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Why We Blew Up the MarketingProfs Homepage: Behind the Scenes

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I just got back from an extended business trip to Istanbul, including a visit to the Grand Bazaar—one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, and widely considered to be a precursor to the US shopping mall. It's an impressive place, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops selling everything from mugs to machetes to an estimated 250,000-400,000 visitors daily.

Inside the crowded marketplace, you get the sense that there's nothing you couldn't find there. The problem, of course, is not knowing where to look: The streets are choked and crowded, even in December's off-season. And the merchants shout at you from their individual stalls, clamoring for your attention with invitations like "Hallo! We can help you spend your money!" and "Good day! Come look!"

It's sensory overload, and unless you know exactly what you're looking for and who sells it, despair can set in.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Istanbul's Grand Bazaar reminded me of the MarketingProfs homepage that was. In our case, there was nothing marketing-related that wasn't represented there. (Content marketing training? We've got that over here, lady! Stats on how small businesses are using social media? No problem! Come look!) But as in a colorful, crowded market... good luck finding it on what was our previous homepage.

Today, we've launched a far simpler and cleaner homepage that we think helps visitors make sense of MarketingProfs and directs them efficiently and easily to the content they are looking for.

The biggest change is this: The old MarketingProfs homepage was organized according to our business units, but the new homepage is organized according to the needs of a visitor or subscriber. In other words, the old MarketingProfs homepage was about us. But the new homepage, we hope, is squarely from the perspective of the site visitor.

Now, our homepage is all about you.

That sounds like a simple change, I know. But for a site with our longevity in online marketing—for one that's as topic-rich and content-dense as MarketingProfs—that's a surprisingly complex task!

Here's what I mean: Previously, we grouped our site content according to what was new daily. So, our free daily how-to articles, podcast, infographics, research summaries, and other content dominated the center of the page, while paid (PRO) members could see recent how-to seminars, guides, and Take 10 mini-webcasts in a slider on the right. Meanwhile, ongoing MarketingProfs content—like our MarketingProfs University training programs, our annual B2B Forum live event, and other products—like Digital Marketing World (our quarterly free virtual events), our Know-How Exchange discussion forum, our opinion-based blog, our store, and so on—shouted from the sidelines, either as in-house banner ads, ribboned notifications above the masthead, or via the navigation bar.

That's a lot, isn't it? It is. And just like the bazaar, we crammed it all on the homepage, and let it each fend for itself.

The new page is a breath of fresh air. Now, content is grouped in one of three distinct modules, or sliders—what's new on the site, professional development solutions, and upcoming events—as follows:

1. What's New on MarketingProfs

Our free content consisting of daily how-to articles, weekly podcast, infographics, research summaries, and the like are still top on the page here. But they are contained within a slider that moves from left to right and back again, so you can see the most recent top 20 pieces of how-to information more cleanly and easily. The header links to our library that gives you a comprehensive look at all of the various topics and formats that we publish.

2. Professional Development Solutions

If you're looking to dig a little deeper into the how-to of any particular subject, or if you are looking for more in-depth team training or professional development, this slider highlights our most recent continuing education courses, content, and other solutions. It allows you to see at a glance what's coming up in MarketingProfs U training (our Content Marketing Crash Course starts this Thursday, in fact!), and it allows you to see what's available for continuing education for individual, small team, or enterprise-level learning—both live and on demand.

3. Upcoming Events

Now there's a place you can go to see all of our upcoming events—both virtual and live—at a glance. You'll see this week's events displayed first, followed in chronological order those seminars and events—both free and paid—that are coming soon to MarketingProfs. This is the section where you'll see opportunities for networking and idea-swapping, both online and in person.

New Navigation, Too

It's true that in this search and social-driven world, more visitors bypass our homepage completely and come to the MarketingProfs site through the back door—say, through individual article, podcast, or seminar pages. That's why we've also simplified our navigation bar.

We've nixed the Grand Bazaar treatment there, too, and instead grouped our content in broad categories based on what readers tell us they are looking for the most: Real-time (our most-recent content), Topics (which includes all of the recent content as well as our entire library categorize by topic), Training (which includes MarketingProfs University and PRO membership content), Events (both live and virtual), a special tab just for PRO members, and a link to your own MarketingProfs membership account.

Why a Homepage Matters

Since most visitors skip the homepage and access MarketingProfs directly through our inside pages—behaving just as visitors do on any other site on the Web—is a homepage still relevant?

We think so, because a homepage communicates a larger mission; it articulates not just what a business is but what it does for its customers.

And we think this change is a bold step toward showing what MarketingProfs is today, and—more important—how we can help YOU become a smarter marketer, how we can help YOU apply new tools (like content marketing, social media, and other digital tools) while grounding their use solidly in the foundation of core marketing concepts.

Over the past 13 years, we've built up a vast library of learning. But, more than that, we've established ourselves as a trusted brand that more than 445,000 marketing professionals—like you—have come to rely on for education and insight on both the established and the new. Some of you come to us for daily insight, while an increasing number of you are looking to us for training and enterprise-level learning.

We hope this change makes it easier for you to find what you are looking for, and (at the same time) we think it makes a statement about how MarketingProfs is evolving, too: We are educating marketers like you in the principles and foundation of marketing; and, at the same time, we help you embrace new tools and techniques that allow you to thrive in this newly social world.

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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, the author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content (Wiley, 2014), and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules (Wiley, 2012). Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

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  • by Hunter Boyle Mon Dec 3, 2012 via web

    Congrats to the Profs team on a job well done, both for executing a great user-centric design overhaul, and not simply posting that it happened but sharing the behind-the-scenes thinking.

    There are important lessons in this post for any business making major changes to a mature site, especially the user experience trumping the internal business unit method, evolving the design to fit a changing business model with new products and services, and emphasizing ease of use to navigate through a growing mountain of content.

    And as if all that wasn't enough, you've got the best lede I've ever read for a new homepage launch blog post. The Grand Bazaar and cluttered homepage analogy? Classic. Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers -- Hunter

  • by Ann Handley Mon Dec 3, 2012 via web

    Thanks much, Hunter. We're pretty happy with the results -- big ups go to our tech team, especially, for their vision and leadership. Oh -- and also Instanbul's Grand Bazaar itself, for offering up the obviously perfect analogy! (LOL)

  • by Chel Wolverton Tue Dec 4, 2012 via web

    It would be interesting if you could make the front page update with content related to the content most read on a user by user basis. That takes a lot of work and this is a great step on the path of doing that.

  • by Steve Lubahn Tue Dec 4, 2012 via web

    Ann, I notice the new site design this weekend and like the new approach! Agree with your comments on making the page less cluttered, if you focus on web visitor needs they will find the other content and look to newsletter signup or premium membership once they discover all the great research and articles on MarketingProfs.

    As a company that does a large number of new website releases each year, we typically find that with user interface design, simpler is better.

  • by Jody Pellerin Tue Dec 4, 2012 via web

    It looks great! I remember thinking the old one was a little cluttered but figured you were about due for a redesign anyway. It still looks a little busy but much more organized with the clearly labeled blocks.

    Thanks for all the great material you send out.

  • by Suzanne Morikawa Tue Dec 4, 2012 via web

    Congratulations to your whole team on a great redesign. Especially love this article explaining the back story and reasoning behind the redesign, especially opening with the picture of a busy Istanbul market as a comparison! I like the new design much better because it feels more inviting to click on the content. The smaller top menu also makes it much easier to navigate to the section I'm looking for quicker.

  • by Dan Thu Dec 6, 2012 via iphone

    It's really a good news for visitors. Thanks for the change with user in mind.

  • by mkbcmyk Thu Dec 6, 2012 via web

    Not a huge fan. I'm not saying the old homepage didn't need to be updated. But the new one is overly simplified. Displaying 9 items at a time on a homepage is not a design solution, it's a design cop-out. Please, please try again and do some usability studies this time.

  • by Stephanie Thu Dec 6, 2012 via web

    The new layout is beautiful and easy to navigate. Not sure I'm in love with the old-school banner ad at the very top, though.

  • by Roy van Broekhuizen Sun Jan 13, 2013 via web

    Any recommendations for website designers?

  • by Andre B. Fri Apr 12, 2013 via web

    Just a thought and not to sound negative, but as a marketing resource for thousands of marketers, shouldn't the website have already been designed for the reader in mind and not to about you. Just saying.

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