Scott Karp, the prolific and often profound writer for the Publishing 2.0 blog, spends a lot of space making a nevertheless sound point: Design has to work or nothing else will. In his words, if your users fail, your Web site fails. He is critical of sites that require registration without making the case that it is in the user's interests. Whether the user succeeds is everything, he notes.
Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Technology permits blink-of-an-eye contact and an all-day-wired-up-and-followed feeling: Twitter, Facebook and IM pretty well track your every, well, everything.
Then there's Front Porch Forum, a service that is using technology --- or some of it, anyway --- to link neighbours and services in Chittenden County, Vermont. The main differences: You have to say who you are and where you live when you e-mail, and you have to wait for once-a-day delivery of the raft of messages coming from all over the neighbourhood. So, no aliases, no cloaking, no down and dirty discussions --- just something civil, slower moving, respectful.
The challenge for the service, like all such services, is to make money. At the moment there are government sponsors and advertisers, but this is one service you can foresee moving from the free-to-fee territory. After all, it's a legitimately great local utility.
The new BBC site is no longer under wraps and it's highly impressive.
Most notable as a comparison to its old site is the design simplicity. I counted fewer than 20 stories on the splash page (less than a dozen if you count the duplicated files).
The modules are customizable, as is the colour scheme.
I'd love to see the research in behind the redesign, because I think many managers are looking at reducing the complexity of splash pages and permitting users to choose elements. CNN's recent changes went in that direction, although there's a lot of white space and small type that doesn't work as well as my first glance at the Beeb.