February 20, 2007

Comhaltas Redesign

This is just a brief note to help announce the Happy Cog redesign of the website for Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, an organization promoting traditional Irish music and culture around the world. I’ve written before about our two wonderful trips to Ireland to meet and work face-to-face with the people of Comhaltas, specifically our astute contact Breandán Knowlton. I’m not responsible for the design of the site (I did a comp, but it wasn’t chosen); that task fell on Rob Weychert. Dan Mall handily picked up the coding duties and Mark Huot customized an Expression Engine install to do cartwheels around the content. Last Thursday saw us marking the site launch with an open house in Philadelphia, joining the Comhaltas headquarters in Dublin and other regional centers to celebrate with some music and good company. There are a handful of photos on Flickr from the event for your viewing pleasure.

The website beautifully reflects where Comhaltas is heading, shunning clichéd Irish symbols and colors in favor of a more classic and historically inspired visual design. We did this to help the movement of Comhaltas into a more digitally advanced state, but also to preserve their strong link to the past and vital history of Irish culture (the site is served up in both English and Gaelic versions). We were pleased to be selected to work on this project, and very proud of the finished website. Since I’m not responsible for the final site, join the discussion on Rob’s and Dan’s posts about the Comhaltas redesign if you’d like to comment about the work, or read a more in-depth look at the efforts behind it on the Happy Cog site.

Commentary (25):

1. Colin Devroe says… feb 20, 2007 | 1:45 pm

This may have been discussed before (since I think I remember reading about the multiple layout submissions process) but what is done with the “rejected” designs?

2. Lydia says… feb 20, 2007 | 2:22 pm

Lovely solution. I have been called upon repeatedly to “global-ize” or regional-ize sites, adding cultural context but not being trite and obvious. I struggle each time and am impressed with this elegant design. Good work, again.

3. Owen says… feb 20, 2007 | 2:29 pm

That’s a nice design. And it’s always good to leave English behind occasionally to see what the Web makes of different letters and characters.

4. Kirk says… feb 20, 2007 | 4:58 pm

You boys just keep hitting them out of the park.

5. Don Crowley says… feb 20, 2007 | 5:04 pm

Great redesign. Amazing that Comhaltas and Happy Cog got together to do this! On the blog form the url field ain’t working though.

6. squeegee19 says… feb 20, 2007 | 5:29 pm

I have to disagree, sorry. I think the masthead area is really awkward.

I do like how you’ve laid out the real estate of the page, it’s very clean, and there’s nice use of typography as well, but the whole top area needs work.

I’m all for white space but it feels like a hole up top there right now…

7. Leonardo Melendez says… feb 20, 2007 | 7:38 pm

The masthead does carry a lot of white space. Maybe they’ll fill that up with ads or something. As it stands, it’s solid.

8. Dan Boland says… feb 20, 2007 | 9:54 pm

I totally disagree with the masthead complaints — I think the white space gives it some breathing room without looking sparse.

All in all, I’m impressed.

9. Blake Haswell says… feb 21, 2007 | 3:05 am

At first I wasn’t at all impressed with the Home Page, but when I went back I got a different image in the message DIV and it improved the feel of the page a lot. I guess that’s a disadvantage when using rotating images. ;-)

I do love the print stylesheet, though. Looks like a lot of thought went into that.

10. loops says… feb 21, 2007 | 5:37 am

Nice redesign!
Just one thing kind of bugs me visually. In IE6 the navigation seems to be showing 1 pixel of the knots background. It’s okay in FF.

No biggie :-)

11. DutchKid says… feb 21, 2007 | 7:18 am

Lovely site, esp. the typography is very elegant.

12. Don Crowley says… feb 21, 2007 | 9:35 am

squeegee19! You are entitled to think that there is a hole in the head :-) But I love the uncrowded space in the header. I think it is really well balanced. prrft! bloody gorgeous actually.

13. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 21, 2007 | 11:56 am

Colin Devroe:

This may have been discussed before (since I think I remember reading about the multiple layout submissions process) but what is done with the “rejected� designs?

The rejected designs just ride off into the sunset. Sometimes, if we have a good idea or concept that doesn’t get picked, it might find it’s way into another client’s design when appropriate, but I’ve never used a direct design from one comp to another. Every once in a while I may borrow a color or a style, but that’s about it, because our designs are tailored for the individual project and company.

14. Colin Devroe says… feb 21, 2007 | 12:02 pm

Jason Santa Maria:

The rejected designs just ride off into the sunset.

It’d be really sweet to get a glimpse of the “elephant graveyard” someday. Like confidential FBI files that are made public afer 50 years, perhaps you could choose a time-span that works for you that once a design surprasses that threshold, you post a medium-res screenshot of it, and explain it a little.

Just a thought. Thanks for answering my question.

15. Breandán says… feb 21, 2007 | 1:27 pm

Jason, I certainly don’t mind if you want to share some of the rejected ones! But that’s up to you.

Thanks again for building us such a nice site - I’m really looking forward to seeing where our membership wants to go with it.

Looking at my server logs, the new site is certainly resulting in considerably higher “stickiness” - people are coming and sticking around a while instead of showing up and immediately bailing. :-)

16. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 21, 2007 | 1:32 pm

Breandán: Maybe I will show the other designs someday, but definitely not now. I don’t want to take any attention away from the beautiful work that Rob and the gang did :D

17. Jermayn Parker says… feb 21, 2007 | 9:41 pm

I tend to agree with the points about the vast empty spaces of the header being a little too vast and empty. I like most people like white space but I think you can have too much at times.

The thing about this design is that the whole site is coloured except the header and to most people it would like the header image just did not load, it looks imo unfinished. Maybe if the borders were uncoloured or the header the same colour, it would not look like that.

In saying all that, I do like the design style and flow of the site.

18. squeegee19 says… feb 21, 2007 | 10:17 pm

… the vast empty spaces of the header being a little too vast and empty.

Well, at least someone around here has some taste and sense, with perhaps the exception of Don… just kidding!

Seriously though, I’d love to see a version of this site with the whole top chopped off. Right now it’s like a false masthead with, as I said, a big fat hole right in the middle. White space is always good. Always. But is has to be use properly and I’m sorry, Jason, it’s not being used well here.

Enough said on the matter though. I still love your site and much of the work you do… :)

19. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 21, 2007 | 10:24 pm

squeegee19:

But is has to be use properly and I’m sorry, Jason, it’s not being used well here.

I didn’t design it, Rob did… make sure to read my full post :D

With that said, I see where some of your are coming from, but at the same time, I don’t mind the space, or at least it doesn’t seem like a grievous error by any means. I like the way the space combined with the logo leads your eye into the page. This is definitely one of those cases I chalk up to taste.

20. Jermayn Parker says… feb 22, 2007 | 8:46 pm
Seriously though, I’d love to see a version of this site with the whole top chopped off.

I agree, I think if you did that, it would save real estate (which is important) and also the white space which a few of us do not like.

I would be interested to hear why the original designer Rob has the white space? Im sure their is a reason behind this and I wonder if he could justify why he did it.

21. Rob Weychert says… mar 1, 2007 | 12:02 am
I would be interested to hear why the original designer Rob has the white space? Im sure their is a reason behind this and I wonder if he could justify why he did it.

The ample whitespace in the header is simply the absence of everything that didn’t need to be there. With such a variety of visitor types coming to the site, I couldn’t afford to distract anyone from the two most important global site elements: the logo and the search form, which are strategically placed at the top left. The addition of the language switcher just below the logo makes an important statement about Comhaltas’s dedication to tradition, and the whitespace goes a long way to empower that statement.

If the utility nav (Contact Us, Newsletter & Feeds, etc.) wasn’t balancing it all out on the left, I’d agree that the whitespace was excessive. As it is, though, the header is doing pretty much just what I wanted it to do, and apparently what Comhaltas wants it to do as well.

I do appreciate the critiques and opinions, though, and certainly don’t expect to please everyone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everybody!

22. Jermayn Parker says… mar 1, 2007 | 1:07 am

Thanks Rob for the info and taking your time to tell us why…

I hope you do not mind but I agree that the utility nav and logo is balanced but I do not think the white space is balanced.

Please do not get me wrong, apart from this one little thing, I absolutely love the design. I guess its just something we will have to disagree on :)

23. Chris Byrne says… mar 7, 2007 | 7:30 am

It would seem that your work has caught the imagination of your competition in Ireland…

http://www.mneylon.com/blog/archives/2007/03/07/irish-state-funded-agency-sends-internet-business-overseas/

24. David De Beukelaer says… mar 24, 2007 | 9:28 am

with the most respect!

love and light
David & Frederik
http://www.kovver.com

25. David De Beukelaer says… mar 24, 2007 | 9:45 am

with the most respect!

love and light
David & Frederik
http://www.kovver.com