Philly.com launched its new design overnight.  I’m a bit disappointed in how it turned out.  Based on the cleaner, minimal appearance, I initially thought they had gone the Boston Globe route, constructing an adaptable web site that shaped itself to whatever device was opening it.

Instead, Philly.com seems to have copied the look but none of the functionality.  And that’s a shame, because the Globe’s look only became satisfying when I saw how adaptable the site was.  A site that flexible needs a clean, minimal and easily scaled design.

In attempting to clean-up their site, Philly.com has managed to make it worse.  The page lacks very simple guidance — the artwork doesn’t illuminate any of the pieces in specific ways.  I certainly understand why Sandy coverage dominates the front page news, for example, but the clump of similar artwork renders their inclusion moot.  The images might as well not be there, as they’re not distinguishing their attached pieces from one another.

Similarly, the titles lack very basic identifiers.  When I wandered into the Sports section, I found myself looking for a Sixers game recap but opened up columns rather than reports.  I’m not sure who to blame here: the guys writing the headlines, or the designers eliminating columnist images or headline tags.

I’ve always been proud of Philadelphia’s two daily, competing newspapers, but Philly.com’s continued bungling has me wondering if the city’s competitive print news culture has forever doomed its web presence.