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“It’s a big-picture site, for big-picture thinkers” according to Managing Editor Christopher Jones and although I’ve not been guilty of any big-picture thinking lately, I do like a big shiny picture on a web site’s home page as much as the next adult A-D-D sufferer. Portfolio.com has created an online magazine here that actually feels like a magazine. Not a magazine that you would ever have in your home, but an impulse purchase at the airport newsstand. You’re 2 hours early and it was this or Men’s Health again.

The site’s title is curious. Breaking Business News and Opinion is not how I would introduce the site. That moniker seems more suited for the cnn or msnbc crowd. Fair enough I suppose if they are referring to the Top 5 stories, but the traditional news services’ business pages update all day. These 5 stories have been here a day or two.

Now into the design of this thing, which was the point here.

The palette of this site is just black and white really. Any color comes from headlines (a sedate burnt orange), photos and advertising. With the amount of white space added in to pad the features’ and banner ads’ turf, the initial experience here is very pleasing. Because of this accommodating structure, the vertical scrolling is a non-issue. This isn’t the layout of an above the fold news browser. Instead the page is laid out in a way that encourages a less frantic scan of the content. No color-coded hand holding to help you through the sections of the website here…just generous photos, ample text and easy links to the full read. Understanding the layout of the homepage may take a second look as the Daily Brief section on the far left (a story on the Google/Double Click deal) is not actually daily at all. The story is dated 4 days ago. The stories below are dated one day back which makes sense as they pertain to Wall Street. I suppose this will improve as Portfolio.com emerges ffrom beta, but it took me a second to realize that this was a frequently updated portion of the site.

One of the design decisions that impressed me on this homepage is the marriage of the limited advertising and the site design. Cisco is the chief partner here (the day I reviewed this) and the ads are well within the reserved palette of the site. A banner ad that is placed below the main photo on the site is sized to fit that space exactly. I’m sure that 600 x 31 pixels is not a standard banner size anywhere else. When I take a look into the sub levels this is less adhered to, but the decision to limit the intrusion on the user’s first experience is appreciated.

All new web efforts must have a blog component and portfolio.com is no exception. Speaking only on the design, I like the way they have set this section up. Since “Blogs” seems so early 2007, “Views” is the term applied in this case and although that may conjure up visions of Joy Behar, it is actually 9 bloggers who range in expertise from fashion to beer. The black and white illustrations as links from the homepage are perfectly matched to the site as well. If I read blogs, I might click through.

As I continue down the page it strikes me as pretty unique that there is valuable content down here. The only video on the page is about 2000 pixels down and not a throw away piece. Even further down the page are the Portfolio.com Features, one of which is a beautifully rendered flash graph that rates executives by their office floor, compensation and industry. It’s so well executed that it can’t be discarded as executive envy/worship. The page finishes with a flourish of web 2.0 touches. The deep, content heavy footer anchors the page well, and is preceded by an interesting site map of the universal navigation that includes the drop down menus as static points.

A very strong design effort in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how the site evolves. If the sparse advertising is a real commitment on the homepage or if we’ll see the eventual traffic jam of blinking mortgage rate ads.

About the Author
Tom McCormick
Tom McCormick is the head of the Brick Factory's design department, overseeing all of the company's creative work. In that role, Tom consults with clients to design websites that are beautiful and functional. He only writes blog posts that have something to do with football, probably because he is a Redskins fan and needs some kind of catharsis after they lose every week.