Intelligent design

John Bucher is digital editor of BCBusiness.
That’s not a real web address, by the way. No use punching it in. Answer this question, though, and keep it in your head for a sec: What’s your favorite website?

I ask because I just got done reading an interesting chat given by Khoi Vinh, the 36-year-old design director at, and it’s got me thinking about, yes, the intersection of design and usability.

It’s a bloated phrase, but what does it mean? To me, it’s a site’s visual appeal and utility balanced with an anticipation of the user’s next click. Vinh’s the Visionary defines it this way: “It’s not just how they read [your content], but how they make use of it: how [the viewer] might scan the page haphazardly rather than diligently reading from top to bottom; what parts of the page they look to first and last; what they expect to change from visit to visit; which visual cues are meaningful for them and which design flourishes they find useless.”

Which sites effect a sweet balance of beauty and functionality? One of the nicest I’ve seen is Khoi Vinh’s personal site,, where, it seems, the restraint with which he administers finds its logical end. Spartan in shape and rendered in black and white, Subtraction resembles a basic WordPress template, but with a warmth and freshness whose source I can’t put my finger on. It’s like a Zen garden: the negative space breathes and so creates room for the coloured elements to emerge from the two-dimensional plane. Plus, who can deny the coolness of the orangey rollover trick? Not I, dear reader.

I’m a fan of, too, and for most of the same reasons. The preponderance of white space unites the field of view, making it seem that ivory-coloured water has receded just far enough that the solid lines of the type reveals itself. The naturalness of the result belies the hard work and discipline that went into making it, but, then, most things in life abide by this rule.

Pronouncements by luminaries like Vinh are valuable, but it’s feedback from actual users that is the royal jelly.

What are your favorite sites, then? And, while you’re at it, we’d love to hear about what annoys or pleases you about

Happy surfing.