Fri, 07/21/2017 - 04:43

Posted by Tamara Baluja on March 12, 2014

The redesigned Maclean's website. All photos courtesy of Rogers Media

By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

Maclean’s redesigned website has a new tile-based responsive design.

The new website—which now automatically configures its size depending on whether the viewer is on a desktop, smartphone or tablet—has an easier navigation, a cleaner look and larger photographs. 

Sue Allan, managing editor of digital, said the redesigned website was inspired by a need to better showcase the work being done by Maclean’s. “We wanted to break down that distinction between work that was produced for the weekly magazine and the daily file,” she told J-Source.

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As a result, the clunky blogs hub—Blog Central—is now gone, replaced by a drop-down menu that lets readers sort by author and section. Articles are now arranged in large tiles, and every article on the home page is accompanied with a visual.

This tile-based responsive design layout has been rolled out across all Rogers’ consumer magazines—including ChatelaineFlare, Canadian Business, MoneySense and L’Actualité—over the past two years, with Maclean’s being one of the last magazines to be redesigned. 

Ryan Trotman, senior director and digital publisher of Rogers Publishing, said the responsive design delivers on a promise to readers to be available on all platforms. He wouldn’t disclose how much the company invested in the project, but said with the company’s shared resources, the redesign cost less than it would have for a comparable independent magazine.  

Trotman said content is not curated or edited differently for the various platforms.

“I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that readers want to read different edited content on the mobile desktop,” he told J-Source. “We’ll deliver the consistent approach and good content everywhere.”

Since November 2012, pageviews on the redesigned website have increased about 35 per cent on the desktop and 63 per cent on mobile for all Rogers magazines. Overall traffic is now almost equally divided between mobile and desktop users.

Trotman said the responsive design has proven popular with readers, but engagement is highest on the iPad version of the magazines. On the app version, Trotman said readers don’t visit as often—usually weekly or monthly depending on the magazine’s publishing cycle. But when they do, they read more pages and are more likely to read cover-to-cover. “It’s a more traditional linear experience ... exactly what you would do if you had the magazine in your hands,” he said.

However, website users, whether that’s on a mobile browser or desktop, are more likely to visit the site several times a month, but only read a few articles a time.

Looking ahead, Trotman said he wants to make a bigger push in the online video space. “Part of that means better synergies with our broadcast elements.”

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It's a start but the site is still "under construction". The mobile site takes more than 10 seconds to load on either an iPhone or Windows Phone. The pages do not resize automatically with word wrap and the font is too small. The featured images are so large, a single story takes more than one mobile screen to see.

To test my personal experience, I ran on Google's PageSpeed Insights, one of the industry tools that tests mobile site and desktop site performance.

The mobile site rated a dismal 17 out of 100 and the regular site failed the test.

On, the page took 17.984 seconds to load. They have some problems to fix.

The home site is not much better. Too slow to load and far too cluttered on the standard smartphone.

The whole industry is struggling with the rapid move to mobile technology. Two years ago publishers were encouraged to their own app for mobile. The cost and effort to develop an app for Apple, Android, Windows on various screen sizes is a daunting task for largest and most technically advanced companies. 

Personally, I'd rather use sites that are HTML5 compliant. They tend to be more responsive to various operating systems, browsers and screen sizes.



J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.