After six years using the same platform and design, the Wall Street Journal online is set to release a major overhaul tomorrow with the goals of improving usability, getting more social, and turning more visitors into paid subscribers. It's a significant milestone in a Dow Jones redesign effort that began before News Corp. took the reins.
Over 18 months in the making, the new WSJ.com's most significant feature will be a Journal Community for paid subscribers. "It's more a place for subscribers to connect, exchange ideas, start discussions, etc.," Ashley Huston of WSJ's Corporate Communications told Ars Technica. "They can also ask questions of each other and interact with our reporters and editors."
The Journal Community features a forum area for starting discussions and a "Find Answers" area that looks to capitalize on the utility of similar products from Yahoo and others. Basic social networking features will also arrive to create a more engaging experience and provide more value for paying subscribers.
Commenting on stories will also be enabled on the WSJ site and, while all visitors can read comments, only paid subscribers are allowed to leave them.
From aesthetic and usability standpoints, the overall redesign of WSJ.com is meant to clean up the site and make it easier to navigate, as the current (and clunky) left-hand navigation will disappear entirely. The new design also distinguishes itself from the print edition's layout while adopting some of its aesthetic to create "a clean, well lit environment," Gordon McLeod, president of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, told paidContent.org.
A greater emphasis will be placed on distinguishing between free and subscription-only content, which the WSJ hopes will eliminate frustration for the common visitor but also add more value for those who pay. Advertising will be rolled back a bit with fewer but larger and "more impactful" ads, and all ad spots now support video. Fortunately, pop-ups and pop-unders have been banned entirely, and "we will no longer cover content again with any ad unit."
Lastly, a greater emphasis will be placed on video in the WSJ.com's new design, with "a much-improved experience" for its Brightcove-based player. Videos can be accessed and played without having to leave the page, as the WSJ.com is hoping for a more engaging, simpler experience.
The new WSJ.com is slated to go live sometime tonight or early tomorrow morning.Posted on