Guardian Unlimited has in the past week drawn a teensy bit of criticism from its readers over the redesign its new front page. Responding to the feedback today, the site’s editor, Emily Bell, noted a conversation she had with Jeff Jarvis about the allegedly declining importance of a web site’s front page.
I will probably never spend much time on the Guardian Unlimited front page, even though I think it looks great. It’s true that among the blogging, RSS-reading classes, web site front pages have become largely an irrelevance. But as Bell observes, it was the much larger contingent of more traditional web users who “threw an invigorating quantity of cyber-tomatoes in my direction last week”.
But every once in a while it’s worth stepping back and remembering how small the group of people who use the web in this way really is. Lloyd Shepherd, reflecting on all this, offers an important illustration of how thinly-distributed the future remains:
[F]or my 40th birthday, I had around 18 friends for a party. And I can say with some confidence that of these friends – graduates all, with very white collar jobs and nice middle-class incomes – of these friends, only one, perhaps two, have a MySpace profile, a blog, an RSS reader. They’ve never heard of last.fm or 37 Signals. Hardly any of them even have a personal email address, but the ones that do have the one that was given to them by their ISP. And when speaking to them I realise that I live in a rather odd world where all these things are very important, but that this world is much smaller than the one where none of them matter at all.
… So let’s remember, when we’re designing, we’re not just designing for saddoes like me. And front doors are still, therefore, important.
I’ll be bearing this in mind, since much of my time this week is also dedicated to fretting over the imminent relaunch of a web site (including its front door). Tomatoes are likely, there, too.