I know how you’re feeling now. You’re hurt and confused, possibly a little horny, but mostly you feel rage and disgust. And for good reason: We have changed our look. This change is, of course, a personal affront to you, and as such is unforgivable. I’m here to tell you it will be OK, we will get through this, together, and to prove it I’ll show you how many redesigns we’ve survived already. We can do this again.
If you will, please join me on a little tour through Jalopnik look-history. It’s fine if you feel yourself getting nostalgic, and perhaps even indulging in a good, full-body, heaving, gasping cry. I bet it’ll do you good.
Let’s start at the beginning, back in 2004:
At this point, the site was pretty much just a naked Mike Spinelli cranking this out in a kiddie pool filled with his own wastes. The look of the site was still very much Web 1.0, with that ubiquitous Netscape Gray background.
Post topshots were small and square-formatted, and the Jalopnik logo was familiar in shape, but filled with an Audi, because — and this is the part that’s most baffling to me — the site was “sponsored exclusively by Audi.”
Holy shit. Audi doesn’t even let me near the buffet table on press trips now, and it once sponsored the whole site? Is that why their people always sound so disappointed and bitter when I call?
The Wayback Machine doesn’t seem to have retained the look of the site from this early-mid era, but it didn’t change all that much. By the time I arrived at the site in late 2011, it had changed to this sort of design, with Jalopnik’s chrome logo and lots of blueish rectangles:
One main story sat front and center, with categorized stories below and a list of the recent stories in a bar to the right.
Around this era the Powers That Were decided to change the default site background color from white to this light gray, which meant all the older stories’ pictures that had been carefully edited to look frameless now had white boxes.
I made a graphic letting the team know to address this around this time:
That was in 2013; later, we switched back to a pure white background, which meant that all the images I had tried to make look frameless then would now showed up like this:
Oh, well. Right around this time we also started using a Jalopnik header graphic, like this one I made with a nice spread of some of my favorite cars and other vehicles, spanning 1769 to the then-present:
I kind of miss that.
Later, around 2015, we redesigned again, introducing the chronological story navigation that we still (mostly) used until today:
That era also had a centered logo, now in a solid, bold orange. And a big ad at the top. I suspect we have more ads now, because that’s what all of you love, right?
That brings us pretty close to the site design we’ve been using up until, um, today. But we should jump back even further, so you can get a real sense of just how far we’ve come.
Let’s go all the way back to 1981, when Jalopnik—then spelled Jalop-Nik—first went online. Back then, the site was a re-boot of an older, defunct magazine (I’ll get to that next) and was brought back as part of an online service called theFeed.
Designed to compete with other services like Compuserve and The Source, theFeed was bankrolled by M&M/Mars and provided online content in a wide variety of areas.
It was engineered in a very similar manner to the French Minitel service — in fact, theFeed poached most of its key engineers from Minitel — and used the idea of “channels” for subject-specific content. Jalop-Nik was the car channel.
I was able to find an image of Steve Jobs from an old videotaped interview with Jalop-Nik up on the screen. By using the current Jalopnik Mainframe (11,000 Speak and Spells connected in parallel in a supercooled chamber on Gloria Gaynor’s old sex-yacht) to ZOOM and ENHANCE the screen on that Apple ][+ so you can see the Jalop-Nik Channel home page:
Here’s an even closer shot so you can read it on your phones:
Wow, a lot of our core opinions sure have changed!
I bet you’re wondering about the name about now, too. Why “Jalop-Nik?” Well, the answer for that goes back to the original source of all of this, an automotive enthusiasts’ magazine that was around from 1958 to 1977.
That magazine was called Jalopy Nudnik.
I’m sure we all know what a “jalopy” is, but “nudnik” may not be known to many of you. It’s a Yiddish word that means someone who is a pest, a bore, someone annoying who won’t leave you alone. It was a name that had been applied to the founders of the magazine, as they simply would not shut up about cars and bothered the shit out of everyone around them.
These nudniks in question founded the magazine after getting kicked out of a YMHA in Queens because everyone was sick of hearing them talk about cars. I’ve only been able to find one copy of the magazine, a May 1974 issue I got on eBay:
As you can see, they were passionate, but often just flat-out wrong. There was no new Vega coming out with a transverse, FWD drivetrain, and even if there actually was, calling it “our car of the millenium” was incredibly shortsighted.
This issue also puts them on the wrong side of the idea of airbags, and perhaps most fascinatingly, their comparison of a VW Dasher with two snowmobiles ends in a stalemate.
The magazine was never a huge success, but it does have a certain unhinged charm. At least, based on the one issue I read.
We’ve come a long way since those jalopy-crazed nudniks founded a magazine. And there have been so many changes. Just like today. We’ll keep listening and trying to do better, and sure, maybe these changes were forced on us from above and maybe we didn’t have as much say as we’d have liked, and maybe we really want to change some things right now, but I am sure we’ll all get through it.