I'm Jin, and I'll be working on the designs for the Stack Exchange sites as they graduate from the beta phase.
However, all sites will share quite a bit of common elements so they feel like they're part of the Stack Exchange family.
During the brainstorming phase, I asked myself, why do people ride bicycles if they have a choice of driving a car, or why do they choose cycling if there are other forms of exercise?
When I was offered a job in a further-away office I thought, "I'm either going to have to move apartments: again. Or, get a faster bike: to go the further distance."
I now commute an hour each way, by bike. It's regular exercise, because it's commuting (though I might also do it if I had the leisure).
I think that the motivation, of many men at least, is to go fast and far.
There are several categories of biking:
- Road (racing, training, touring)
- Off-road (trails)
- Hybrid (urban, leisure, utility)
- And others: recumbents, children, cargo, trendy bikes.
Bicycles - Stack Exchange is for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles.
As a one-time bicycle lover myself, I thought about personal freedom, accessibility, low cost and being in touch with the great outdoors.
Yes my first bike was the first time I left my neighbourhood alone, to go exploring. It is relatively cheap.
And the outdoors are great (I don't know how people manage 'exercise bikes' and 'trainers' indoors: I get warm and want a fan). Outside there's always as good a breeze as you're willing to cycle into.
It can be, is, easier than walking.
So for the design, I wanted to capture the feeling of riding a bike, rather than focusing on the bike as an object.
Feeling of riding a bike
The feeling of riding a bike, for me, is:
- Brighter than in-doors (or darker at night and winter)
- Balance (shoes and pedals)
- Acceleration (setting off, little effort at low speeds, up-shifting)
- Gliding (coasting or free-wheeling)
- Smooth (cycling feet)
- Faster heart and deeper breathing
The reality is:
- 20+ mph (32+ kph)
- Top speed limited by wind resistance: so it's like flying
- $1500 for a new commuting bike with accessories and free service costs less than the public transit fares for a year
- A year-round commute is feasible: I've easily ridden in -8C through +38C (17F through 100F) temperatures for an hour each way, every weekday (except about 10 days for rain and wind and health) since March 2011, wearing basic cotton clothing and gloves (and sunscreen) etc. Winter is warm, and summer is cool (there's a breeze).
There's the practical, commuting 20 km in an hour. One can cross the city about as fast on a bike as by bus and subway and tram/streetcar.
In a couple of hours of cycling you can burn 1000 calories. Pre-hydrate.
Other people post on the forum about road bikes/races, and about off-road mountain biking.
Focusing on the bike as an object
A major purpose of the site is to Q+A about bikes as objects (here's an interesting advertisement).
Tires. Brakes. Gloves. Bearings. Parts. Traffic skills. Maintenance.
Riding a bicycle is a very personal and independent choice. I wanted the design to reflect that. I believe a hand illustrated art style gives it a more personal touch, and the slightly vintage treatment makes it more timeless.
A poster is better than a photo which could get old.
SF is another way to make a timeless treatment (Bruce Sterling's novelette Bicycle Repairman won the Hugo).
Been around for a long time
After all, bicycles have been around for a long time.
Been around, eh? Know what I mean?
Mine's fairly new, and maintained. It's better than my previous one which was new for $130 two years ago (and which is fine for an easy cycle half an hour and back: I lend it for riding to the swimming pool).
The bikes people write about are often new or used, and are usually not department store bikes.
You might find modern bikes surprisingly light and fast.
Since the design is entirely focused on a "feeling," I decided to design a poster for our bicycles site first.
You should see Neil Fein's awesome flyer.
That way, I didn't have the distraction of the constraints I normally face when creating a design for the web.
Off-topic do you have a reading list to recommend? About design?
In the picture above I'd like to see a narrower white line, to make the lanes wider. I'm glad to see you've already done that in the current design.
The above reminds me of Normandy.
Above is the poster I came up with. I believe the texture, color scheme and minimalist style work towards the goal I was aiming for. From there I transfered the visual elements onto the site design.
Please keep in mind, not all of the site elements are present in these two mockups.
Ads. And you're showing the header and the footer on the same fold.
I incorporated some visuals related to bicycles and cycling, e.g. road signs and cogs. But I was careful to not to make it overly "themey." Also, I tried to fit all of the design in one image, so it looks busier than the live site will be.
I'm pleased with the overall design. It did capture the feel I was going after. The site has a unique identity, while maintaining the feeling of the Stack Exchange family.
I'd love to hear your feedback. If there are no major design changes, I'm aiming to launch the site next Tuesday. So an early congrats from me!