But the Slate redesign turns all this on its head by placing big features, with pictures and everything, at seemingly random intervals on the page. As my earlier post tried to demonstrate, there's no real obvious throughline that lets you skim the page and get the most important stuff. There are some hierarchical elements, in the form of lists (most recent, most shared, most viewed, etc.), but these are also scattered seemingly at random around the page; their relation to each other isn't clear. Making matters worse, advertising panes are intermixed with content panes quite freely; the only way to know what not to click is to actually read the ads and recognize that's what they are. This is consistently irritating and feels like a waste of time, though I'm sure advertisers themselves prefer it.
All in all, it takes a process that used to be quick and frictionless--check Slate.com for three seconds, see if there's anything of interest, move on--and makes it quite a bit more labor-intensive. I'm sure the web designers hope this will encourage people to spend more time browsing the page, but if anything, the increased time cost of visiting the site will probably result in me checking it less habitually. Just anecdotally, there's a bad precedent here: a year ago, The New Republic went through a startlingly similar redesign, changing from a newspaper-esque format to a Web 2.0, super-tablet-friendly format much like Slate's; the consequence is that TNR changed, overnight, from a site I visited daily to a site I visit maybe once a month. That's what happens when you value form, and faddish web design, over function.