I will pick the winner based on a series of arbitrary and random criteria, many of which I will list below. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it should give you a good starting point.
I'm sure there are ultimately things that I'm forgetting. But the key goal here is to create the new look & feel for Slashdot. The winner is the one who creates what gets us the closest to a new site design.
This contest will be highly subjective. Ultimately tho, it falls upon me to select the winner based on arbitrary and subjective factors like aesthetics, as well as more tangible ones like implementability and compatibility.
What follows is a brief list of criteria I will use to judge, as well as how to submit your entries. Remember that anything artistic I suggest is just that- a suggestion. If you hate green, go ahead and make a blue design. I'm just telling you what I'm looking for in a winning design... and while I am the judge, nothing is set in stone... like any good art student knows- you can do almost anything you want as long as you can rationalize it in your critique.
- Uses our existing CSS framework - We are willing to make minor changes to our underlying HTML if need be, but the ideal winner is implemented entirely by using custom images and CSS. Almost every element on Slashdot is appropriately classed or ID'd now, so you should be able to do it.
- Works compatibly on most browsers - IE, Firefox, Mozilla, and Safari represent the bulk of our traffic. Ideally a winning candidate works on these platforms, but also degrades nicely to the less popular browsers. We'll test winners against whatever we have access to. We're not expecting everyone's entry to work perfectly and identically on every platform that exists, but if your whole design hangs on CSS trickery that only works under 1 browser, you will lose!
- Retains all major bits of information - unless you can make a case for dropping something! Articles need bylines. You still need space for our ads. We still need a submenu to list out all the sections. If you want to trim down menus or something, we'll consider that, but most items on our pages need to be there for some reason. You'll need to rationalize dropping items from menus or removing parts of the UI that we need.
- Doesn't require us to add major new bits of data - There are a million great ideas for functions and features that could be added to Slashdot. This is not the place to propose them. This is about Look & Feel. This is not about telling us that we need voting on articles or tagging on polls. Those are valid feature suggestions that we would love to do one day. But this contest is about look & feel. Save feature requests for another time (and remember, patches are always welcome!)
- Topic Icons - So we have 150+ topic icons. Your design needs to incorporate our existing icons, and not require that we rebuild all of them. That means most likely that the icons sit on a white background. The icons themselves vary from around 50x100 to 100x50 but most float around 64x64. I'd strongly suggest that a winning entry is submitted using our existing topic icons as examples. let me say that again we have 150+ icons, and we can't rebuild them all. Your design should use our icons. Not new ones. That means sizes, and white backgrounds. This is the one rule that is pretty hard and fast. And no we're not switching to anti-aliased PNGs yet. Sorry.
- Entries ought not be bandwidth gluts. No hard/fast size limits here, but if your page requires 2 megs of jpegs to render, I'd suggest moving on.
- Retains some sense of visual continuity with Today's Slashdot - This one is the real challenge I think. From the Slashdot 'Shade of Green' (#006666) to the curve on the upper left hand corner of the page & article headers, to the use of the Coliseo font, I really think that many of these design elements need to persist. You are welcome to ignore me of course. But I'm being totally up front about this point: the winning entry ought to echo the current design. How loud of an echo is up to you.
- Entries should show as at least the index, but ideally a few other pages to see how their design might look showing other data formats. I really think Slashdot has 4 "major" pages: The Index, The Article, The Comments, and The User. I'm not saying you need to do all four, but the winning design needs to translate well to every data type on the site. The more guidance you give us, the more likely you are to win.
- I have to like it. Design something pretty. Design something high-tech. Design something minimal. Design something elaborate. I don't know what the winner will look like. I'm excited to see what you guys come up with.
HOW TO ENTERMy preferred method of submission would be that you email redesign at cmdrtaco.net with a URL to a place where I can see your design. Alternatively, if you have no access to a web server, I will accept a zip file or tarball, but would REALLY prefer URLs where possible.
I fully intend to critique good entries. The goal here is of course to get the best looking, bandwidth efficient, compatible, attractive Slashdot. If I think your design is ugly, I'll tell you. If I think it's close, I'll give you specific ideas. I'm the judge here, so this is totally unfair. But again, my goal here is not to be fair, it's to make Slashdot look awesome.
I'm going to give this 2 weeks, and then I'm going to share with you some of my favorites at that point in a story. I'll try to tell you all what I like about these designs. I'll ask at that time for your feedback. Then I'll give everyone one more week. The contest will continue to be open to anyone who wants. Everyone is welcome to refine their designs, or submit new ones right until the end.
Between now and then, I will try to post a few journal entries as I see good designs float through. I want this whole process to be as participative as possible.
At the end of this time, I will pick a winner. I will be biased. I will be unfair. I will pick the design that I think is the best for Slashdot based on the criteria I mention above as well as my own personal sense of aesthetics.
The winner will get a fancy laptop. We haven't picked the exact one yet, but it's going to be a good one- we're not cutting corners. You'll be able to choose from a MacBook Pro or else a bleeding edge Alienware laptop. We'll pick the specs when we pick a winner so you get whatever is supremely awesome, but valued up to US $4500. We'll also be offering a $250 runner up prize.
Lastly, our corporate lawyer tells us that you are required to read the official rules before you enter.
Good luck to everyone. Happy designing. Have fun... I can't wait to see what people come up with!