‘Tis the season for shiny new things, and among the gifts under the tree at mediabistro.com this year was a redesigned homepage, part of an ongoing effort to spruce up the company (which keeps the lights on here at UnBeige) in both the online and offline worlds. The homepage features a fresh header and logo as well as mega dropdown menus and a search box. “Previous to rolling out the new design, there were ten navigation points, and now, four, which happen to be, not accidentally, the four core areas of our expertise,” explains mediabistro.com creative director Skipper Chong Warson. “The left-hand sidebar also went away and the site became fixed-width.” Some additional tweaks and fixes are underway, but the creative team has already begun work on phase two of the project, a makeover of the content stream and site-wide sidebars. Warson took time away from optimizing mega dropdown menus to answer our questions about the redesign.
If you had to describe the new homepage in three adjectives, what would they be?
We’re not done yet, but in terms of what we’re aspiring to throughout the process: succinct, current, and compelling.
What were the priorities in redesigning the mb homepage?
There were many, to be sure—fixes for consistency, meeting modern needs, organization of content, branding, etc.—but really it’s about focus, focus, focus. Mediabistro doesn’t lack for content or product offerings but where we’re really concentrating our ongoing efforts is on clarity of message; one of the many ways that visual design excels, taking a large pile of information and helping people with different levels of acquaintance and experience make sense of it.
With any change, in life and in design, there’s always stress and some period of adjustment. People are going to come to the site and say, “Where’s community? Where’s the freelance area? Where’s this? Where’s that?” Which is why search was so important to this equation. There’s a lot of stuff that went on behind the scenes to make the search work—the hinting, the logic, the styling.
Will the new “o” in “mediabistro” be ever-changing?
Yes and no—not with any regularity that you can set your clock to but yes, different letters will change from time to time.
I think it’s important that an organization whose core audience is people in the media industry remains visually relevant. And in some way, Mediabistro can do that through changing the logo seasonally.
Also, I see the time-specific logo as an extension of the new date stamp in the right-hand corner of the page—which is like the ‘today’s date is’ placards at banks or post offices—and then the logo is like the pink hearts they scotch tape to the wall on Valentine’s Day.
What was the most challenging aspect(s) of the redesign?
There were challenging aspects, that’s true, but we have a solid development, operations, and management team that helped get this out the door, on schedule and on spec. If I had to point out the most challenging aspect, it would be balancing innovation, user habits and browser standards (ugh, IE6). In our back pocket, we had a pile of information about the way in which our users interact with the mediabistro sites but then there’s always the chicken or the egg dilemma of data—does form follow function or does function follow form?—do people interact with our site a certain way because the way in which they want to isn’t yet available to them or is that legacy method actually the way that they want to?
Another example. It’s like when Sony was working on their first boom box, the company held a focus group on what color it should be: yellow or black. The participants were in agreement that yellow was the best color because it is vibrant and energetic. At the end of the focus group they were each allowed to take a boom box home, and could choose yellow or black. They all chose black. There’s what people say that they want and then what people actually want.