Trying to redesign a site that has been a part of millions of users lives throughout the past many years is not an easy task.
Changing where things are laid out or how things are organized in a drastic way can spell death if not done in small steps over many years for a site like this.
I have noticed over the years that for some reason, maybe it's our human nature to gravitate toward clutter, or the tendency to become pack rats, but for whatever reason, websites with lists of links in a tight space in organized rows or columns tend to perform really well and generates loyalists for life.
Sites like Drudge, Reddit, Craigslist all have this type of feel. Lots of data, simplified into what first seems a cluttered grouping of tons of content that can set a designer's brain on fire, but for some reason, users find it easy to navigate, scan, use and fall in love with.
When I went forward with designing a new reddit.com, I had to keep this at the forefront of my mind. How can I keep things the same, yet make them different and for the better. How can I tweak and organize things in small steps in a way that improves the ease of use, but does not scare away the loyalists... which by now is pretty much everyone. How can I redesign the style to be clean and modern yet classic and timeless.
It was not an easy task, but I believe I came up with a pretty good, yet realistic solution.
Full-size List View
Full-size Collapsed View
As you can see the main goals in this task where to introduce a faster way to let people become part of communities, remember to take part in the communities, discover that you can actually edit your communities (something missed by many new people) and lastly, still have amazing access to the front page, all while making sure you can still satisfy the loyalists with a collapsed top nav view.
I really set out to make things very familiar but yet refined. Making areas more defined, buttons more noticeable and clickable, links and navigation cleaner, organized yet the same.
I purposefully did not go down the route of creating a bunch of white space that most designers gravitiate toward right away, but left the cluttered tight spacing, maybe a bit more refined for easy skimming and browsing.
Of course this is just one view into a site that has many different configurations, I even have ideas how to make these work great with sub reddits, but for now I think, hope, you can appreciate this stab at designing a site that is almost impossible to design. A site that is loved by many, that fears change.
I believe if done right, in small stages (unlike *coughdigg ) reddit can introduce new features with a cleaner more usable design.