Conde Nast's Epicurious, the granddaddy of culinary Web sites, recently debuted a newly nipped-and-tucked design. The site's modular layout and increased emphasis on community have prompted more than one blogger to declare it "Epicurious 2.0." By making its content easier to find and adding more opportunity for members to interact, Epicurious has managed to stay one step ahead of other "old-media" sites, such as MyRecipes, Time Warner's recently launched foodie portal.
The new Epicurious home page includes more defined white space, larger images, and prominently placed links to community features, including a chat room. Video resources are easier to find, too, via a link in the top navigation bar. Gone are the confusing promos and links to the Epicurious Shop, which competed with editorial content on the front page.
The spare design flows throughout the site. Recipe pages in particular are a lot easier to read, given that (as Faith at Apartment Therapy: Kitchen points out) the first few user opinions are no longer displayed beneath the recipe--a convenience we're happy to sacrifice in favor of a cleaner look. Forums are also easy on the eyes, though I found it frustrating that I had to click each reply within a thread--once I've selected a thread, why not show me the whole conversation?
In a nod to social network sites such as BakeSpace (review) and GroupRecipes (review), Epicurious has beefed up its community features, making it easier to share your own recipes with the network. Member-submitted recipes are still largely segregated from the magazine content and are not included in primary search results--but you are given the option, after searching, to look in "member recipes" for your query terms. I'd prefer if one click could search both databases. The results could still be divided by source--I do like to know whether I'm getting a professionally developed recipe--but this would provide a helpful single-page overview of all the content available.
The redesign also includes some tweaks to member profiles, letting you add an "About Me" paragraph and designate a recipe from your recipe box as "What I'm Cooking Now." You can also check off your food interests from a list of topics that range from Adventurous Eating to Wine and everything in between. What's missing: a friend list, or some other way to indicate your favorite commenters and forum posters. For instance, I would love to be able to designate another member as my culinary mentor and then automatically follow what he/she is cooking.
My colleagues and I agree on one key issue with the new site: Pages are often slow to load. We're hoping speed will improve once traffic settles back into its normal patterns, because in all other respects the redesign is a big step forward for users.