Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine


Dear Readers,

For a science magazine, even one as “deep” as Quanta, less is often more. After months of presenting an ever-increasing variety of content, from articles to interviews to columns to videos, interactives and podcasts, our site, QuantaMagazine.org, was growing heavy and cluttered. So in January we set out to refresh our design.

Our goal was to make it easier for readers to interact with the site and find what they’re interested in. Our art director, Olena Shmahalo, began by removing unnecessary graphics. “Cleaning up these items brings the focus back to the text and artwork,” she said.

Shmahalo also reduced the number of fonts to two, and each of them now appears in one of three colors, depending on the content type. “This should further help readers interact with the site by instilling a subtle but intuitive hierarchy,” she said. The article pages have also been opened up: The text is larger, and there’s now almost nothing in the side column to distract from the reading experience.

We didn’t only simplify the design, however — we also added something we hope you’ll find helpful: a global navigation menu at the top of the site which gives you quick access to our physics, mathematics, computer science, biology and multimedia pieces. You can search for a particular article or subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

While we referred to the project as a “mini-redesign” internally, there’s nothing “mini” about updating the design of an online magazine. Big thanks go to Olena Shmahalo and Web developer Michael Kranz. This is just the first step in our ongoing efforts to improve our site. We hope you like it, and thank you, as always, for reading Quanta.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Lin
Editor in Chief




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  • New design looks awesome! Dark theme switch would be helpful though.

    PS Font in comment field is 2x awesome

  • I like it! Looks good, loads pretty fast (but see below), no pointless clutter, and doesn't prevent the mouse selection or copying text like some other magazines insist on doing.

    Now onto the part where I try to give constructive criticism: you may want to take a look whatever image export settings you use when generating images for the website. The SVGs are nice and lean, of course, but the splash images of every article are a bit bigger than necessary. For example, the one for this article is 675 kB. Just opening it in GIMP and exporting it with default JPG settings cuts that down to around 220 kB, without obviously visible degradation, and that's a re-encoding of an image that is already a JPG! With some tweaking it could be even smaller, which the mobile crowd especially would love. With relatively little effort you could make your website even leaner.

    Saving a few hundred kilobytes might not seem like a big deal in 2016, but I'm inclined to agree with Maciej Cegłowski, who once jokingly said that if you are a mostly text-based website, you should not exceed in size the major works of Russian literature (unless it's really important to the content of the article)[0]. For the record, that average is around 800 kb, so you're doing pretty well, especially compared to many other websites. But hey, this look like low-hanging fruit, so grab it!

    (PS: This is as good a moment as any to thank the people at this website for being one of the few to provide decent RSS feeds; notably without images, which keeps the articles nice and lean but sometimes also means readers might miss out some information)

    [0] http://idlewords.com/talks/website_obesity.htm

  • On my Mac, using Safari and Chrome (OSX and W10) and Edge and IE11, the side bar (= most viewed, about quanta and stay connected) doesn't float to the right but superimposes itself on the main body of the text. That is true of all content pages (not homepage, obvs.)
    OH now it floats. Did you fix it while I was still typing?


  • Big thanks to you guys. The redesign just makes one of the best informative website better!

    Just as Sasha pointed out, it would be nice is there would be a switch between dark and light mode; and I agree with Job van der Zwan about the splash image.

    I would also like to see the text center-aligned (or better, hyphenated!), but YMMV.

  • Just to add an argument to my previous statement: the "A Timely Fix for a Grand Theory of Nature" article[0] opens with an image created out of layers photographs… and is saved as a PNG (a lossless, but MUCH bigger file format than JPG when dealing with *photographic* images).

    The PNG image is 723 kB.

    As a JPG with:
    – maximum settings: 477 kB,
    – indistinguishable with the naked eye even when alternating between overlaying images: 200 kB,
    – default export settings: 135 kB,
    – quality reduced to "invisible to the naked eye when compared side by side": 80 kB

    Note that this would save resources on the server side too: the images will take up the brunt of the bandwidth used when serving the website (as most other media are embedded links to other websites).

    [0] https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160311-a-timely-fix-for-a-grand-theory-of-nature/

  • The new look is not as good looking, useful, or efficient as the last look, keep trying, or better yet, just restore the last version. Sorry.

  • Think of selling your 6-speed manual transmission sports car after many years of daily use, and replacing it with a large mini-van for your family, with the gear lever on the dashboard. How many times and for how long will you catch yourself still reaching for the shift lever and hunting for the clutch pedal, until you adjust to your new vehicle? Similarly (but on a much simpler level) I found the "old" version of the Quanta site very clear, never off-putting, and very easy to use. It was a very good example of design simplicity, efficiency and clarity, and after extended and regular use, it was very easy to "drive", and I certainly knew what to expect. Today, the "test drive" with the new website makes me consciously aware of differences, but IMHO they are all good ones. I appreciate the thinking and design efforts that have gone into what I humbly submit are improvements in clarity, utility, and ease of use, while keeping those things that already work well. Congratulations to your team for very thoughtfully moving forward with Quanta.

  • My previous comment refers only to display on a tablet, which is the only place I normally view the site. Checking on my PC I find the new site to look quite good. It works.

    So, there's that.

  • I appreciate Quanta as a sort of succinct online 'Scientific American'. Especially appreciated is your approach quintessed by SM, as for the 'intelligent layman'.

    The clean design is especially appreciated when switching between large & small (mobile) screens.

  • Pleasant design, although the "old" look was not bad. Quanta is well worth reading in either case.

  • I never was good in "spot the difference". But the new design feels nice (too), with the bit larger font on the article page being my most liked part.

    There is one design point that I find, or feels, a bit odd. That's the different page-margin use in different parts of the Quants-site (viewed on PC, chrome browser).

    Especially the zero page-margin use feels a bit offsetting. Depending on the page-type (main/home, list, article) either the left or right side margin is zero. But the margin use also seems to be variable between different article pages (where some have the main-text bump up to the page border, which I think is not such a good idea.)

  • Forgot to make a note of my screen resolution, 1024×768. (mentioned gripe is of course not present in higher screen-width resolutions.)

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