When Conde Nast’s digital arm, CondeNet, bought Wired.com from Lycos last summer (after a near eight-year separation), Wired.com editors had to transition the back-end of its Web publishing content system to Conde Nast, making it a good time for a redesign. The site had not had any major changes since 2002.
When Conde Nast bought Wired from its founder in 1998, the company was not interested in the digital properties of the brand. When the two properties reunited, Wired.com editor-in-chief Evan Hansen wanted fluidity between print and digital. "Our inspiration was to make our site look a little more magazine-y," says Hansen.
The other major inspiration was to create a sense of news value. Working with both Web design firm Avenue A | Razorfish and its internal designers, Wired created a sense of news priority on the site via headline size and placement on the home page. "A lot of sites today just have headlines that link and the last story goes on the top of the list. There’s really no attempt to rank the value and importance of the news," he says. "We wanted the opportunity to play a story big if we wanted to."
Photography was also a major priority. Before the redesign, art work on the site consisted primarily of thumbnails. Art and photography now have a major presence both on the home page and on story pages.
Hansen wanted to have a very fresh and clean home page with a lot of white space. The page was actually inspired by the Wired logo, which consists of five boxes for the five letters of the word "Wired." "We left a lot of white space on the home page that actually organizes the page, so we don’t use a lot of boxes or lines to direct the eye," he says. "We used the square as a building block to divide the editorial space."
For the sites’ 10 blogs, which are by far the most popular section, Hansen and his team created a "river" of blog posts listed in chronological order. This replaced the stack of headlines that were aggregated by various subjects with thumbnails. The new stream accommodates some 200 daily posts.
Hansen also wanted advertising to be less intrusive and more blended on the site. Wired.com created a stereo ad on either side of the Wired logo, a method The New York Times has used in the past. Wired created an altered version where the ad touches the logo and spans across the entire page. "We wanted to keep it very clean and not go with a ton of ads," says Hansen. "We sell fewer ads at a higher CPM."
In order to create a very strong editorial space at the top of the page, creating definition between top stores and other editorial, Hansen bumped the navigation bar to mid-way down the page, an atypical placement.
Unique visitors have gone from 3.99 million in February, before the redesign, to 5.26 million for June 2007. Ad inventory is sold out through the end of August and revenues are up 100 percent over last year. "We wanted to update the look and feel and get back that sense of innovation that kind of slipped during the Lycos years," says Hansen.
Unique visitors: 5.26 million in June 2007
The dilemma: Wired.com operated under separate management from the print property. Under CondeNet’s new ownership, it needed unity.
What they did: Cleared out banner ad clutter, gave precedence to news and images and bumped the navigation bar to the middle of the page.