Recently I stumbled upon an article written for the Association Media and Publishing by Lynn Riley called, "Tips for Writing a Magazine Redesign RFP". In her article, Ms. Riley gave some great tips on how to enter into a fruitful relationship with a design firm to yield the best results from the start for a redesign of a print publication. It struck me how closely the graphics and print art world aligns with the world of web and how the tips she offered could be easily transformed into tips for how to choose the web firm that is a good fit for your organization's online magazine as well.

Fortnightly.com needed a flexible content management system (CMS) that would enable them to provide a highly intuitive website for their site visitors and subscribers. With the help of Unleashed Technologies and the Drupal platform, they have acheived this goal.

With the modern web and proliferation of mobile devices, people don't often choose to consume their online content in a "digital magazine" format. It's best to make that data available within the website and ensure that it has portability to other platforms that would want more of an enriched experience such as mobile/tablet applications.

The article highlighted five major points for working with print design firms that can easily be applied also to working with a web firm. Those five points were:

  1. Embrace your budget, don't hide it.
  2. Allow the designer's portfolio to speak for itself.
  3. Consider the redesign project and long-term management.
  4. A one-year agreement can be a win-win for you and the design firm.
  5. Make sure you properly follow up with references.

These points are simple enough and some of them can be applied directly to working with a web firm. Of these points the only one that may be less directly applicable is point #2. I say "less" because many times in our experiences, magazines have firm relationships with their print design firms and don't wish to damage that relationship by outsourcing the web redesign in anyway. If you want to honor your design partner first take the following steps:

  1. Let the design partner know your intent after your successful redesign and ask if they'd like to be part of the process.
  2. Touch base with the web firm and ask if they'd offer guidance to the design firm in ensuring proper design structure and capabilities when wireframing/designing.
  3. Ensure that the web firm has a strong grasp on the complicated nature of bringing any type of publication to the web.
  4. Understand how they make bringing content online manageable on a regular basis. Good firms know that cutting and pasting a full magazine's worth of content is not an effective use of your time.
  5. Be mindful that you'll not only need some extensive web work done, but you'll need to support/maintain it on an on-going basis. Good web firms will give you the reality of this commitment upfront.

As a whole it's my recommendation that magazines looking for a big impact on the web that haven't quite found their way yet find a WELL EXPERIENCED partner to guide them through the process and help reduce vendor management. They should be able to maintain the website, enhance the website, host the website, and have more than one individual who is well-versed in the spirit, market, and mission of the magazine.

As always Unleashed Technologies is here to help, having been responsible for websites such as Electrical Contractors Magazine, Fortnightly, Naval History, Proceedings, and many more.