I’m Jess, an experienced UX/UI designer based in the Midwest. Think we should chat? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2023 Jessica Kennon Spencer
The regional lifestyle publication company—417— reached out to Mostly Serious as their contract with a dated, out-of-the box, came up for renewal, and they instead chose to find a custom solution to support the three publications: 417 Magazine, Biz 417, and 417 Home.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, over a decade’s worth of articles, and a whole host of other lifestyle offerings and services, the ask was a huge undertaking, but one that would result in a platform that met their team’s need for flexibility plus design and features that were light years ahead of almost all of their peers nationwide.
Users can browse a restaurant and business directory that leads to a profile page for each business, supporting 417's advertisers with related articles, contact information, and supporting SEO strategies for the businesses and the publisher.
417's users and readers utilize search heavily to find restaurants and businesses curated by the magazine. By creating business profiles within a directory, 417 is able to utilize tagging within articles to correlate content with businesses, advertisers, and events. Businesses who request new profiles are also able to be contacted as qualified leads for future advertising efforts.
417's primary content is made up of articles within each month's issue. The page-building options designed for articles gave site editors an all-new toolbox to package content just as beautifully online as in a print feature.
Users look to 417 every week when planning their weekends and social calendar. Analytics suggested that events were the largest driver of site visits, and signature events hosted by the magazine were one of the largest growth areas for the company. An interactive month, day, and list view of events, along with categorical tagging made the most of the opportunity.
We worked with 417 to transition users to the new site upon launch, and created a splash page introducing the new site to visitors, and designed a tour wizard to introduce the newest features of the site, like the site switcher in the navigation that made sister publications just a click away from any page.
As a publisher, it was critical for 417 to drive new subscriptions for both its print editions and digital newsletters. Consistent with industry standards, the Subscribe link was featured in a prominent position on every page as the global call to action, and represented a primary conversion opportunity.
The design needs for this project had an extra layer of complexity: the requirement to support not just 417’s flagship lifestyle publication, 417 Magazine—but also its sister publications 417 Home and Biz 417—each with its own unique brand, content, and varying user demographic. In approaching a solution, I looked for common organizational patterns that would be true for each publication’s needs and made the most minimal adjustments between them in order to simplify development needs as much as possible. All along the way, I made unopinionated distinctions, thinking of fonts and colors as “primary” and “secondary” that could be changed at a global setting level to support the variations needed.
417’s site editors had been limited by a single WYSIWYG and rich text editor on their old platform, only able to include basic text and images in a single container—or by injecting their own code overrides into the editor—a highly manual and needlessly complex process. I designed multiple content packaging modules that would more closely relate to how print articles were designed, and giving long articles multiple visual entry points for users to scroll and digest content more easily at-a-glance. Improved content packaging modules included multiple-column callouts, icon callout sets, pull quote styles, text lists, captioned photo sliders, before and after image reveals, galleries and more.
One of the biggest opportunities for the new site to connect users with relevant, engaging content was to facilitate the many conceptual connections in the real-life 417 ecosystems on the site. With a complex system of categorical assignments and tagging connections, I was able to automatically make connections and aggregate related object concepts on the site. This meant that an article about tacos could end with automated options for the reader to explore more food articles, sign up for a food-related newsletter, see only food-related advertisement banners on the page, visit the profile of a taco truck that was featured, or follow a link to taco recipes on the 417 Home sister site.