Gavin Shinfield – bold or broken?

When we started out on the design for the new WXG site ( we decided that it was going to have a very stark and spare look-and-feel. We took our pointers from the giants of early 20th century type design and eschewed all ornament or graphics other than those required by the site content, and opted for a high contrast monochromatic palette. A bold statement we thought.

A screenshot of the homepage.

This is why you don’t see any photos or icons on the site, it’s as pure a typographic layout as possible. This thinking also inspired our choice of typeface, Neue Haas Grotesk (, the direct precursor to our beloved modern Helvetica. We opted for Haas as it seemed to lend the right feeling of modernist authenticity to compliment such a simple design.

The basis of a massive X forming the background and framing the layout gave rise to the panning canvas conceit. Now, this is nothing new, I think we all remember the over-engineered panning Flash sites from back in the day (Leo Burnett’s scribbling pencil et al) and how they wowed us then. But we were trying to do something a bit different, we wanted to build the site like this the right way, and make it accessible to all, combining this general idea with a responsive build gave us a few challenges.

Broken by design

One of the major decisions we made was to allow users to either use the main navigation and be whisked off to the content area of their choice, or to use the mouse/pointer/scrollbars to pan around the entire canvas. The major consequence of this latter decision is that some views that would normally only be seen as fleeting glimpses could be rested on by the visitor. This prompted some early testers of the site to say ‘It’s broken’.

Our response was, ‘No, it’s not broken. It’s meant to be like that’ – are we being hopelessly utopian in thinking that people won’t mind?

A screenshot of showing how it’s possible to scroll to an empty portion of the site.

We could have locked the site down and turned off scrolling, or we could have hijacked the scrollbar and forced the panning to run ‘on rails’ using a pre-built jQuery plugin, but we made the decision to leave it up to the user, after all who are we to dictate how people will use the site, and on what devices? Our mission is to innovate and build progressive online interfaces, usable by all and open to all.

What do you think, should we strive for pixel perfection with designer controlled views, or offer open, fluid web experiences that the user defines?

Tags: kyan, wxg, events, design

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Kinda looks broken to me...

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