Sneak peak at the redesign process of eMedia Vitals


Website redesigns are like football, you draw up a game plan, get your team to execute, and then face the throngs of Monday-morning-quarterbacks the next day. Now that we’re redesigning eMedia Vitals, we wanted to offer our readers and advertisers a chance to offer your thoughts, criticisms and praise during the redesign process rather than after it.

Starting backwards: Publishers’ Playbooks

Most media brands that I’ve worked with either rebrand all at once or in stages with the magazine and Web site first. We’ve decided to do the opposite, and instead develop the design incrementally. Our designer, Jennie Lee, came up with the idea, explaining that each part of the brand could be used to incrementally test ideas and improve our opinions by measuring user interaction.

We started in February with our Publishers’ Playbook product because it was new and because it is PDF-based. Jennie wanted to do something drastic with the logo and the brand. Initially, I was a little bit nervous about some of the choices she suggested, but she’s the expert. The risk was minimal if the design was too conceptual; we could always pull back. On the flip side, if Jennie didn’t push us a bit early to something more dramatic, we’d be doomed to mediocrity. So, score one for starting backwards.

Newsletter redesigns

After getting some extremely positive feedback from the marketplace on the Playbooks, we moved onto newsletter designs. We knew very succinctly what we wanted to do here:

  1. Optimize for the preview pane. This meant adding a table of contents to that subscribers can skim for what they are looking for.
  2. Improve ad click-thru rates. While our ad responses were strong, we knew they could be stronger. So, we dramatically changed our ad specs, offering a 300x250 and text ad pairing. We added this new placement to the right rail.
  3. Make the newsletter more readable. Our Vital Guide to eMedia newsletter is meaty (approx. 10 stories on a single topic every week). So, we wanted to make it more approachable.
  4. Improve the product’s aesthetics. Our readers are media folks, and they want to read a product that looks good.

Here’s a mockup:

 eMedia Vitals: Vital Guide (subscribe here)  eMedia Vitals: Daily Buzz (subscribe here)
Newsletter redesign - Vital Guide to eMedia  

Next steps

We’ll begin rolling out the newsletters within the next two weeks after we’ve had time to evaluate advertiser and reader response. So, please let us know what you think and email us at

We’re already shifting our focus to the Web site itself, and we plan on re-launching in June. We’ll be celebrating our one-year anniversary and that month, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it.

Why share this information?

Our goal with this open redesign project is to demonstrate that best practices are only best practices until someone creates a better one. So, the best way to ensure continued success is by testing and documenting success and failure instead of relying on the same old tactics. We want to find which best practices remain and which ones need to be revamped. Doing so openly allows others to take what they find useful and apply it to their business.

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