Desktop Experience and Navigation Redesign

My Role

Research, UX Design, UI Design

Team Members

Chris Combs, Tom Shafer

Challenge

The desktop experience of washingtonian.com didn’t offer a rich experience for users. There were not many ways users could find content and navigability across the site was lacking. The design was purposefully stripped down and simplified in 2016 from a previously cluttered and confusing design; however, this new, mobile-first design left desktop users feeling like the site was too bare.

The Washingtonian website pre-January 2016 re-design.

After the January 2016 re-design.

Process

We studied user behavior from Google Analytics and then polled users online to see why they came to Washingtonian. Did they come for the food news and restaurants reviews? Were they looking for things to do around the DC area? Or did they political commentary and magazine features? We also interviewed key stakeholders (editorial staff, advertising reps, and our publisher) to learn what they liked and disliked about the site design and what KPIs they were interested in improving. Finally, we conducted a competitive analysis, layout comparison, and quantitative Heuristic evaluation of Washingtonian's website compared to competitors.

Competitive analysis of features on Washingtonian and three competitors.

Layout analysis and comparison of Washingtonian and three competitors.

What we learned

The data from Google Analytics for the month we polled users was comparable to users’ responses to why they came to Washingtonian. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they came to us for food content, 26% of respondents said they came to us to learn about events and things to do, and 14% of respondents said they came to us for news.

Here’s how that compares to Google Analytics:

Stakeholders liked the simplicity of the design and how easy-to-read the site was, but they wanted to see more navigability across the site and an increase in user engagement. Our site didn’t lend itself to exploration or entice users to stick around to read more content. Stakeholders in our advertising department cited concerns about navigability as well, saying that it was difficult to find Washingtonian’s “best” listings. They would also like to see more of a distinction between editorial and sponsored content.

And looking at our website compared to our competitors’ sites, we learned of site design standards and patterns that our readers were used to and might expect to see on our own site.

From this process, we came away with four KPIs we hoped to increase with a desktop and navigation redesign:

  1. Pages/session (Are users sticking around?)
  2. Session duration (Are they engaged?)
  3. Pageviews to Washingtonian finders (Can people find our “best” listings?)
  4. Bounce rate (How quickly are people leaving the site?)

Solution

Fill white space with useful design elements that guide the user’s flow throughout the website and create a visual hierarchy. Re-organize the site’s navigation to help users easily find what they’re looking for.

By organizing the horizontal navigation bar by the most visited sections, users can easily find the content they need. There is also a vertical menu that includes all the sections and services offered on the site.

To aid the discoverability of Washingtonian best listings, we added this finder bar with large buttons to entice clicks to these listing pages.

The right sidebar also offers a place for people to sign up for Washingtonian newsletters, read stories our editors love, read features from the magazine, and find additional services and contact information.

Results

Comparing the site redesign launch year (October 1, 2016-September 31, 2017) to the previous year (October 1, 2015-September 31, 2016), all KPIs improved:

  1. Pages/session increased by 7%
  2. Session durations increased by 104.46%
  3. Pageviews to Washingtonian finders increased by 328.35%
  4. Bounce rate decreased from 79.02% to 36.13%

View the final product here!

We continue to iterate upon the site design and to make the process faster, we decided to put the time into creating a design system. As our site continues to grow and as we continue to build more products, it becomes increasingly important to streamline the design process (especially on a 1-person UX team). We're excited to build this system as it will give us the opportunity to clean up our designs and code and begin creating new products, better and faster.

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