The first issue of Ararat Magazine was published in the Winter of 1960. Observing the early trends in the potential of digital publishing, The AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) sought out Haig (after following him on Twitter) and LiFT with the intent to build an online iteration of Ararat and phase out the print magazine. They asked LiFT to develop an online strategy and website with a limited budget. The audience demographic was mostly baby-boomers that tend to be not very tech-savvy – losing them was a risk that Ararat was willing to take and led to important constraints for the design of the new website.
With a worldwide audience the print version had become too expensive to print and ship worldwide. It was time to move it online.
Ararat Magazine had an audience that was typically older than the age of the average online reader and the magazine’s head editor believed that there was a younger audience out there to tap into. The print magazine had a wonderful contemporary style in place that we immediately sought to leverage. Additionally, there was a history of rich photography. Words and imagery were the focus. Preempting this effort, the leadership at Ararat sent out a small questionnaire to evaluate the openness of existing subscribers and do a risk assessment of the potential move. The research showed that the readership would be disappointed but Ararat knew the web was the future for their magazine.
Knowing that the magazine was filled with rich, vivid imagery, we decided to focus on an image-based layout with three tiers of featured stories to highlight and maintain the historical strengths of the magazine. The new layout and design had to balance the online presentation of the magazine focusing on a new, younger audience while maintaining the ethos of the core magazine that still appeals to the older audience that gravitates to the hard copy version.
A key strategic goal was to deliver an easy-to-use system for publishing content in a clean structured image-centric layout.
Understanding that the packaging of weekly content couldn’t get in their way, we worked with Ararat employees to define an editorial workflow for packaging the content and delivering each issue as a true Arts & Culture magazine. We were very clear with the design direction that had to read as an eMagazine w/o looking like a blog.
Discussions were surfaced to be contextual to the article to bring readers into the conversation about an article, therefore extending the content. The treatment of the content was the crowning factor for balancing the presentation of the UGC with the core article.
How did social media play into the strategy? To keep the UI clean, we had to be firm on isolating the social media integration to the most prevalent social networking channels (Twitter & Facebook) rather than delivering the often used mass sharing logo farm of every possible social network available.
After the designs were fully signed-off we developed a custom WordPress theme and MailChimp integration for subscriber newsletters. We also developed Photoshop image optimizing templates for editors of the magazine to prepare new photography to publish properly on the site.