Design definition statement
PCWorld is an online technology and news website with a rich history as a subscription based print publication that moved into an online space later than its competitors. Due to ending their printed subscription and become an online-only service, PCWorld was forced to offer more than what was originally published in their magazines (in a content sense) in order to retain a presence in an extremely competitive space. PCWorld soon became extremely cluttered, with thousands of articles spanning from Software to Business write-ups, and the identity became ever increasingly ambiguous as it no longer matched or portrayed the content offered. PCWorld suffered an extremely high bounce rate, a dropping in global ranking position and an aging design. We took these issues and endeavored to rectify them through a complete redesign and rebrand. I was more specifically in charge of the re-brand, including final branding document, and competitive set/research.
In order to help PCWorld gain a solid foothold on its industry, we needed to understand its competitors… There were many. Several of which included Cnet, Gizmodo, PCMag, Wired and much more. It is easy to say there is a plethora of other sites, offering similar content to that of PCWorld, but in a way that was much more intuitive with a modern twist. Not only does a website need to be eye catching, it needs to be easily navigated. Several of the sites mentioned had an effective mix of both, yet many didn’t. For example, The Verge had a graphically stunning home page – while this was lovely to look at, the website navigation quickly became cluttered and in some cases difficult to decrypt. The outcome the group had set was to create a website that was not only modern, but mixed an element of graphical aesthetic with simple navigation and organisation that would be accessible to both new and old viewers.
Not only was it important to be simple to navigate and pleasing on the eye, but in the case of PCWorld the identity needed to match the content. In ‘Design Thinking for Visual Communication’ by Ambrose G, and Harris P, it states that “Designs can add value directly by boosting sales or indirectly by increasing the prestige of a brand or organisation”. Due to the lack of connection between identity and content, PCWorld has lost this prestige to the likes of PCMag and Cnet, thus having a negative effect on hit rates and audience engagement. By rebranding, we hope to realign the identity with the content in a visually appealing way without completely losing its previous identity.
Several logos were used as inspiration here, the following are examples of identities that either 1. held a heritage element, or 2. included elements within typography that linked to the business;
Theoretically, the audience should be able to navigate to their desired location within a site quickly and easily – With PCWorld, this was not the case. Over 40 menu’s cluttered the home navigation alone, it is no surprise that it suffered from an extremely high bounce rate. Through our research, we had discovered Techspot – another website offering content similar to PCWorld. Unlike PCWorld, though, Techspot utilized several effective forms of navigation and stylistic approaches. Much like Techspot, Cnet had also utilized space and graphic elements well to create an eye-catching yet easily navigated site. The following are examples of two design artifacts used as inspiration for the redesign;
- Beautiful Lightbox style featured articles
- Clean, modern layout
- Dropdown navigation
- Excellent use of white space
- Great software downloads hub
- Excellent featured articles section
- Simple navigation menu
- Does not feel cluttered
- Simple grid structure
The two strongest outcomes of the project are by far the identity redesign, and modernization of a relatively aged website. The new identity now conveys the forward thinking, technological body that is PCWorld (now Launch), with several tasteful elements within that pay homage to the previous identity. By creating a new identity, we have allowed the content to continue the direction it is going, as that is the largest portion of the site, whilst creating a visually appealing brandmark. The modernized site, much like that of the new identity has taken elements from its predecessor and implemented it in a fresh and contemporary way. The colour is no longer bland, and pages no longer cluttered. Together, these should prove to be an effective step forward for the brand.
There were more successful outcomes than unsuccessful, but due to the sheer scale of the project the main unsuccessful outcome would be the graphical uniqueness of the new website. Whilst I am unsure if this is a good or a bad thing, as going wild with design elements can leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouths in regards to it being TOO visually bold, I would have liked for us to be a little bit more adventurous given we had less content. Separating the project into different jobs for each member was an excellent way to cover the large amount of work that needed addressing, it also created issues with compilation of reports. It had seemed as though specific instructions that had been set out weren’t fulfilled, leaving the sections of reports feeling somewhat separated. For example, the final report should have been compiled in a way that was coherent with the branding document I had created, yet this was unfortunately not so.
Throughout this project and throughout the semester, I have learned to step away from positions of leadership and monitoring. I tend to often find myself chasing others up on what needs to be done, adding unnecessary stress to an already stressful process. Whilst this has been good for me from a personal perspective, I certainly hope that it does not reflect badly on the final outcome, as although I had a hand in putting forward ideas and implementing changes, some were not done to my standard. This is a bitter-sweet moment. I have learned just how important it is for a brand to portray themselves correctly. I have always know that it is integral in the survival of a brand for their content to reflect their values, but being in charge of the competitive set and rebrand, and having the opportunity to dig through statistics really highlights and reaffirms this idea – ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, doesn’t always seem applicable. As a designer, I tend to dive in without doing too much research – This will no longer be the case, as this project has shown me how important it is to look into competitors and statistics before making final decisions. The sheer scale of this project wouldn’t have been doable unless we knew all there was about the background of said brand/client.
Areas of design I want to work in
I have always had an interest in UI design, but this project has opened up the door for me to potentially look into UX design. Having the opportunity to dive into statistics and experience something from the perspective of a different user group was extremely interesting to me, and I think this new found curiosity could lead me into a new direction. I can be both technical and implement a strong design thinking aspect simultaneously.