Essence Undertakes Web Site Redesign
User feedback guides new content and navigation for substance and depth.
When readers voice their opinions to Essence
magazine, the publication heeds the input. The brand introduced a new Essence.com this week that makes the site more user friendly, modern and faster.
“We really listen to our audience through the comments on our site but also comments on social media sites,” says Essence managing editor Emil Wilbekin. “We post content on Facebook and push things out through Twitter and we really listened to what the audience was saying, the audience is very vocal so we pay attention because we want to make them happy.”
The site worked with Web publishing company Crowd Fusion to develop a new platform and CMS and to enhance the site’s search capabilities. Crowd Fusion also did Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily app and the company is working with celebrity gossip site TMZ.
“They have a cloud so we’re part of the cloud and now everything moves faster,” Wilbekin says. “Now everything is optimized for SEO and we’re hoping to see a lift in our traffic because we’re going to be surfacing higher. We gave them tons of key words and things that would resonate with our audience, topics and search terms we know our audience is using.”
Before the site redesign Essence.com had a blog roll of news items feeding to their audience. “That was great for showing we updated the site daily but it wasn’t great for people accessing some of the content,” he says. “We were feeding so much content into the roll that people missed stories.”
The site reformulated the layout to provide readers with more content entry points and included new drop down menus to help users navigate the site. The navigation bar now includes the most popular franchises on the site.
“We separated our tabs,” Wilbekin says. The site now focuses on tabs that include celebrity content as well as fashion, beauty, hair and love, but, to avoid having too many photo galleries and to add more substance and depth for the site, point of view will be its own tab and provide the content copy Essence readers look for.
“We added a point of view channel and this houses all the blogs and commentary and opinion pieces,” he says. “We added point of view because Essence the magazine and the brand has a great tradition of giving black women a voice so we felt like this was the place to really give them that outlet and let our contributors speak.”
Previously, the site had several pieces of content that was “mirroring the content of the magazine. We realized people weren’t reading a lot of the content so we looked at what the top performing pieces were and refocused our offering,” Wilbekin says.
The layout for Essence.com is now streamlined so that individuals can navigate the site better and the designers included more white space to make the photos pop against the background.
Social media tabs that enable readers to share on Facebook, Twitter and email have also been incorporated and have a bigger prominence.
“Black women over index in social media so we wanted to make sure it was easy for them to socialize the content,” he says. “So far we’re getting a lot of positive feedback, there was a fire storm on Twitter of congratulations and people say it’s easier to navigate and on the eye. They’re saying they can find things easier.”
Though the group did do formal market research for the last redesign in 2009, this time around hearing the voice of readers in social forums was the most valuable feed back for the magazine.
“We did get comments and we definitely listened to the audience through this process and really heard them say that sometimes things were hard to find, or hard to navigate around the site or there were issues with the speed or clicking through the galleries was an arduous process,” he says. “We made sure to streamline all of that.”