Canadian Magazine Industry News
3 June 2009,     TORONTO
Mags U Review, part four: Nine steps towards a better website
Michael Gold
Two complementary sessions on Web publishing were held Monday morning at Mags U. In the first, Michael Gold, a consultant who runs a firm called West Gold Editorial, offered a 10-step procedure for redesigning publication websites. In the second, Morella Aguirre from Salon52 and Marco Beghetto from TodaysTrucking.com offered advice on how magazines can create great editorial online. Here are nine things we learned:

1. While a small, agile team (3-5 people) is best for a website redesign, it's essential to get buy-in on the project from stakeholders early in the process. "They can make your life difficult if they feel like you haven't heard them," Gold said. Invite stakeholders to a meeting and discuss what you're planning to do and why you're planning to do it.

Morella Aguirre
2. Create a written blueprint for the site redesign. Meet weekly to discuss issues surrounding content, design, audience, tone/personality, revenue opportunities and technical issues. Use inter-office Wikis or Blogs to share ideas and to reach consensus.

3. Content-management systems need to be designed for the people who use them most often, usually editors and/or writers. Make sure the Web designer is aware of this when he/she is developing the CMS.

4. When you've redesigned your site, keep tweaking. Consider creating a beta section of your site to allow readers to test out new features.

5. Make sure you're pushing your e-content out through e-newsletters (daily, weekly, or monthly). Not only do e-newsletters drive traffic to your site, they also offer opportunities to sell advertising.

Marco Beghetto
6. Update frequently. Today's Trucking posts 5-7 news stories daily. To speed up the process, use outside links to other news sources (as well as to previous news stories on your own site) to provide readers with background.

7. If banner ads aren't working, consider selling full sponsorship for your site on a monthly basis, as Salon52 does.

8. Put the important stuff up front. According to research cited by Beghetto, most people reading Web news only read the first three words of a headline and only 20% of readers scroll below the fold.

9. If you require readers to register in order to comment, realize that it's probably going to drive a lot of them away. Today's Trucking is currently eliminating the registration requirement on its site.
— M.U.
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