Ben Brooks launched a redesign of his website today, with a noticeably unorthodox omission: his logo.
The truth is that I dropped the logo on accident when I was designing the new site (forgot to paste back in the relevant code) and I kept designing without it. Then I realized it was missing and added it back in, hated it, and I removed it again — this time on purpose.
Unlike the Verge design, I’ve got nothing but praise - save maybe for the strange indentation of his Fusion ad - for the new Brooks Review. Logos on text driven websites serve almost no purpose and the new Brooks Review is significantly improved without one. The focus is now squarely on Brook’s writing, where it should be. That is precisely why the recent redesign of Smarterbits did away with it’s entire header beginning last week.
Brook’s may have stumbled onto this idea by happenstance, but removing the header and logo from my site was entirely intentional. As someone fancying themselves a writer, the Smarterbits brand should be the voice and quality of my writing, not my fantastic vector imaging skills. Besides, as many other tech writers can probably attest to, a large portion of my audience reaches my content not by navigating to my site, but through an intermediary like Reeder or Instapaper. Having proper branding on those intermidiaries is essential because that’s the easiest way for users to identify my content from among the many other authors in their RSS feeds or reading lists. If you follow a link to a new article on my site from my Twitter feed, its own branding is already alerting you to precisely who’s site you are being taken to. What’s the use for a giant banner on the top of my website to remind you what you already know?
Paying attention to reading habits and web design reveals exactly how wasteful a header can actually be. After adapting Frédéric Filloux’s study on advertisement’s effect on desktop web design, I realized that my own header was taking up half the screen real-estate on my iPhone, plausibly making it unclear to visitors exactly what they had landed on. Never mind advertising, my own branding was negatively affecting the functionality and purpose of my site. Considering that mobile web browsing is - I’ve read - rather popular these days, it felt rather uncouth that my site should render so poorly in that particular area. Rather than reducing its size, I simply decided to be done with it entirely. In doing so, it became impossible to justify its presence on any other version of my site. Now, anyone visiting Smarterbits, from any device, is greeted first and foremost with legible content and clear links to additional information from an un-intrusive navigation bar.
Having people know that I’m the author behind the content is a secondary objective; it’s something that occurs organically over time. Someone who finds my site but doesn’t enjoy the content or must waste time finding it isn’t likely to bother caring who’s behind it , other than to complain perhaps, no matter how beautiful the branding may be. And they certainly won’t come back or follow a link back to my site. On the other hand, someone who does enjoy reading what I have to say and has a pleasurable experience doing so is more likely to come back regularly, read more content, and share it with others - regardless of whether there is a logo or not to greet them.
I rather spend my time ensuring the latter scenario.
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