think that feature alone makes the notes distinctive enough to differentiate them from the rest of the content. Perhaps a slightly decreased font-size, or a lighter font colour, or some kind of thin line separators above and/or below the note would make the notes to stand out better.
I’m not a big fan of calendars on the blog’s sidebars, but I might be in the minority here. Nevertheless, I would’ve preferred to see a more original styling for the Calendar on Klepas. I like Rob Goodlatte’s approach to showing the dated archive on the sidebar.
Speaking of archives, one thing that I miss a lot on Klepas.org is the way to see some of the old content of the blog. I think new visitors to Klepas would really benefit from features like Related, Recommended, or most Popular posts, and Archives page (there is an Archives page for Typenuts but none for Klepas main site).
This is more of a personal preference rather than a critique, but I’d really like to see some added features that would allow me to instantly recognize the author’s responses from the rest of the comments on the blog. Right now all comments—visitors’ and Pascal’s—look the same. This is something that I’d definitely be adding in Inspiration Bit’s new design.
While I do like the way Simon styled the hanging bullets outside of the main content column, I think the bulleted lists would become more legible and easier to read with the added margin space between the list items.
I’m not expecting all of my suggestions above to be worthy of consideration, others might be okay with the way things are right now, but I hope Simon Pascal would find some of them helpful. Overall, I really like the classic vibe that comes from Klepas.org. The auxiliary notes on the sidebar that accompany Simone’s articles help to break down the reading of usually lengthy and always interesting posts.
What are your thoughts on Klepas.org? What would you like to see improved or changed on that site?