Design & Structure: Web Teachings

by Lewis DVorkin and Forbes, Inc.

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Forbes Model For Journalism In The Digital Age.

If voice is critical to the success of a magazine, the cover is the megaphone. It announces who you are and where you are taking the reader – both inside the magazine and the journey beyond. The cover fights for attention at the newsstand and the mailbox (I mean the old-fashioned kind, with bills, junk mail and catalogs).

For as long as I can remember, Forbes has told its stories through dynamic business leaders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. A new approach to collecting and curating content drove the need for a face to match. It was the time to make things clear on the cover by anointing those individuals who are making a difference and changing how we thought.

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If voice is critical to the success of a magazine, the cover is the megaphone. It announces who you are and where you are taking the reader – both inside the magazine and the journey beyond. The cover fights for attention at the newsstand and the mailbox (I mean the old-fashioned kind, with bills, junk mail and catalogs).

For as long as I can remember, Forbes has told its stories through dynamic business leaders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders. A new approach to collecting and curating content drove the need for a face to match. It was the time to make things clear on the cover by anointing those individuals who are making a difference and changing how we thought.

Then, there’s the magazine as it appears beneath the cover. I now looked at a magazine’s pacing and flow through a Web developer’s eye of consumer navigation and pathing. I spent one career in traditional media (guiding a few redesigns), then another in the digital business (rebuilding AOL’s mass-market news, sports and entertainment sites, including TMZ, and then launching True/Slant). Those experiences taught me the important differences between design as defined by fonts, photos, and graphics, and design as part of the Web world of modules and templates.

I consistently use both the words re-architect and redesign for a reason: Paint jobs alone don’t work anymore (you can no longer spin readers and marketers by relying on design prettiness and that standard old line, “Did you check out our cool new look?”). You need to think through the product and the business imperatives. In a social media world, you need to go beyond the “journalist” as the sole storyteller – and the “story” as processed by editors as the definition of content. Along the way, you must balance the inevitable resource constraints and cost issues associated with repeatedly producing the experience; just because designers want to, and can, doesn’t mean you should oblige them. Then you can rebuild the format (that is, the structure) and put a functional design and navigational layer on top of it.

As the system evolved we kept expanding our inventory of modules and templates and we got more proficient at using them throughout the magazine. Always at the top of my mind is the Web sensibility of how users – readers in this case – navigate and path through these elements to consume the product as a whole.
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