Two modes

I worked closely with the founder and a small team to redesign core aspects of The Creative Independent’s website to make it more aligned with its mission of being a resource for creatives.

Turning a publication into a resource

The Creative Independent's original design felt more like a publication than a resource. Most of the website’s content was kept under a section called “Archive,” which felt hidden especially for new readers.

After a research phase where we accumulated user feedback and analytics on the current design, we identified the following pain points:

  1. Readers often visited/bookmarked the website’s archive page instead of visiting the homepage.
  2. The site’s navigation used unfamiliar terms that were confusing to new readers.
  3. It was difficult to filter down into a specific topic or medium.
  4. Differences in content types across the site weren't distinguished visually from one another.
  5. Subscription options (a main way that readers accessed the site) were hidden in the footer.

Aligning the new design with TCI’s mission

We focused on restructuring the site to be more conducive to how readers used the site. We also saw this redesign as an opportunity for the website to become less of a publication and more of a creative resource.

Navigation

One of the key areas that we focused on was the site’s navigation bar. While I found TCI’s flowing brick-like design a unique aspect of its identity, I saw an opportunity to make the navbar more approachable and understandable. Through several iterations we decided that restructuring the navbar around types of content (Interviews, Essays, and Guides, etc.) made it more understandable and encouraged exploring. We also moved content types that were experimental or underused to a dropdown menu to make the navbar feel less overwhelming and visually distinguished the search button from the rest of the items with a rounded edge treatment.

Our updated navigation design.

Two Modes

Once we had restructured the navigation, we challenged ourselves with designing a People page that would feel at home in our new design. I realized that the People directory could be thought of as another mode of browsing TCI. I approached our team with the following idea: what if we had two browsing modes, "Explore" and "People". With this concept in mind, we designed two modes, giving readers more agency over how they browsed the site. The default “Explore” mode was useful to new and returning readers whereas the “People” mode felt like a directory or Rolodex for those who were just looking for a specific creative featured on TCI.

Right: Explore Mode, Left: People Mode

A website as an email

The Creative Independent is more than just a website. Over 19,000 people receive TCI's daily email in their inboxes. In redesigning TCI it was critical to highlight that TCI is available in many formats. In the past, the newsletter link was hidden in the site's footer. I designed and illustrated a new Subscribe page that would display all the available formats that TCI is offered in. It felt appropriate that “Subscribe” could be a third mode in which to browse TCI so we added an icon for it in the navbar.

The encyclopedia of creative people

Over the years, The Creative Independent has become a vast directory or encyclopedia of creative people. It was clear from analyzing search terms from analytics that TCI should expand its People directory into actual profiles. I designed a new profile template that would collate metadata for each person into a wiki-like format.

Quotes

My work on TCI profiles lead me to consider other metadata that readers would find useful. From previous research we knew that readers usually wouldn’t engage with an interview if they didn’t recognize the interviewee. It struck me that quotes were a perfect opportunity to introduce readers to an interview in an easily digestible manner. I designed a new module for TCI's profiles that collected quotes from each subject into a full-page slideshow and also allowed users to share their favorite quotes directly to social media.

The new TCI Quotes module. Try it live here.

Reflections

By learning from and listening to our readers, we were able to design a website that was more conducive to how our readers used TCI on a daily basis. We were also able to align the site's design with its mission of being a resource for creatives. These improvements motivated us to think about other ways we could design TCI to make it easier to explore the vast creative knowledge base that it has grown to be.