The Washingtonian, a magazine serving the Washington, D.C. area, undertook a major design and workflow platform change in January 2006, switching from QuarkXPress and QPS to Adobe’s InDesign and the K4 system. Paul Chernoff, IT director, and Eileen Crowson, design director, shed some insight into what it took to make the transition go smoother for a $150,000 investment affecting a staff of almost 40 people across editorial, design and production.

Examine Your Choices Closely
"We compared at the time all the workflow solutions that were out there for InDesign. It was real nice having a choice," says Chernoff. "Some were clearly newspaper oriented, some were magazine oriented. In our case, we selected K4 partly because it’s a solid product and the interface was closest to QPS, so that helped make training easier."

Don’t Cut Corners
"We did not go cheap," says Chernoff. "Since we didn’t have the InDesign expertise, we hired someone from the outside to work with templates. Even though we ended up redoing them, we learned a lot from the work he did. And not having to worry about having to create new templates helped a lot."

Have Third-Party Oversight
"We had someone come down and look at our workflow, not to redevelop it, but just to look at it in terms of the implementation of K4. So we didn’t try to do this whole thing in-house," says Chernoff. "Then for that first month we had someone over for 20 of the 30 days of the month for that issue. So we were having someone do training and providing support. And also collecting information for us on how people were using it and collecting information from the staff on what they liked and what they didn’t like and then was able to give us a whole range of recommendations."

Don’t Expect to Be Fully Functional at the Get-Go
"There was so much that we learned in that 2.5 days of training that we couldn’t jot down notes for everything the trainer said, and you can’t even necessarily apply some of the things you know that are really cool," says Crowson. "So we set up training sessions as the months went by so that we could begin using some of those things that we learned about in the beginning. I am definitely learning to this day some of the new things."

"It’s taken people around a year to get comfortable with doing nested styles, for example," adds Chernoff. "Now we’re getting to the point where the designers are doing more nested style work on their own."