When Newsweek announced it would eliminate its print edition and function as a digital-only publication, America's second longest living magazine brand tasked Huge with the creation of a truly digital-first publishing platform. With only 4 weeks to design the entire experience, we worked in real-time with the editorial team at Newsweek, creating new prototypes daily. The result was a vision for Newsweek which promised to revitalize the brand and challenged the industry’s perception of what a digital publication could - and should - be.
In deciding to go digital-only, Newsweek's opportunity was to design an experience that transfers the best of the physical reading experience to digital and identify ways to present content that were even more engaging than on the printed page. Newsweek was determined to leverage the most successful elements of its digital-savvy sister publication, The Daily Beast, while creating a unique space for Newsweek's iconic brand. It couldn’t just be another news site in an already crowded market.
Our vision for Newsweek's future celebrated the long form, provocative content that Newsweek had always been known for. Continuing the weekly publishing model allowed us to frame the world’s most relevant stories, creating a snapshot of each week in history. This allowed Newsweek to continue the storytelling they do so well, while providing a real value to the user. We designed an immersive, social, and even addictive experience that modernized Newsweek yet maintained its authority and reputation. The site prioritized Newsweek's in-depth editorial coverage of the stories shaping the world each week, but also incorporated features like “Newsmakers,” Newsweek’s unique take on The Daily Beast’s “Cheat Sheet,” and showcased viewpoints, supported by social sharing tools to encourage user engagement.
Paywalls, click through galleries and articles with 18 pages of pagination have become a staple of the online publishing business model, but are incredibly frustrating for users. In designing the new Newsweek, we were determined to create an experience that worked for both. Focusing on impact over impressions, the new design featured native, responsive ads, long, scrolling galleries and engaging article pages which were extremely easy for the editorial team to create. We made it easy for users to scroll from issue to issue, accessing the entire archive of Newsweek editions. Instead of swiping through an issue, readers could scroll down to reveal sections; when they reach the end of that week’s issue, scrolling takes them to the previous week’s issue, mimicking a real-life stack of magazines throughout the decades. An intuitive left-hand navigation and table of contents stayed with users as they browsed, drawing them further into the experience without disorienting them.
Huge was also responsible for bringing the new design and user experience to life. We created custom layouts for phone and tablet devices ensuring the design held up no matter how readers accessed the site. Leveraging Newsweek's existing investment on the Adobe CQ5 platform, Huge worked onsite with Newsweek's internal tech team to adapt their platform to meet the new requirements. Employing integrated development and QA environments, shared continuous integration and source control enabled close interaction among the developers on the project, who used code reviews on github on a daily basis.
Sadly, 3 months after launch, IAC sold Newsweek. The company's new owners decided to take the magazine in a different direction, including reviving the print publication. In the short time it was live, traffic to the new Newsweek.com had increased 40% and time spent was up 15 minutes per reader. Proud of the work, we believe the design, short-lived as it was, should serve to challenge the publishing industry to think bigger about what it can achieve when it creates experiences that put digital - and users - first.