Under the artistic direction of Anna Wintour, a number of Condé Nast's titles have gotten serious renovations — and fitness magazine Self, which brought on Joyce Chang from Cosmo in April to give it a clean, fashion-forward makeover, may have had the most successful one. Now the website, which launched a redesign on Tuesday, reflects the glossy's refreshed aesthetic, but with its own focus on video.
The prompt, "What do you want to get out of today?" greets visitors of the site on launch day. "This is sort of stolen out of yoga class, where you set an intention," says Chang. "We're really trying to answer that question for women and give them ideas and offerings of what they want in their day — not just what they want to buy or what they want to do or what they want to eat, but really answering something that feels a little more essential. That's the barometer that we put all our content against."
On most homepages, your eye scans for a link to click, but on Self.com, you're immediately immersed in a full-width video on silent autoplay. Chang says that motion — whether it's a video or a mood-setting GIF — will be a key feature of the site; so will infographics, flowcharts and quizzes, designed to be both informative and shareable.
"One of their big goals was getting the site to feel a little bit more active and informed digitally," says Allison Connell, a graphic designer at Brooklyn-based creative firm Athletics NYC, which Self hired to redesign the site. "It's the same look and feel of the magazine — the white, clean, open space — but informed digitally, so it that also works in a responsive experience."
Beyond the aesthetic changes, the magazine's online editorial team, consisting of eight to 10 people, will publish more frequently than before and expand the site's coverage beyond fitness, including topics like careers. "The question is always, 'Is this good for women and is this good for your health?'" says Chang. "Those are the guiding principles of what makes a Self.com, or a Self story, in general."
The site has also been designed to accommodate Self's advertising needs — particularly its forays into branded content, which "will now have much more prominent placement on the new site," says publisher Mary Murcko, who joined the magazine in April. Self has partnered with New Balance for the site's launch to create a four-part series based off similar content that has already appeared in-book. Entitled "Rise and Run," the posts will feature New Balance athletes and profile their "sunrise to sunset training." Murcko says the New Balance partnership is indicative of how branded material with appear on the site going forward. "We'll be able to promote it not just with native drivers, but also you'll see ads on Self.com, and you'll see it on all different parts, socially, etc."
Social media is a major access point for Self's audience. Chang says the magazine has seen its social media following increase by more than 100 percent since she joined, and that primary traffic drivers are Facebook and search engines. The magazine has 338,000 followers on Twitter, 178,000 followers on Instagram and 1,131,241 subscribers on Facebook. Chang says the strong following on its Instagram account in particular demonstrates how much Self's readers are inspired by images. "I sometimes say that Self is, itself, an Instagram feed writ large."
The website redesign is an essential part of the brand's overhaul, but more changes are to come. "The web and the book are always a work in progress," says Chang. "Nothing is really done, we are always looking for ways to make it better."
Homepage photo: Bjarne Jonasson/Self.com