Nate Silver's highly anticipated relaunch of FiveThirtyEight, with all the money, power and resources of its new corporate ownership, finally arrived on Monday. The wait has been long while an ESPN tech team presumably spent months pouring code and Red Bull into building a kingdom for the data-based explanatory journalism championed by Silver.
Depending on how you look at it, the new FiveThirtyEight lands like a dud. Maybe that is because expectations were so high — Silver is literally a wizard, so could he not conjure up a fresher look? Something that would revolutionize the Internet as we know it? Those expectations are unfair, of course, but the delivered product still underwhelms. At least it does not look like everybody else, including us.
The site is aesthetically pleasing, yes, but it is mostly Grantland with a robotic, math-friendly design. The new FiveThirtyEight looks very shiny, and you can tell an unknown number of bells and whistles lurk under the sleek new surface. But Silver opted for a utilitarian look that you probably could have predicted without using a graph: lots of white space, mostly sans-serif fonts and a very muted use of color.
To briefly borrow from Jerry Seinfeld, it is not that there is anything wrong with utilitarian design! No one would call FiveThirtyEight's new look "busy," but the crew at ESPN maybe needs to settle on one or two distinct fonts on the home page. That would be a great start.
At the very least, the content, at least what little was made available on day one, shows promise. We know the burrito bracket is coming eventually. The March Madness predictions will probably tear your office apart. Who knew we needed a hot look at toilet seats? They even took on Crimea. If this is what the site will deliver on a regular basis in the future, the future is in good hands.
Overall, the mob welcomed the site's new look:
But seriously, congrats to @FiveThirtyEight team on their site launch. It’s very pretty.— Jacob Harris (@harrisj) March 17, 2014
The site won brownie points for its bold launch takes on conventional wisdoms:
FiveThirtyEight launches with an investigation into whether or not you should use a toilet seat cover. http://t.co/ffV784xRCk— Josh Barro (@jbarro) March 17, 2014
Slipping into seasonal insanity, others appreciated the site's justification for their madness:
But some observers did have reservations about the new design. The staff head shots that line the right side of the home page were a popular target:
At least one Wire staffer was very impressed with Silver and co.:
five thirty great!— Brian Feldman (@BAFeldman) March 17, 2014
Provided the technical bumps encountered by some at launch have been ironed out by the time you read this, you can check out the new FiveThirtyEight here. This Canadian particularly appreciated the launch-ready trolling of Wayne Gretzky.