The World’s Business Leaders Homepage
By Paul Maidment, editor Forbes.com and Jeff Bauer, Creative Director, Forbes.com
Forbes.com aims to be “The Home Page For The World’s Business Leaders.” Our goal is to help people who run companies and serious investors prosper at their endeavors and enjoy the benefits of them. In short, Forbes.com is about the creation, management, measurement and enjoyment of wealth.
Our approach is straightforward. Forbes.com extends Forbes unique style of journalism with the characteristics of its medium: immediacy, depth and interactivity. We believe we have an audience to serve, and that we have to deliver our journalism in the way our audience wants it when they want it. We don’t compromise editorial accuracy and quality, but we do leverage our brand and editorial strengths across the company to let us publish in many media--print, online, wireless, television, conferences and newsletters.
This is done by sharing the common editorial values and agenda of all Forbes titles. We have gone further than most traditional publishers in developing the interoperability of our editorial teams. Thought the Forbes site, magazines and investment newsletters are produced as distinct publications, they are largely written and edited by the same people. The site’s Editor is also the magazine’s Executive Editor. This cross-pollination lets the site publish upwards of 600 original staff-written stories a month in addition to posting full electronic editions of each print issue. In all, more than 1,500 stories are published daily.
As a recent winner of the Web Marketing Association’s Best Media Website award, we were asked to share a few insights into our ongoing efforts to serve our readers better. A recent example is the makeover we gave to our home page, which went live in February 2004.
We have a large site with an abundance of excellent content. Traffic analysis indicated that readers were finding their way deep into the site and using secondary channel and section pages. Customer satisfaction surveys showed they liked what they found there. Advertisers liked the audience that had gathered. So we didn’t need to restructure the site from the ground up, but some housecleaning was in order. We needed to pay attention to the first but oft-neglected rule of Web design: (page) size matters.
Forbes.com reaches the highest number of C-level executives of any business and finance site on the Web. These are busy people who need quick access to business news, capital-markets and investment information and features that help their strategic thinking and business planning. Yet even though they mostly have high-speed broadband connections to the Internet, our pages were taking longer to load than we wanted.
So we did three things to speed up the home page, two “under the hood,” one highly visible. The first two were to boost server power and cut the amount of code behind the page. The third was to clear up some of the visual clutter that had accumulated on the home page as the site had grown. We wanted to provide a dashboard view of the day’s top business stories and markets news, highlight our original features and showcase the breadth of content now on the site--videos, polls, discussion boards, sidebar stories, list databases, and slide shows. And make all that quick and easy to take in.
That meant making some hard choices. Of everything on the old home page, we asked, does it need to be there? Is it in the right place? Is it the right size? Can we slim its underlying code? Does it provide a significant gateway to other areas of the site? So we made appropriate alterations and cut some things here.
That exercise alone would have improved the page. But we next asked ourselves how we could best arrange what we had left so readers could get to what they wanted as swiftly as possible. The right column now offers a quick scan of all our top news and markets stories, while the left offers multiple entry points into our top five features or special reports, via, say, a narrative, a video, a slideshow or an opinion poll.
Not only have we cut the page in half, substantially shortening its load time to just seconds, we have nearly doubled the number of headlines in first view, clarified fast-paced news coverage versus longer-term features, and provided more points of access to the deep levels of content on the site. One of our aims is always to let our users drill down into a story as deeply as they want at any particular time.Feedback has been very positive, and we will continue to make improvements to the site as part of our ongoing commitment to our visitors to make using Forbes.com an even more rewarding experience.