Eastlife magazine has been doing the rounds for over 10 years now. Housed in a stylish B5 glossy title, the publication is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, trends and events from across East Anglia. The title features everything from lifestyle, food and drink, home and garden, property, health, theatre, arts and most importantly the latest events, together with first-class advertising opportunities and is available free of charge in supermarkets, stations and other high-footfall areas.
We were approached by Eastlife when their inhouse developer was moving on to pastures new. With a website already driving over 5000 hits per week, losing the website would be hugely detrimental to the business and its advertising revenues. With multiple designers having worked on both the digital and print platforms over the last decade, the two media outlets had become disjointed and disconnected. With brand recognition becoming more and more vital, they wanted us to create a transition period that would allow the website to continue operation whilst the print design was pulled back to the 21st Century. Once completed we would be tasked with bringing the digital elements back into the print styling to create a single brand image and unify the separate elements of the business.
With any project of this nature, we like to get our hands on as many resources as possible. With a free print publication, 10 years in business is no mean feat, and Eastlife had built a reputation with its readers and advertisers that would be crucial for the redesign.
With print dimensions set at B5 (240mm x 168mm), previous market research suggested a readership of over 60,000 with a largely female demographic. With a large range of topics included and limited space to play with, a clean and contemporary styling would allow us to distinguish sections whilst maintaining a consistent style throughout the publication.
One of the first issues we addressed in recreating the magazine was to eliminate colour. A ruby red shade had been modified and adjusted across all platforms over the 10-year history, so we neutralised the colour palette, opting for a greyscale setup, to provide consistency and tie into our new contemporary styling.
The next challenge was to address the layout. Previous issues had struggled with identity, and layouts had become cluttered and confusing. To get the most from the available space, we simplified. Creating a series of two or reduced width single column layouts, we would increase readability and create a more user-friendly experience. Another benefit of this approach was the ability to create white-space and increase line height, reducing clutter and making the publication easier to read. Coupling this with a monotone colour palette helps create an elegance, and pushes Eastlife back into an upmarket category, in line with its origins.
Eastlife went digital back in 2009 and it’s safe to say that web design has come a long way in that time. Built using WordPress, the site had been modified by multiple developers in a 10-year period and had become stagnant and outdated – not to mention unresponsive for tablet or mobile. With over 5,000 hits and up to 100 new posts published weekly, the website capacity had grown rapidly.
Whilst many would consider this a success, the rapid growth had come at a cost. Repetitive and dated content had become an SEO nightmare. New features and tools had increased load times and a loss of identity meant the site had stagnated.
Keeping with our recent changes to the print publication, we proposed a fresh start. Having sat down with the director, editor, sales and marketing teams we set about detailing what each department wanted from the platform. The conclusion to this was the need for an easy use platform, that would allow the sales staff to push digital advertising opportunities and provide a marketing platform for use on social media. To meet this need, we stripped back the previous website which used large unresponsive headers, and static content well over the fold. By modifying the layout, we could create a more dynamic platform, that would stay evergreen, and provide fresh content to returning users. Ensuring the site was fully responsive was also key to the fresh start with up to 85% in traffic now coming from tablet and mobile users.
The second step was to evaluate existing articles. Using data from Google Analytics and user behaviour software, we set about removing any date sensitive content, providing a template for the editor and copywriters to produce evergreen content and boost site SEO. Whilst time consuming, this process stripped over 3,000 repetitive or outdated posts from the platform. Merging posts where possible and modifying where applicable gave Eastlife a solid base on which to build content and future proof the website.
With a solid base established, we proposed a simplified category system that matched that of the print publication and was split into location as well as content type. The synchronisation with the print would maintain brand consistency and improve usability. Doing this, also allowed us to provide advertising opportunity by location and business sector. Modified post styling provided a suitable marketing space for contributors also, pushing imagery, bio’s and social links for those involved, and allowing Eastlife to build their contributor base, in turn increasing site content.
Having adapted the site to the new styling, the final steps of the process were to relink any backlinks that had now become vacant or removed. By ensuring these links were redirected would improve site SEO and ultimately provide a more user-friendly experience, whilst building on the rankings the site had built over the last decade.
One of the key benefits of our work with Eastlife, was their openness to change. By allowing us to look at the bigger picture, we were able to unify their business and boost the brand. They appreciated the concept would be a lengthy one (up to 12 months) but were looking at future proofing a business model that had quickly become outdated.
Whilst there were instant gains in print pickup and web traffic, longer term advantages included increase in advertising revenue, through increased opportunities and inflated pricing. Google rankings have also seen a steady rise, whilst website bounce rate has been reduced significantly.
With the new platforms in place, Eastlife can now focus on what they do best. Producing noteworthy editorial and building traffic through a dynamic digital platform and stylised print pickup.