Designing and deploying a website for an international magazine can be a daunting task, especially when needing to convert 60 issues of unformatted content, adding online subscriptions as a new business model, building and customizing a content management platform for multilingual issues, and seamlessly hooking into a pre-existing database of a half-million print subscribers in a proprietary system.
The Word Among Us, a Catholic publishing house headquartered in Maryland with a satellite office in St. Augustine, Florida, is one of the largest international Catholic magazines in the world. Their main magazine, The Word Among Us, is intended to assist people in reading, meditating on and understanding scripture with the purpose of providing sound, practical advice for Catholics living out the Christian life.
When the publisher approached Gist Create, the Word Among Us website was an assortment of separate sites. Partial issues of the magazine were published, but pulled once the next months issue was released, leaving users and search engines little to hold on to. Subscribers could log in to request reprints and undelivered copies, but there was no interaction with the magazine articles, and the community aspect was non-existent.
We began a thorough project requirement stage, detailing stakeholder priorities and audience needs. In addition existing core print management systems were looked at as there was a need to sync web and print accounts. Once requirements were finalized, wireframes of each page were created highlighting user actions, content relationships, account management sequences, online subscription processes, renewals, reprints - the list goes on.
After the requirements stage and during our information architecture stage we began researching content management systems. While there are a wide assortment of systems out there, we ended up selecting ExpressionEngine, a powerful, flexible, feature-rich web publishing system capable of tackling any requirements that would potentially be needed in the future. The simplicity of the system, its cost, vast community of plugins, and openness to web-standards won us over. Not to mention the ability to publish multiple bilingual sites under one control panel.
Taking direction from our various wireframes that detailed content relationships and priorities, we started designing the user interface while partnering with Gridwork Design, a team of talented experts out of Washington state, to handle member management and advanced ExpressionEngine content integration.
The goal: a clean, user-friendly, flexible design that could serve an international audience and handle future content phases.
Due to the amount of content and a wide age-range of users, it was imperative to make the site easy to navigate and read. We didn’t want to bog the site down with heavy graphics as informative content is the bread and butter of the publisher.
To do this design elements were intentionally kept to a minimum. Top and side navigation were simplified. Articles were highlighted a number of ways throughout the site as navigational paths of users can be very different depending on their habits and experience. Search tools were introduced allowing more advanced users the ability to drill down into past issues and resources. Article tools were provided allowing users to provide their feedback on articles, increase text-sizes if needed, and share interesting articles with friends.
Launched the first week in August of 2008, the site has been viewed by millions of visitors in over 200 countries worldwide. Search engine and referring site traffic continues to rise, not to mention online magazine subscriptions. While a major transition due to the new online subscriber business model, The Word Among Us has been very pleased with the results. Gone are the days of disjointed content, usability inconsistencies, static content and archaic content management. The publisher can now easily add multi-lingual content, take online subscription orders, and interact with their users.
Requirement development, research and competitive audit, information architecture, user interface design, CSS/XHTML template development and web hosting.