Denton addresses controversial Gawker makeover, details ‘bug fixes’

Nick Denton has finally acknowledged the backlash from Gawker’s controversial site redesign, in a lengthy post that rubbed a few commenters the wrong way and didn’t seem to deliver much word of actual improved functionality.

Denton’s tone suggests perhaps the issues weren’t so much with the site’s frankly awkward design (although there were dozens of “bug fixes,” he admits) but rather that people just aren’t seeing the vision. He begins by explaining that the site’s lack of official word on the backlash was because they were getting a bigger picture of user opinion on the site’s function:

I should first explain the radio silence of the last couple of weeks. We’d wanted to respond to feedback not with promises of future improvements but with actual fixes. So that’s what I’m doing now—but I regret any impression that we weren’t listening.

The post outlines several revisions of the new Gawker, but comments like this from Denton didn’t go over well with remaining readers, many of whom (myself included) use the Canadian Gawker site to bypass the redesign:

News web sites may indeed become more application-like and readers may grow accustomed to swiping instead of scrolling. But they’re not there yet, as the extensive criticism of the sidebar made clear.

Amusingly, the comment thread brought out some of the old-Gawker snark that has been missing in the comments since the new Gawker stumbled into being. One commenter said:

This thread is like finding a surprise packed disco in the bowels of the Marie Celeste.

In an email to staff, Denton described the new layout rollout as “more bruising” to both Gawker media staff and readers than was necessary, and describes the impact on traffic:

Obviously, the reduction in traffic from Google — as from most design changes — has been significant. It doesn’t affect readers of the site — but it does have a disproportionate effect on uniques. Search optimization of the new layout is a top priority.

What I personally find most interesting about all the redesign hand-wringing is the reader response, which seems to be very old-school message board style. The bastard child of the new layout and ensuing outcry is a snark-site called crasstalk.com, and many of the site’s top commenters have apparently fled for good in favor of it, much like what often occurs when a big message board melts down:

I haven’t been back there since about a week after the glitchy new format hit. I – and about 200 of Gawker’s best and most loyal commenters – are now over at www.crasstalk.com, where we get to not only comment but contribute to the site by writing posts on a variety of interesting subjects.

So, who’s right? Are readers just too pedestrian and behind the times to “get” the new Gawker, or was the site a tone-deaf interpretation of what Nick Denton imagines the future of blogs to be? Do you think the readers and commenters that fled are gone forever?