I've had probably 15 or so "Real" designs submitted. Half were (ahem) bad or just not at all what I'm looking for. What follows is a couple of them They aren't necessarily the best, but each has a few things about it that I like that i thought was worth sharing to help give everyone guidance.
first I have a design from Sujay Thomas. I like that this design is CSS. I think the handling of the topic icons in the corner is a bit clumsy. I think the margins are a bit excessive. I think the bars on the left and right need a bit of work. But I think the center column is clean, simple and very readable. I don't think that this design will win without some work: i think it might be to minimal for what I'm looking for. It's also a bit high contrast for my tastes.
Next up I have Hallvar Helleseth's design. Now he is missing a lot of navigational elements, and I'm not sure what the 0-1-2 thing is behind the topic icons, but the design itself is a dramatic departure from Slashdot today, and I respect that. He tries something unique with the topic icons. I'm not sure that the earthtone color scheme is quite what I'm looking for, but I give him huge props for going somewhere unique. The 'More Slashdot' button atop the page shows you some ideas for where he is going with navigational elements. I think the left and right sides of the pages need a bit more differentiation, and there are a few missing elements that aren't properly classed, but this is another solid starting point. I like the reflection on the logo.
Dan Theman's Entry is just plain funny.
The final entry I will comment on today is a design from Philip Dhingra. First off, it is worth noting that his entry is a jpg- far from the CSS that I hope to ultimately see winning. His article space is clean and legible. Good choice on the data formatting. Moving the department line is interesting. His handling of the topic icons is unique, and a nice way to get around the limitations the icons present. He loses a few bits of information (story section for example) and explicitly labels the icons- I'd prefer not to label the icons. I want them to visually stand by themselves. I'm not sure about his left hand menu. But hsi choice to put the user information in the upper right hand corner is solid. It makes excellent use of the space. Likewise, his clean handling on the right of the slashboxes is really cool. Of the designs presented today, this is the most developed in terms of "Design" but the least developed in terms of "CSS". But I can't wait to see where this one goes.
a few random notes
so far nobody has tried a CSS expanding/contracting menu for the left hand side. Given the huge amount of space the menu takes up, I'm kind of surprised.
WRT the topic icons at the TOP of the page- I think that those are expendable.
WRT topic icons, tons of people suggested automated ways of converting them to pngs and such. Others suggested contsts seperate from this one to convert them. I'm open to anything, but as I stated originally, I think working with the icons we have is the most sane plan. But all my rules are flexibile here.
Most of the designs so far have really shrunk down the logo in the top left. I think thats fair: it's pretty huge right now and probably could use a trimming. Get the readers to the articles faster.
I have a lot more designs in my inbox that I plan to post here and comment on during the upcoming days.