Wired redesign turns 3

Silently, and with no fanfare, the Wired News redesign of 2002 turned 3 years old a few days ago. I had to search my own site and find the entry, Finally, We’re Live, to confirm the date. I almost let it slip by without even thinking about it.

Not that there should be any fanfare around this. New Year’s and birthdays and anniversaries are just markers in time, milestones, giving us a chance to look back, remember the past, and plot how far we’ve come since then.

Not everyone liked the design. I read through a lot of criticism in the days and weeks following the launch. Some of the critics slammed our decision to support standards, claiming we “must be in bed with Microsoft“. Huh? Others chose to attack the visual design: “[Wired News] appears to be have been designed without benefit of a graphic artist…” Hmm, okay, guess I shouldn’t quit my night job then.

Reading through Eric Meyer’s interview with me on DevEdge is tough to do now. Seems like I knew so little back then. I was learning so fast, and was constantly discovering better methods, practices, and techniques. Immediately after the redesign, I wanted to go back and do it all over. To build it better. But I had to move on.

The original team that made that design a reality is long gone. Sadly, the current full-time editorial staff is stripped down to the bone. Glancing over the staff page, there’s not one employee with the title “Writer” or “Reporter”. And the list of contributing writers seems to be shrinking. Despite this, I’m happy to see Leander Kahney still faithfully churning out articles on Apple, Macs, and iPods, and blogging news and views in Cult of Mac.

We don’t point out validation errors on public redesigns anymore. We know a valid site is such a tiny part of any overall measure of success. Validation is something I only do on my own work now. That said, for a redesign that got so much attention for the jump into web standards and valid code, after three years of evolution and changes in staff, I was surprised to find only 7 validation errors on the front page (as of this writing). And those only consist of a missing type attribute on a <script> element, and several stray ampersands. Either means the existing team is still committed to doing things the right way. Or that the engineering team shaped and molded a solid content management system with rigid boundaries and enforcements.

Once every few months, I still get requests for the location of the original Wired News Design Documentation. Eric always told me I should expand it and publish it in a book. I never had the same confidence in it that he did.

Frankly, I’m surprised this design lasted as long as it has. Not many designs on the Web last for even two years. New technology arrives, methods change, marketing departments get itchy to create new messages, ad sizes change, designers like to rearrange the furniture. Somehow, it’s still there.

I’m glad this time marker didn’t completely slip by me unnoticed. It was an important milestone in my career. Soon after, I finally left Wired to dedicate my energy full-time to Stopdesign. Amazing that it’s been three years already. Yet that time period also feels like it was so long ago. Remember what was happening in your world three years ago?

We’ve learned so much in the last three years. But have we really even begun yet? With all this new potential in front of us, I think we have so much more to uncover.


  1. Russ Weakley maxdesign.com.au

    You are rather modest about it all, Doug. Wired was a major milestone for the entire css community. :)

  2. Abdelrahman Osama point-studios.com/

    It is a great design that deserves to live for 3 years and more. As well as all your work, no really ;)

  3. Caleb Jaffa porteighty.com

    Yeah Doug, I’d been into CSS and all that jazz long before, but Wired was the kick in the butt to really start using it for all it’s power for clients. If someone thought it was too bleeding edge to do, we could then point to Wired and say they did it.

  4. Ryan Christensen ryanpc.com/

    Ever since the launch those years ago, I’ve been continually satisfied with the redesign. I thoroughly enjoy reading reading content on the site, specifically because of the finely crafted presentation.

    It’s certainly interesting to look back & see how much the standards/web-design community has progressed in the last several years. (I’m even more interested to see where it will go from here…)

  5. Roger Johansson 456bereastreet.com

    Doug, the Wired redesign was something I learned a lot from. Like Russ says it was a major milestone, and like Caleb I had been using CSS for years, but reading about Wired was what really made me start using it. If I remember correctly I told you about this at @media ;-).

    So I’d like to say thanks. And is it really only 3 years ago?

    *checks calendar*

    Yes. Amazing.

  6. Rob Goodlatte ninjafire.com

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    You should feel very proud of your work with Wired – it’s a test case I’ve used time and time again when dealing with clients because it demonstrates the viability of css based designs. Wired, along with sites like ESPN, ABCNews, other DIG properties, etc really help me make my case of standards when dealing with reluctant clients/ bosses.

    Also, I really enjoyed your presentation from WE05. I’m not in the position yet where I can actually atttend these conferences, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the podcasts.

    Keep working on the next big thing.

  7. joel

    I think that the way that Wired’s design has kept with the times (a bit avant-garde to begin with, but now as common as a postmodern plug) shows exactly what CSS and good, solid markup was designed to do: stand the test of time the way proprietary things can’t.
    Wired does that and it looks like it’ll continue to do that. It still makes a great argument today, especially for its longevity, about getting rid of the old markup and getting into easily-maintainable (insomuch as anything as engrossing as Wired can be “easily maintained”) projects for the long haul. =)

  8. Dave S. mezzoblue.com/

    Three years ago now huh? Feels like a lifetime. I remember when the redesign first launched, my immediate thought was “Finally!” There was now a major commercial site that demonstrated that CSS was ready for prime time. It was an incredibly important turning point in the advancement of standards, and really got the ball rolling for the rest of us.

    And the design itself is aging incredibly well, it still fits like a glove. I’d hate to see any major changes at this point.

  9. Nathan Smith sonspring.com

    After having read your blog for some years now, and your interview in the recent Professional CSS book, I have to second what was said in the 1st comment: You are a surprisingly modest guy. Thanks for being one of the first lead the way out of the dark table-laden days!

  10. eric ericgideon.com

    I still think the Wired site is one of the best examples of corporate CSS design. The fact that it doesn’t really look dated at all is a testament to that. I agree completely: thanks for leading the web out of its cave.

  11. Dante pianoman.wordpress.com/

    Doug, this redesign of Wired that you did was truly the Cambrian Explosion of Web Evolution.

    Happy Anniversary.

  12. kevin klein

    you wear your modesty well – the meek truly shall inherit the World 2.0.

    it’s funny how the pot shots from the peanut gallery are always in abundance – and by funny i mean annoying. those who an axe to grind do it loudly, while those for whom a design was truly successfully quietly use a site with little or no fanfare.

    keep quietly blazing the trail – we are paying close attention.

  13. stephenblake

    A great design now and then, as inspiring today as the first day I saw it. Congratulations Doug.

  14. Joe Clark joeclark.org/weblogs/

    “Silently”? Oh, Doug, you dancing fool, you. Do Web sites squeak on their birthdays or something?

    That sound you hear breaking the silence is of a thousand metaphors mixing.

  15. eric ericgideon.com

    I think Joe’s Anniversary Squeak is a fantastic idea* that could become a popular feature! Perhaps in conjunction with a nice, subtle animated gif of a dancing fool. ;)

    * might need a catchier acronym than JAS, though.

  16. Felipe

    You wanna take a glimpse to the change, visit http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.wired.com

  17. I think we should have a huge, blinding explosion of a birthday party every time Wired’s redesign gets a year older.

    It’s the turning point around which we measure all Standards-based design. BW – Before Wired. AW – After Wired.

    Before it, tables and messed up code were A-OK. After it, you could never look at CSS the same way.

    Thanks for leading the revolution Doug, you monkey you. :)

  18. Scott Johnson speed.insane.com/

    Congrats, Doug! For any web design to last three years these days is quite an achievement. And it still looks good to boot. :) Here’s to another year or two on that design. And hopefully Wired will come to you for their next design as well.

  19. Ryan Oswald ryanoz.com/362/

    congrats Doug on all the achievements with wired! Its a very sucessful design. When you think about what makes it sucessful you have to consider that its a large site, updated constantly with fresh content and many many visitors. Any design for a major site such as wired.com that can endure for several years would have to be timeless, consistent, and functional and I believe that’s exactly what makes this design successful.

    I also enjoyed your WE 05 presentation, its so awesome to have the podcast and slides!

  20. Hargreaves nirbi.com/

    I’m still in love with your design. I visit Wired often enough and I’m still captivated by how polished it looks.

    It must be a great feeling to know how many people have enjoyed your work.

  21. Faruk Ates kurafire.net/

    I think the fact that it’s been around for 3 years is a great testimony to the quality of the design. Not saying it to suck up, it’s simply true that 3 years on the web is a really long time.

    Three years ago, I wasn’t even aware of CSS-based design, myself. I was one of those who had yet to be “converted” ;-) An event that didn’t come until only 2 years ago, even.

  22. Radovan Dzurcanin seo.mojeokna.sk

    It’s one of those designs “The more you see them, the more you like them…”
    Well, happy birthday anyway. I wish I was able to create such a great site!

  23. ihad ihad.de

    i haven’t been here in a while but have been dropping in every now and then over the past 5 years and the site has come a long way since! Congratulations to the anniversary!

  24. Cindy Li designrabbit.com

    All birthdays should be celebrated. Be proud of how far you have come. Joe’s right … you dancing fool. Do a dance! We know you can:)Congrats!

  25. Oliver Zheng mtsix.com/

    Wow Wired was made 3 years ago? I would never have guessed. I’m not a frequent visitor to wired.com, but I originally thought the “redesign” was recent. Happy birthday.

  26. Xan mudsplat.com

    For something that is three years old, it shows how revolutionary your work was then. The fact that it is still around, and very respectable is a statement unto itself, with Adaptive Path following suit.

    We want more!

  27. Ryan Boone deconai.com

    I had the pleasure of discovering your work through CSS Zen Garden, and IMO you are definitely a graphic designer.;)
    Anyway, kudos to you and your quest for standards support. One question, though, do you really only validate your personal stuff?:O

  28. Douglas Bowman stopdesign.com/

    Ryan: One question, though, do you really only validate your personal stuff?

    Actually, yes. At least I’ve found that to be true over the last year. I don’t care about validation of other sites anymore — it’s just for the things my company builds and creates and interacts with. I view validation as a quality control step, a means to ensure my markup is error-free so that CSS behaves appropriately, and in general, that I’m just doing the right thing.

    Oh, and I guess I’d also validate the sites in a contest if I were a judge. I’ve done that in the past. But beyond that, I could care less if NewlyDesignedSite.com is valid or not. There are other more important criteria. Does it work? Is it usable? Do I understand what I can do there instantly? Does it appear to be accessible? Can the type be sized up or down substantially without breaking the design too much?

    Validation for sites I don’t build rarely crosses my mind now.

  29. Greg Lippert

    You really are far, far too modest Mr. Bowman. You really revolutionized something that is used by everyone on a day-to-day basis. I think one day you may receive a Nobel Prize for this.

  30. Peter Asquith wasabicube.com

    I’m late to the party, but yes, congratulations indeed! And I’ll echo Dave Shea; I can’t believe it’s been three years and what a watershed the Wired News redesign was at the time. I distinctly remember feeling a wave of relief pass over me that a corner had been turned. I’d read Jeffrey Zeldman’s “To Hell with Bad Browsers”, in total agreement, the year before, but the Wired News redesign was the sign that a real shift was taking place. Fantastic.

  31. Zach byzach.com

    That was a real landmark, you are being pretty modest about it :)

  32. Caeté caetemh.com.br

    All birthdays should be celebrated. Be proud of how far you have come. Joe’s right … you dancing fool. Do a dance! We know you can:)Congrats!

  33. web@ack weback.batcave.net/

    You should be proud – blow your own trumpet, so to speak. Far too modest, a real achievment!

  34. Alberto efektomagazine.com

    It’s ok to be modest, at least for you, otherwise you would have all the right to become a complete show-off…

    The Wired.com website has been for me an whole subject of research, and when I found you told you wish you could go back and change a few things I started wondering: “Isn’t this thing a perfect website already?”.

    I would really like (and I bet most people here would too) to see a recap on the work done with Wired.com and your remarks on what would you change, improve and don’t use again.

    And for those who said the graphic designer thing: They really don’t know the whole concept of aesthetics. You do.

    Come on people, let’s encourage Douglas for that improvements analysis! Who else would do a better update on best web design practices?

  35. Ashley Bowers ashleybowers.com

    Congrats on 3 great years!! I like the design alot but know matter what you do there will be someone who has something negative to say about it.But you get 5 stars from me.

  36. Ed purpleporch.net

    No new post in over a month. Was it something we said? :(

    Seriously, hope all is well with you, Doug. Happy Thanksgiving.

  37. Árni Gunnar zeus.is/

    Man … I was bomshelled when I saw Wired for the first time. It just blew me away. I made several attemts to do this stuff, but failed. We were under immense deadlines at work and were not given time to discover new things.

    Now I could not do things any other way. Standards, accessibility and usability is not my new mantra.

  38. Xiaobing Shuai drshuai.net/blog

    Our company did a re-design that was standards-based, then passed off the job to someone who didn’t understand. I think this will make updates or upgrades difficult. “Standards” is a concept well-known outside web design, and anywhere, it makes sense to take the time to do things “right” with regards to an approach based upon established rules.

    I’m not a web designer, but admire your work. Kudos!

  39. I began learnin webdesign from zero one and half years ago. Nowdays I know much much more than I knew then(but still have lot to learn). I am not very proud to show my first site to somebody, but I decided not to redesign it. After all it’s my first baby. Maybe I will even frame screenshot in my room :)

  40. Anonymous baylormba.blogspot.com

    Wired did and still does have a great design. Are you working on any other major Web site designs?

  41. Helu. Firefox 1.5 flashes a warning triangle on your site saying there are errors in your code. Something about superflous divs :)

  42. Edgard Durand capmex.biz

    What I like most about wired site are the different color schemes used for different days of the week. Another good feature is the elasticity of the contents. Perhaps this design will become an icon. Who knows? Something like google’s design.

  43. Thanks for reading and inspiration in 2005.
    Wish you the best!

  44. Ganesh Roy mgmediasoft.com

    I got a problem reading the ‘Log Entries’ rss. It stops reading just before the “” in the sixth paragraph of ‘Wired redesign turns 3’. It seems in the html part there is no close tag “”. So the rest part of the page even can’t be seen. Any suggestion please?

  45. Ganesh Roy mgmediasoft.com

    Contents inside “” are omitted from my previous post. It’s ‘script’ and last one is ‘/script’.

  46. Nick Dunn nick-dunn.co.uk

    Wow, I can’t believe its been 3 years. It’s aged very well indeed!

  47. Stephanie stephaniesexton.com

    It seems like it was just yesterday and we were reading the first posts. Congrats on a great three years and I hope for many many more great posts and years!

  48. Mr. Khmerang khmerang.com/

    What happened to Wired lately?

  49. Jon Henshaw sitening.com/

    I can’t believe it’s been that long. I remember the redesign because of the awesome use of CSS. In fact, I used that site to help me learn how to do better CSS coding.

    Too bad it doesn’t pass the web standards based seo analyzer ;-)


  50. Felix auflex.org

    Good man, very good.

  51. John Smith wired.com/

    It would seem that Wired has mostly abandoned their web standards approach as of late.

  52. Aaron Jones


    it appears the lycos team finally took over.


  53. Thomas Higginbotham

    That’s a real shame. I checked out the validator results — there isn’t even a doctype specified. And tables again? A real shame…

  54. Mr. Khmerang khmerang.com/

    Where are you Molly?

  55. Sadish simpleinside.com

    Good work Doug.

    but at the same time, I would like to tell you that I am more interested to see your recent achievements, than the one you did three years back.


  56. Paul

    I believe the real reason the design has lasted so long is because Lycos has not the resources to redesign much of their sites (especially a big money loser like Wired News) for years. While I agree it is perfectly functional and elegant, their other properties are UI shambles and have looked the same for years, but not because they are well-designed.

  57. Patrick

    I have tried to contact StopDesign on numerous occasions.. has anyone else noticed that StopDesign keeps a blog – every month for the past three years then after October 2005 StopDesign has ( excuse the pun ) Stopped blogging? What’s folks? You alive? Got some great stuff here, hope things are okay. Why the absence?


  58. roger

    Indeed three months and no post… I guess they are just very busy…

  59. Speaking of Wired, what in all heck has happened to the design? In the past two weeks little tweaks have been slowly eroding its interface. Doug, your work was fantastic but something is getting smelly in its newer interface.

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