Bagels for Science

It’s not often we can say our breakfast was worth $70. But this morning the Magazine Publishers of America provided enough digital dope that dopes like us walked away feeling we knew enough to launch (or relaunch) a website.

Among the tidbits presented by Science magazine‘s Web guy Stewart Wills and Digital Pulp‘s Gene Lewis (left) in the two-hour gathering — all learned when the Web shop helped Wills and team re-do Science for their relaunch late last year, were the following. When you’re designing your site, consider:

  • People on the outside don’t see your site the way you do. Whatever seems obvious to you isn’t always to them. “What they worked out to be their truths are not necessarily the external truths of the site,” said Lewis.
  • Do a creative brief where everyone can say what they think it’s supposed to look like.
  • Search is really important. Be aware of making your site’s stuff available to search engines, even if you have to, say, build second versions of pages done in graphical applications like Flash so search engine “spiders” can crawl them.
  • Responses you get from people offering feedback after a redesign can tend to be “unusually vituperative” because the feedback forms “tend to select for the more dyspeptic people among us,” said Wills. Don’t think the feedback you’re getting is necessarily representative.

    Also, a great flow chart of the steps in organizing a website redesign: 1. Discovery (find out what every interest group wants and try to accommodate them) 2. Design (from the look through the technical review 3. Production (make as few templates as possible — so you get as much use as possible with the least complexity), 4. Launch (and don’t think it’s over).

    About 30 of us in the room at MPA and another five or so remotely joined the presentation — the people who actually do the work at places as diverse as Hearst, Science News, Condé Nast, Foreign Affairs, Complex, The Knot, and Harvard Business School publishing. Amid the coffee, bagels and fruit-laced yogurt, one attendee asked when New York stopped serving cream for coffee, instead of just milk? Good question.

    The presenters also talked about how much to put behind registration, paid subscription, RSS that’s both inward- and outward-facing and a whole bunch of geeky stuff like how to find software bugs.