3 lessons startups can learn from the infamous Gizmodo redesign

Gizmodo shipped their boldly redesigned home page February 7 amidst a sea of controversy. The redesign was almost universally panned by it’s readers and traffic dropped significantly. I decided to dissect Gizmodo’s redesign and distill three lessons entrepreneurs could learn from their mistakes.

1. Communicate clearly to your users

To understand how you were suppose to use the new site, Gizmodo put up a tutorial. If you must explain how to use a news website, you’ve probably blown it. The infamous Gizmodo redesign happened when designers and coders became more interested in HTML then communication.

When you’re building the UI and UX of your app, make it as simple as possible.

2. Multiple small frequent iterations are better then one massive change

Gawker Media (Gizmodo’s parent company) shipped their CMS with glaring bugs. Many users reported that pages weren’t loading, the scrollbars weren’t scrolling, and the site was completely useless without javascript. They could have very easily broken up the redesign into several minor improvements and rolled them out one by one.

It’s better to have fewer features that are ultra-polished then a big bag of crap.

3. Treat your users with respect

I stopped reading Gizmodo when they started to cover up their main stories with slide-down dynamic ads. You had to wait 5-10 seconds to even read the title of the first story to see if you were interested in reading it.

As Paul Graham said “Users are hovering over the back button [of their browsers]”. Don’t give your users a reason to leave your site immediately by disrespecting them with obnoxious advertisements.

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  • Rrrwound

    Good article. I stopped reading Giz because of the ad thing too.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not the ads that bother me, it’s the two scrollbars. I’ve seen that on other sites done really well, but I always feel like I’m “missing” part of the page on the new Gawker sites.

    • Anon29882

      I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but you’re right. It’s a very unsettling feeling.

  • Nick

    I almost hate to write this but I feel as though this site is already jumping the shark.

    What made the startup foundry great it’s first month was interviews and a focus on writing about new startups. Now a lot of the articles have seo friendly titles and have honestly very little quality content.

    I hope you focus more on the sites roots that everyone loved because you had something
    focusing on interviews and new startups. We can get this opinion type pieces anywhere.

    • I think there is room for advice on what start-ups should *not* do, even (especially?) from established players who make big mistakes.

    • Danzor9755

      Is your last name Denton?

  • Great article. The feedback loop is a hard thing to nail down for sure, especially since Gawker had their redesign active at beta.gawker.com for a while and half publicized it to get feedback. While I’m not totally against major changes, you should make clear WHY you’re doing it in a post that can be referenced and actively solicit and implement feedback from your users. Make sure your changes put you in a position to really make quick changes if there’s a backlash.

  • Plus, it didn’t help them that since they started using the #! url structure, which broke most short urls and redirects from mobile devices. Considering I use Twitter to browse the latest updates on my phone, this was a huge pain, and still is. Whenever I click a link, it just goes to their homepage and I can’t find that article anyway.