A New Look for Feld Thoughts

Every few years I update the look and feel of my blog. This year is a significant upgrade, both on look and feel as well as the entire back end infrastructure.

In the past six months, I’ve started to notice complexity creep into everything in our world. While design is still front and center for many developers and entrepreneurs, I’ve gotten tired of the overwhelming UIs, confusing UXs, and immense complexity under the hood. It’s kind of like a calendar that just keeps getting stuff added to it – all of a sudden you are busy for all of your waking hours with meetings, and have no time to really get any work done.

We took a completely bottoms up approach this time and started from scratch. We tossed everything out and rebuilt everything – the infrastructure, the blog, and the design – from the ground up.

A thing you probably won’t notice, but is the starting point, is that we’ve moved feld.com to Pantheon. We are investors and love the company. The only thing you should notice is lightning fast response all the time, regardless of traffic load. If you ever notice anything different, please tell me.

Next, we approached the design from a minimalist perspective, which is coming back into vogue in a lot of places. My blog was starting to feel like a Geocities site to me, with all kinds of additional crap on it beyond my writing, and I decided I just wanted it to focus on my writing and my community in the comments. I copied Fred Wilson in this regard as he made this shift a while ago. After looking at many popular blogs, I kept coming back to his approach.

We’ve tried to do this in a way that keeps the writing front and center but still has easy access to other things on feld.com. On the left is site specific stuff, such as additional feld.com content (About, Investments, and Marathons), clear discovery (Search, Categories, and Tags). On the right is post specific actions (Comments, Category for the Post, Tags for the Post, and Sharing options.)

If you want to subscribe to anything or follow me anywhere, that’s on the top right.

We’ve also rebuilt the data underlying things from scratch. We’ve gotten rid of a ton of plug-ins that either weren’t being used or didn’t add anything (other than slowing the site down). We worked hard on a site that could be viewed on any platform, regardless of browser or mobile device. And we’ve tried to keep the principle of clean, minimal, and readable – with the focus on the content – throughout.

I’m sure there are many, many things we could improve. As I roll into 2015, we are going to finalize this theme with your feedback, and then apply it to all the other active sites in our universe, especially StartupRev.com which desperately needs an overhaul.

So – comment with any feedback you have – good, bad, and other. Constructive or flamey. In the comments, or via email to me. And, if we blew it, we’ll keep iterating.

  • Much better!

  • Looks great Brad. I like the layout; my only negative comment would be that I often find grey-on-white text on blog posts hard to read in some lighting conditions. Usually I get around it by just manually highlighting the text and then reading it that way, but if I’d make any changes it’d be to make the grey text a few points darker.

    • Thx Alex. I heard that from Bart Lorang last night also so my guess is we’ll need to darken some things up.

      • Agree with Alex. But overall, love the simplicity of the new site.

  • Looks great on the phone!

  • looks awesome. The real question is how many readers know what Geocities is? 🙂

    My only feedback is that when you click the menu/hamburger icon, it would be nice if it closed once you click anywhere else on the screen (except the links of course.) You have to navigate back up to the icon to click it again. minor point.

  • TamiMForman

    Brad — Love it. Very fresh and modern. And I actually get the Geocities reference. 😉

    My only suggestion would be to consider bringing back a little bit of imagery to warm it up. It’s a bit stark. Some photography could make a big difference. A great cover photo and maybe one on each of the category pages, for example.

    But the simple, clean look is great. Good job!

    • I’ve been wrestling with that. Bart Lorang also suggested that last night. On the list to ponder.

  • yazinsai

    I love it! I’ve always been a sucker for minimalist sites and this looks sick.. it’s like there isn’t a single image on the page, and I love it.

  • RBC

    Hey Brad – ha, i opened it up and did a double take on the URL as it didn’t look familiar. Once I realized I was in the right place I have a few thoughts:

    Love that you’ve stuck with WordPress – rock solid and does nearly everything needed.
    Maybe add a category on the left for video, I think it is a different way of communicating and would be nice to have all the videos you’ve posted, or feature on in one place.
    More orange – you made it your signature color, I’d use it more either for text or at least headers.
    Speed – shazzam, site load is extremely rapid
    Comments – you moved them to the bottom of the page which i’ve been advocating for a while (thank you!). Noticably slower load time for the comments than the rest of the site. A lot of people come here to write too, so perhaps you can preload the comments on the most recent blog?
    Picture – ala Fred or Guy Kawasaki, one go to image that humanises you!

    overall: A

    • Video – great suggestion.

      Comments – pre-load – I’ll look into that.

      Picture / Photo – yup – multiple suggestions on that already – I’ll +1 for you!

      • RBC

        you’re a larger than life character – hard to capture that in a minimalist design – perhaps the new hero banner ala LinkedIn

  • I like it BUT you need a dash of color somewhere. Maybe your art avatar?

    • Maybe – good suggestion – a few people have already said “how about some photos…”

  • crainbf

    I approve of this blog’s new design

  • Love the minimalist design but my eyes are straining to read the body copy.

    • Is it the color or the font? Or both?

      • Love the font. The color. Comes off as a screened back black vs. a gray to my eyes. This is on my MacBook Air. On my moto g the color is much better (i.e. deeper) but the font size is too small. Hope that helps.

        • P.S. I think Medium.com as struck a perfect balance between laptop gray font and mobile font size. IMO.

      • Agree with Douglas… for me it’s the color – needs stronger contrast for better legibility.

      • The key metric for me is characters per line. I’ve read that ” 35–40 characters per line on a typical smartphone seems to me to provide the best balance for more legible and readable text.” And I totally agree. I find that with any less characters per line, long posts (which you excel at) are almost to read and comprehend.

  • I like very much the simplicity. The only way to deal with the growing complexity of the digital environment is to make every single service the simplest possible.

  • Looks great, Brad. I love the simplicity. Per folks’ comments on the lack of color, one option could be simply to reverse the onhover pattern on your top left logo. Make the word “Thoughts” orange by default and grey onhover.

    • Good suggestion.

    • EnriquezZ

      @you My last pay <-check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour's sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out..

      Going on
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      {more info look at any link in this link}

    • MildredDillard

      @wmoug:disqus My last pay <-check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour's sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out..

      Going on
      Here ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­I ­­­­­­­­­started—– http://MillionGoogleJobs$$$$…..

      {more info look at any link in this link}

  • *KISS*. I like

  • Jeremy Shure

    Looks terrific Brad. Love the minimalistic chic feel.

  • Mmm… to be honest I’m not a big fan… I was thinking recently about which tech blogs have a strong visual identity and yours was a great exemple ! Your brand is very much associated with Orange/Black/White to me, and the font you used. It’s a pretty rare thing to build, it takes time, and I would try to carry that “heritage” one way or another if I were you, even if you make changes (I see that there is some orange in the Disqus comments though)

    Except that, the layout/structure looks great and it does load fast. Like one other commenter, I also find it a bit difficult to read grey over white (especially on my Mac often at max brightness) so maybe you can make it a darker grey in the articles.

    • Sounds like at the minimum I need more orange!

  • Big improvement. I took a very similar approach with my personal website. http://www.geoffreyweg.com.

    A few suggestions:
    – 1) The “Categories” and “Tags” font feels too prominent. Perhaps make them smaller.
    – 2) Use a search bar instead of the word “search.” Personal preference.
    – 3) Bio and social links at the top feels weird. Along with the left and right sidebars, it adds to the clutter (yes, go more simple!). Perhaps add them to the left sidebar. (Like I did with my site).
    – 4) I like the color as is, but if you want to add more, perhaps add your avatar at the top of your left sidebar. (Again, like how I did it with my site).

    • Thx for the example – I like how you’ve done it. Good suggestions that are going on the list.

  • I’m sure real designers will have better suggestions, but here’s the logo with a bit more color:

    • williamhertling

      More color would be welcome.

      • Got it. COLOR!

        • like the suggestion of colors too – Go Mets!

          • No color! Ugh. In fact, no design at all. Look at the web since 1994. At first it was all about design. Then there was the brief BS period. Then it became about value over form.

            Now is the time to max out on value and say goodbye to form. Many sites now have HUGE pictures you have to scroll through before you get to their big letter content. It’s BS. Let’s get back to pure ideas, which is what this blog is all about.

          • 🙂 Reminds me of something I read a while back. Don’t click if a lot of foul language will bother you. http://xu.bsoi.st

        • Rosey

          Ditto on the color.

  • jj

    A bit nitpicky, but I had you bookmarked as feld.com/wp — an address which currently just returns “page not found” with no redirect. Broken link = bad. A redirect would be nice for people who still use those creaky old bookmarks.

    • Yup – feld.com/wp should redirect to feld.com. Thx for the catch.

  • I like it. Simple is better.

    I would never ask you to adjust your design just for me, but wanted to give you some feedback that might apply to anyone with less than perfect vision.

    I was never able to read your posts on my phones before ( iPhone 5 and Note 3 ) because I couldn’t pinch zoom. It was also hard on my iPad most of the time ( depending on my mood, I guess ), for the same reason.

    New look is great on the larger phone, but harder to read for me on the iPad and the iPhone (ability to zoom or supporting my large text setting on iOS would solve this for me ).

    • Cool – will work on this.

  • williamhertling

    Change is good. I was looking forward to seeing the new site when I saw the email this morning. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m not that excited. I understand the direction you wanted to go in, but I think it’s a little too far.

    1) It’s a blog, which is a personal site, but there’s no hint of that. Where’s the photo of Brad? Having a photo is humanizing and friendly. If you don’t want a photo of yourself, how about a photo of a favorite place or thing, something that says something about yourself?

    2) The font has gone way too big. I’m on a 27″ Mac screen, and I feel like I can only see a little bit of content at a time. It’s currently 1.8rem, which is about 18px. I thought it looked good at 1.6rem and 1.4rem. If this is changed, line-height needs to be changed. I do like the font family selections though.

    3) Same goes for the width that turns the left nav bar into a hamburger icon. I had to make my browser window much wider than I usually do just to see that nav bar. Or click on the hamburger icon, which I would never do. I would like to see the left nav shown even on narrow windows.

    4) Search: if the only purpose of search is to collect search terms, why not make Search an input field to do that? Why do I have to click to another page, where I enter search terms in a ginormous sized font?

    5) I can’t right-click on Search, Categories, or Tags to open in a new tab.

    6) It’s too grey. I loved my NEC greyscale monitor I had in 1989. Now it feels emotionally muted.

    • williamhertling

      Oh, and when the left nav collapses, the bio goes away at the top of the page. I think most people will view this with a screen size that doesn’t show the bio. So with no photo, no bio, and no references to companies or accomplishments, how will people know they’ve received the right place?

      It’s fine for current readers and followers, but anyone new visiting the site won’t know.

      • And – you found a bug!

    • Thx – awesome feedback.

    • Agree @ personalization. You don’t have to build it yourself in Frontpage like Paul Graham, but it’s okay to be a little weird. I mean, that’s what makes you awesome…

      On the minimal layout, you’re using a 3×2 grid, which actually feels cluttered to me. Floating options to the left, options to the right. Especially while scrolling, this clutters up the UX. Would either (1) roll up the left and right columns into a floating header, (2) put them all on one side, or (3) create more visual structure with lines, blocks, contrast, etc.

  • DaveJ

    Glad you finally saw it my way. (See my comment from your last redesign in 2013, down to the Fred Wilson comparison). Much better. For once I was ahead of you.

    • You were FAR ahead of me on this one and your comment has stuck in my brain for over a year.

  • paulhelmick

    Well done Brad – 🙂 you truly do have content worth focusing on 🙂

  • paulhelmick

    ps – congrats on the clarity in your categories – it seems so hard but over time, with much writing and thought, comes your true voice – and you have certainly found it.

  • Rick

    “all of a sudden you are busy for all of your waking hours… have no time to really get any work done”
    Kinda’ like the web.
    Hey I need to know if we’re gonna’ do anything together with the idea you like from the note I sent you? This is October and my quarterly effectiveness review isn’t looking good for my internet time. I need to get a yes or no from you so that I can adjust my time investments.
    I dig on chatting with you and stuff Brad but I can’t have you forcing me to do things that trigger my OCD. I already get more than enough discrimination from it. I did the email thing to help you with your phone phobia but I can’t take this stuff much more.
    I have to get my process re-work done by month end and a big part of it is how effective web time has been at getting funding for a project.
    So is it a yes or no?
    BTW… I like the new blog format.

    • Rick – I’m sorry if you ever had the sense that I was going to pursue something with you at the idea level. The short answer, to “yes” or “no” is “no”, so go after all your other options / approaches.

      • Rick

        I didn’t have a preconceived notion that you were going to. But that’s what I was wanting to do. At times it seemed like maybe we would but after hearing about all the suicides in the entrepreneur community. I decided to step up my “objective based” approach to things.
        Since my objective is to do a start up with funding in the idea stage. I need to ensure all my activities are supporting that. This includes managing my interactions to ensure I know sooner rather than later who is willing to help and in what manner.
        Don’t get me wrong. I think your site is a great resource. But I understand it is all about you selling things – books, businesses, etc. – and working to keep your investment pipeline filled. I can’t rely on it to not be biased in that direction. So I had to know now if you were going to help me with *my* objective.

  • I think you did a fairly good job here. It’s minimalist and functional. But minimalist has its drawbacks (traps), as the site lacks warmth and personality. Those are not mutually exclusive, but they haven’t been combined here.

    I am not feeling Calluna… at all. Not a good pairing. Or the fav icon.. yuck, too… “un-Feldian”

    Also please turn your attention to http://www.foundrygroup.com as well, as it is one of the worst designed VC sites out there, mostly the discombobulated homepage.

    Also StartupRev could use a refresh, but I would be careful about just liberally applying the minimalist brush to all sites. Form follows function and all that.

    • Good point on StartupRev. I wasn’t going to go super minimalist there, but same basic structure.

  • A few little thoughts:

    1. I really like how the categories are hidden. I also love how they are nicely displayed on click
    2. On your about page (http://www.feld.com/about) it switches from 1st to 3rd person. I like how you are speaking directly to the reader throughout the blog but it seems weird when the above page starts talking about you as if you’re not there.

    3. On your investment page it’d be cool to also see all the Foundry investments that you’re on the board of so people can see which companies you’re actively involved with in case they want to reach out regarding those.

    Overall, it looks great!

  • I like the simplification a lot. Just have a couple of suggestions:

    – it’s too greyish
    – you could punch-up the header a bit, maybe it’s FeldThoughts that’s too bland

    Definitely much better and cleaner than before. And kudos on the responsive design.

    • I agree. I loved the old colors. I wonder if you can have a colorful logo.

      • Diwali colors 🙂 … happy Diwali

        • Ha. Thanks William! 🙂

          • Ya, way too grey for a blog that originates in sunny Colorado. Unless Brad secretly wishes he was a West Pointer.

          • Correct. Feels very Chicago winter. 😉

          • You haven’t gotten through one of those yet. You will have new appreciation for two words, Spring and Break.

          • Hahaha

  • StevenHB

    You’ve eliminated the previous and next post links that I’ve mentioned to you in the past. I don’t know if this is an intentional elimination as part of your effort to revert to a more minimalist design, but I (still) think that they have value.

    • Good catch. That’s a miss on our part.

  • Looks classy 🙂

  • Love it. Just one question: when are you going to start a newsletter/mailing list? I keep wanting to sign up!

    • You can sign up to get it via email at the top – click the email icon that is second to the right. Clearly I need to make that more obvious.

      • Actually, I should have been more obvious. I meant an email newsletter that complements the blog rather than an email feed of the blog.

        • Ah – probably never…

  • Kelly James

    Overall I like the new design but I really am not a fan of the way the navbar transitions. I’ve seen this a lot lately and all of the bouncing literally gives me a headache. Either fix it to the top or let it flow. I also would prefer to see the tags, categories, and social icons below the post rather than off to the side. It takes away from the minimal look and you already have the comment number under the post so it’s redundant. Just my 2 cents, hope they help. Have a great day and congrats.

    • Kelly James

      One more quick thought. When I click the menu bar and the content disappears I should be able to click anywhere in the white space to have it reappear.

  • It shows up great in my RSS reader. Although, if I click through, the grey on white is hard to read.

  • Loads faster and does not feel bloated. Perhaps too minimal/monochromatic: Main text is easier to read but scrolling & navigating a bit bewildering.

  • Mostly awesome! Nice work. Fast and clean.

    The gray-on-white, though, is very hard on the eyes — could really use just 2 notches more contrast, overall. Body text especially; but perhaps a hairline or background color on the title bar (while it is onscreen)? Would help make the nav more discoverable.

    Personally I find “best of” post lists to be extremely helpful as well… Not important enough to be on the screen at all times, but I think important enough to live within the right hand menu.


    • Steve is right. Light grey type on top of slightly-less-light-grey background is just too hard to read.

  • Richard E

    I’ll treat this the same way everyone treats a refresh of Facebook, freak out about how difficult it is to use for a few days, then promptly forget what the old version looked like and wonder how I ever navigated Feld.com before the current UI!

    In all seriousness though, I think it’s a little too simplistic/bland. I was a fan of the contrasting banner at the top and the orange hyperlinks on the old site (vs. underlines in the new version).

  • Your comment about minimalism is interesting. It’s certainly a trend in a lot of design. I have found myself really gravitating to Bauhaus architecture for example-and it’s found its way into apps-I like simple design, few features, not a lot of button pushing and easy navigation. Like the new look. Uncluttering is good.

  • Looks dead gorgeous on the iPhone 6+.

    Readability would be improved by simultaneously adjusting the background to be slightly more white, while making the font a tiny bit more black, until a workable balance is achieved.

    As well, short of having the ability to pinch-zoom, it would help if the font were a tad larger.

  • Ken Spratlin

    +1 font more black. 50+ year old eyes need all the help they can get.
    Like the content being front and center – your content is why we visit!
    Like the search/categories/tags pages.
    Needs more color, a graphic or something in the header. First time I loaded the new site, I thought Comcast was crawling again as it looked like a page where text had loaded but images didn’t.

  • I’m amazed this basically looks exactly like Clearly, the Evernote extension, you’re going to put them out of a job with stuff like this…but, it’s missing your happy mug!

  • Your content is always strong so that will being people reading it even
    if you defaulted to craigslist but i thought id give some design critic
    at a glance. Hopefully some is useful.

    Simplicity and minimalism are nudged into being thought of good design recently. These tools are used in design to focus the eye through visual techniques and content to what the core of the proposition is. While focusing on the content here , the personality, uniqueness and the fingerprint of Feld seems like its been lost a tad.

    I would have suggested also if you go for a strict minimalism then build
    the page on a tight grid to align content and give it a sense of
    balance and harmony.

    Colour will help to focus contrasts as there is a procession of greys here. The orange upper ended colour spectrum tends to be a little bright for contrasting such a near white value grey which effects the readability of that specific orange (readability wise).

    The greys for bring used for content and headers and readable and provide enough contrast on my screen on the left on the right the contrasts are lower so legibility is decreased.

  • I love so many of the choices made here. Kudos, and many more kudos.

  • lunarmobiscuit

    Looks beautiful, but like the last update, the template fixes the width of the page, preventing me from zooming into the content on my iPad.

    • Yeah – we are struggling with responsive design vs. iPad / iPhone…