After 11 years online it’s a good time to stop and look at what works well on your website or service, and what it is time to leave behind.
Trends shift fast on the web, so it’s easy to become stuck in a paradigm of yesterday, especially since it’s not always possible to simply evolve technically to stay relevant. Sometimes you need to sit back and take a long hard look at the facts, breathe, and realise, what feels rights. And then decide what to change.
This grounding is what makes products and services last, even though they appear to be changing radically every now and then.
For ALT ANDET LIGE in the old design what worked well was the flow of news and events stories made by and tailored to the very specific niche audience of students of Economics. The curated opinion pieces creating healthy debates, and the longer articles adding perspective and sharing experience. And then of course the financial backbone, the sponsoring partner companies, and their ability to find new talent through job ads.
What worked less well, was a range of co-creation areas, where users could add content. In reality, these areas ended up as sleep wagons of more or less random stuff. And to make things worse, they created overhead work for editorial review and subtracting from the image of an exciting and up-to-date media outlet.
So. Away with the clutter of co-creation! And upfront and center with the best parts: The news, the perspectives, and the jobs. Curated and maintained by the editorial board.
With a core structure of content and a main principle in place, I could start looking into how to structure everything in a new architecture and design.
Moving in the direction of a news media outlet, and away from the blog-like structure of the old design, we wanted to establish a stronger feel of authoritative guidance. By cutting down the main content categories from seven to three, a natural hierarchy of information started to appear. Easy to decode and to navigate, and a revitalised platform for more focused content.
This led to a three-layered structure of content, listed sideways in sliders to give quick access to more with little effort on both desktop and mobile devices. A UI concept widely used by many media services like Netflix and Spotify used daily by the target group. And with a sane ‘economic’ feel of saving superfluous space while keeping everything handy. A rational approach, I thought might appeal to the intended audience.
And then, of course, there was the name: ALT ANDET LIGE. In English it’s ‘Everything else being equal’ – an expression of economics and science allowing for the exploration and investigation of a single phenomemomen with the assumption that everything else around it stays the same. A mechanism of focus making the thing you want to investigate come forward in a clear and vivid way, while the noise of the background fades away. This supports the concept of the content sliders allowing you to explore one type of content, while keeping the other types at rest.
A fortunate side effect of being able to work with both the structure, the content and the visual identity at the same time, was that these thoughts easily overflowed into the work with the visual identity and a new logo that was needed as well.
This way the idea of a stacked form of three equal layers came about. Being a three-letter word, I felt the need to do something to make it more iconic and visually balanced.
I needed to put each word together in one single, complete, and identifiable shape while maintaining an independent identity for each of them to keep them readable. So, I added two simple graphical elements to create a uniform length of each word making them come together as one, and readable as single entities. Using heavy letterforms added a feel of a modern news media, hinting at something authoritative while adding something playful to the seriousness with the forms and colors.
In the website header, the three-parts are laid out in one single line. Still, the graphical elements serve in the same way to maintain the form and rhythm of the three parts.
With the fluid nature of the web, and with all it’s different sizes and devices and ever-changing social services contexts, I believe that it’s super important to allow for a dynamic appliance of a logo and identity like this.
As outlined in the article Some perspectives on Editorial Design I see three core areas that need to be considered for any digital publishing project: Editorial Identity, Reader experience, and Monetization.
On top of a revitalised editorial identity, that I try to shape and sharpen with the redesign and re-thinking of the main principle of ALT ANDET LIGE, looking into the reader experience and the monetization parts revealed some interesting aspects to build on.
The job section is a core shared interest space of the paying party, the partner companies looking for new talent, and the readers, looking for ways to start or advance their careers. This made it an obvious focal point of the interactive features.
Allowing readers to follow partner companies, with the option of being notified about new job ads and new articles mentioning the companies, is a simple idea. But elevating it to the most important functionality I believe it will increase relevance and create a better and more fulfilling experience to readers.
The companies, in turn, will be able to reach an even more dedicated circle of readers, increasing the value of their partnership and presence.
Here’s an example of a partner company page (not clickable):
On top of giving readers the ability to follow companies we kept a feature from the old design giving them the option to create a professional profile presenting their grades and the subjects of their studies. And then permitting partner companies to use the data when searching for new talent.
While a lot of our effort has been focused on sharpening the editorial perspective with curation and reducing the clutter of user-created content, it’s also been important to find ways to keep the best part of user engagements from the old design: The lively debates and elaborate comments. This content often adds further perspective and value to readers, and, also adding to a sense of community between readers, that for some is an important part of the experience.
To further expand on the value of comments and debate, we’re introducing a new feature with the new design, allowing users to follow articles and get notifications about new comments. The traditional way to do this on many websites is to allow users to receive notifications, only if and when they make a comment themselves. We wanted to open this up, so any reader can get notifications about new comments to articles follow debates they are interested in, regardless of being active participants themselves.
Here’s an example of an article in the Perspective section with comments, allowing writers and editors to take full advantage of layout options and readers to engage (not clickable):