As reported long ago in this space, the Washington Post is in the midst of a top-to-bottom redesign of its web site. For good reason, of course: The current incarnation is a distended, fractured mess that manages to banish a lot of great content to oblivion.

Washingtonpost.com is working with New York-based web company The WonderFactory to make sense of all the chats, all the columns, all the paper-derived stuff, and all the web-only stuff. Washingtonpost.com Executive Editor Jim Brady told us he’d like to have the new site up by the election.

Designers have been making the rounds with a mockup of a new washingtonpost.com. The following description comes from a person who saw a version making the rounds a while back.

First big change, at least in the prototype, is the use of the Washington Post nameplate instead of the current washingtonpost.com. The background is “sort of a parchment color and the type was cleaner,” according to the source.

“The prototype I saw was earth-toney, instead of red-white-and-blue,” according to the source, who adds that the appearance is way “less busy.”

It’s “less bisected” by the video and feature bars that mar the current site, and its “an easier scroll.” Featured prominently near the top of each story is a tally of the comments it has drawn.

“I think it looks a lot more classy, more like it’s inspired by being a newspaper, or recognizing that the real brand is rooted in the print product. But it also makes bigger and better use of photos, videos, interactive choices, refers — without seeming like a jumble. Seemed like once you clicked on a story, you got a cleaner arrangement of text and pictures and ads — a lot less wrapping-of-text.”

The prototype is also billed as an engine of efficiency. “It lets the software do the work that right now bogs the .com staff down. The best way to describe it, I guess, is that they’re converting to a presentation software system (and archiving) that is not unlike when the newspaper switched from cut-and-paste layout by hand to desktop publishing, laying out pages on the screen. Like it eliminates a lot of steps, so web people can do more.”

“It looked a little less nerdy.”