A design critique of Svbtle

Before accepting Dustin’s offer to join Svbtle, I spent years trying to refine my blog. Much like a disgruntled teen, I struggled with my image. It took a long time for me to realize that more often that not it’s the subtleties — or should that be the svbtleties? — of an experience that define the experience. Every detail of the medium should exude the mentality of the message, it should be apparent while non-obvious. Having control of these details has long been dear to me, and with that I shall express my optimistic frustration with having relinquished the sovereignty of my blog over to the Svbtle network.

Format #

With the increasing variety of screen formats, I find it difficult to reason a far-left aligned website. This, after the Kudos button, is perhaps my biggest concern regarding the Svbtle experience. With a left aligned website you’re forcing readers to turn their heads from the naturally relaxed forward-facing position to the flexed left-turned position. I genuinely find it uncomfortable and often move the left side of my browser to the center of my screen. Not ideal. I’ve quickly mocked how a centered layout might look. This scales beautifully between mobile, tablet and desktop.

The centered alternative solves a whole manner of problems. Firstly, the identity of the writer is established right away (hover logo for name and tagline), high definition videos look brilliant, Soundcloud embeds can stretch the full expanse of the window, photos never look out of place and most importantly the visual flow of information on the page is congruent with the cognitive flow of information in our mind. Consuming stories top-to-bottom in a linear manner is far more pleasant than jumping between meta-data on the left and a kudos button on the right, all the while trying to focus on an article that is just slightly off-center.

Not to mention, these 700px wide images I’m using to illustrate my point would sit perfectly centered throughout a 500px wide paragraph. Right now, they stick out like sore thumbs

The Kudos button #

My position on this is simple. Much like those wretched social proliferation buttons, the Kudos button is neither beautiful or useful, perhaps even distasteful. The Kudos button is reductive to the experience; for both the reader and the writer. The Kudos button converts readers into a cheering crowd of cohorts and the writer falls prey to the unavoidable and illusory pursuit of ‘social approval’ that is by no means sufficiently equipped to gauge the sentiment of thought. Apart from Light — and even this is debatable — I can’t think of a single thing in our earthly world that moves in a constant one-way direction. Perhaps an Up-Down voting system could work, but an irretractable ‘Kudos’ is positively irrelevant to the entire experience. I’d say lose the dead weight before it becomes a bigger issue. Personally, I’d much prefer a thoughtfully designed commenting system that a writer could mute when necessary.

I used to blog on Tumblr a lot, and I loved it. I was optimistic about posting and I would do so on a near daily basis. However, since switching to Svbtle I’ve been timid about posting, and I think this is because of the reasons I’ve highlighted. The left-aligned format is heavily anchored in the corner, and the Kudos button turns it into a casino. Ultimately, I feel the suggestions I’ve made maintain the integrity of Dustin’s vision, while refining the experience for readers and writers alike. I’d welcome discussion here, but there’s currently no way of doing that.

Hacker News will have to do


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