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.

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:

  • Déjà vu

    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.

    klepas_fleuron ilt_fleuron

  • 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?

    klepas_palette

    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.

    klepas_notes

  • Calendar styling

    klepas_calendar 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).

  • Comment wish

    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.
    klepas_comments

  • Bulleted Lists

    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?

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19 Insightful Bits in response to “Design Critique: Klepas”

  1. This is an excellent critique; you’ve made some good suggestions and raised a few interesting points here. The mostly black-and-white scheme, plenty of whitespace, and excellent typography gives it a very elegant and clean look. I like it!

  2. Simon’s blog is real treat to look at even though there are certain improvements to make. But where aren’t? After 5 months I’m still working on my site so I can understand that the way to perfection or at least personal satisfaction may be long.

    I agree with few things you pointed out though. The colour palette surely needs a revision. I love the mix of black and red on white background—it’s the rest I’d change. I’d also get rid of the calendar—not many users actually use them. Other than that I’d add some extra white space below the footer, but it’s rather a personal preference.

    Another great read Vivien! Thanks a lot!

    BTW: When can we expect to see inspirationbit redesigned? ;-)

  3. Nice critique you have here.

  4. I love Simon’s site. I want that lion! First (well, second really, because I mentioned the lion), I like his style of writing. I also like the simplicity of the site and the general colour scheme.
    I think most of your criticisms are valid though; I’m no fan of calendars either—mostly because they’re so difficult to format nicely.

    Oh, and about the leaf ornament (the name of font from which it’s taken escapes me), I’ll be changing mine soon.
    Great article, Vivien.

  5. Thanks, Mike. Glad you found my suggestions interesting, and glad to see another fan of Klepas. Big future awaits this blog, I’m sure. Oh, and good luck with your site’s design.

    Piotr, you’re absolutely right, there’s no such thing as a perfectly designed site. Mainly because the tastes of the creators and visitors can be very different, and also because our preferences as designers change faster than a chameleon changes his colour.
    Good luck with your new blog’s design. I really look forward to seeing and reading it. And I promise you’ll see the iBit’s new “face” before the school bell rings this September ;)

    Thanks, Eftu :)

    John, it’s hard to believe, but we were commenting on each others blogs at the same time. By the time I submitted my comment on iLT, I got yours on iBit. Spooky ;)

    I too liked Simon’s lion very much. I forgot to ask whether he drew it himself, did you, Simon?

  6. Hey all,

    Thanks for the kind words, both in praise and criticism. I already noted Vivien that the moment I “finished” klepas.org v2 I already had a lengthy list of things that quietly irked me or features I wanted to add. I agree with Piotr: a website is never really complete or finished—they’re as evolving as the content they hold and should evolve stylistically and aesthetically to best match new additions and changes.

    Regarding the points you made:
    • The leaf fleuron was quite blatantly copied from iLT, so Johno is to thank for that one. I didn’t have a font family or ornamental font at the time I created v2 and didn’t have the guts to create one myself. That fleuron will definitely be retired for v3; it’ll either be replaced or omitted;
    • The hedera I use for paragraph notes is from Minion Pro by Robert Slimbach—a typeface I use generally for all my printed works. I dabbled with it as soon as I had my first Mac and was sold and delighted to see The Elements of Typographic Style set in it. I think the only problem with this as a notifier of additional thoughts or peculiar information is that the paragraph they mark are often in my writings too long—I’m going to focus on cutting notes down to one or two lines, which should let the eye find the following paragraph of the main text;
    • Yeah, the current colour scheme is quite embarrassing. I picked the purple without much thought when I added :visited styling for accessibility. I’ll fix that soon. I want to evolve the colour palette for v3, still keeping the reds, oranges and possibly mixing some yellow—all fiery colours that I think match a lion well, particularly in the context of a star sign;
    • I think you guys make good points against the calendar appearing so high in the sidebar—I’ll be moving it to an archive page…
    • …which leads onto an archive page: definitely noted for v3;
    • Valid point regarding entry author comment identification. I originally thought about adding it (in fact it was already present as part of the Sandbox) but thought it was “an elevation” above the other comment authors. *Shrugs*. I can see the reason behind it though—seeing where Johno replies on iLT is handy;
    • I’ll play a lot with the list typography of v3 and as you noted, probably give them the benefit of a slightly larger leading.
    • Footer white-space—thanks Piotr, good point. :)
    • …and finally, regarding my little guardian, the lion: no, I didn’t draw the fellow. I found it one day by accident in the Open Clip Art Project repository and instantly fell in love with him.

    Thanks again. I really look forward for the new inspirationbit.

    Kind regards.

    —Pascal

  7. In my opinion Simon’s site is okay, but truly there should be some changes done. I don’t like the color scheme, it’s too monotone, so it looks a bit boring, but all in all Simon’s site is well done.

  8. What a great article, we are currently considering a re-design and it was helpful to see you how you critiqued klepas.org by breaking down the elements.

    I really like the clean and crisp look to Simons’s site, it’s easy to read and use.

  9. I’m so glad I’ve started the Design Series, it’s so great to discuss the design choices, and bounce the ideas back and forth. I can’t wait to complete ibit’s re-design and get some feedback and critique from everyone.

    Pascal, thanks for getting back with such a detailed response. Glad you found this review useful. I look forward to Klepas v3.

    Warenwirtschaft, I agree, it’s a very professionally designed site, though the colour scheme needs to get liven up a bit. I’m curious to see what Pascal will come up with in that regard.

    Thanks, Lucinda. I already like the design of your site, can’t wait to see what will be the next incarnation of EightyOne design. Good luck with it.

  10. I was going to say I kind of like the colour scheme, even though Pascal said he doesn’t. When you put the colours next to each other I wouldn’t have necessarily liked it, but I think it’s kind of good to have something a little unexpected on a site. Otherwise it’s not as memorable.

    Good critique Vivien, and a testament to how well designed the site is that they’re relatively minor details that you’d change.

  11. MP

    Lovely critique Vivien, I have no doubt it will help out Simon’s website in the near future. Thanks for reviewing my site too, and thanks for a blog that offers solid substance and dialogue. Cheers.

    -MP

  12. Thanks, Kristarella. I agree that it’s nice to come across to something unexpected on a site, but if that something unexpected also looks great is even better. If that purple link was a different shade or a more suitable colour, I would’ve praised the risk, but that purple link simply looked as a leftover from the standard link colour scheme of blue for active links and purple for visited. So I was glad to read that Pascal is re-thinking his colour scheme for v3 ;)

    Thanks, MP. I’m glad you’re enjoying my articles on iBit. You’re very welcome for my email review of your site. Thanks to you, I’ve discovered another interesting CMS Indexhibit.

  13. Good review. I think it’s a nice site overall, although the one thing I dislike is the use of all-caps at the top in the navigation bar, and the site title. I think it looks sort of out-of-place, but maybe that’s just me.

  14. Thanks, Josh. To me the all-caps in the menu items and the site title look fine, they actually give the site its classic feel. Actually A List Apart is using all-caps in the navigation bar as well.

  15. just found your blog…nice & unique…i’m trying to understand all the stories & info given..

    i think Simon site’s quite nice…thats my opinion

  16. hi
    what an in-depth design critique.
    feel free to check it out.still there’s lot of weaknesses.

    by the way i wonder why does the link on your sidebar doesn’t look good on IE7?

  17. Well said that a site is never completely done, it can always be made better with small changes. Overall the site is good but with the changes as you have mentioned it might look even better.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach programming, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on