When Blez informed us there would be a redesign of AN, I was stoked. I already like the user experience, and it's still improving. That said, I'm a little disappointed with the newest incarnation of our beloved site. Here's my feedback as a graphic designer– I'll try to keep it succinct and constructive.
What I like about the update...
Loading times. Threads with 100+ comments used to load quite slowly for me. Now they're much faster, even though my connection is the same. We'll see if it holds up for regular season game threads, but so far, it's a big improvement.
Coding shortcuts for replies. Bold, italic, blockquote, and link shortcuts are great. I'm okay with the preview button, but, as someone else stated, a post button should be added to bypass this optional step. Preview is really only necessary to ensure images and links work. I'm skeptical that it will help prevent spelling errors.
Shrinking posts dynamically. My favorite addition because it gives us a more fluid use of the vertical space, but I think it could be better utilized (I'll explain later).
What I think could be improved...
The unanchored page. This isn't about the update, but I think it's AN's biggest flaw. Please stop stretching the page. It messes with the line lengths and creates an overall sense of instability. Most well designed blogs are anchored to the middle of the page, preserving the layout of their text. I can't stress the importance of this enough.
Use shrinking menus on the navigation. Content in the margins is nice, but there's way too much of it. The page is quickly becoming too busy. I think you should make all sections except Recommended Diaries and Recent Diaries like posts are now with the update. I mean, do we really need a list of every AN interview as a viewable link on the front page?
Take back the header. I know advertising revenue is important to keep this great site going, but committing the whole banner at the top to sponsors is too much. It's a critical space for most web pages, a place where identity is formed. The first thing I see on the page should be AN related. I think I'd rather have ad redirect pages than this constantly at the top of the page, but really, there's no need for either. The page could be redesigned to work ad space into the margins.
Here is what AN might look like if I had my druthers (linked here). It might seem drastic, but really all I did was pull the left column next to the right, allowing the main content to breathe a little, and added what shrinking menus might look like. Ad space is there on the right margin, and buttons and comments would be nearly identical. I did change the masthead around a bit (not a big fan of gradients and drop shadows) and dull the sidebar yellow (I know it's further from team colors, but the current version is so bright), but very little needs to be done in order to rearrange a page this way.
I did this during today's game, so it's a little piecemeal, but I think you get the idea. Options for the number of recent diaries viewable is a crucial feature, and would still be there, but I forgot those icons.