‘EDN’ taps reader input for redesign of magazine, Web site

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By Marie Griffin

Nine months after John Dodge joined Reed Business Information as editor in chief of EDN, the biweekly for electrical engineers showed off its print and Web site redesign. The redesign, introduced with the June 9 issue, includes additional departments and a modified editorial approach that goes with its new tagline, "Voice of the engineer."

Robert Reneau, senior manager-Web business for National Semiconductor, said the EDN team provided "an additional dimension of the engineer’s perspective. There are more stories from the front lines, more detail on the thought process behind the designs and more personal information" on leading engineers. He added that the Web site is now better aligned with the organizational structure of the print publication. "It’s more streamlined, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for," he said.

"They did a pretty good job of listening to the market," said Darin Albers, media director at Diamond Morgan Northend Albers. He added that EDN "is starting to put fresher content on the Web, doing a better job of keeping it current."

Albers applauded the fact that EDN brought in some outside help in the redesign.

"When a publication makes a strong statement, it makes people take notice," he said. "It’s a tough fight out there, but I think they’re going in the right direction."

Dodge pointed out that the redesign process, which relied heavily on outreach to readers, had started before he joined RBI from International Data Group’s Health IT World last September. "We did focus groups, talked extensively with our advisory board and did some online surveys," he said.

The new approach is built around four pillars, according to Dodge: "Raising the bar on our technical coverage, which has always been a core strength; making our Web site more robust; adding to our global coverage; and creating a very authoritative and credible conversation through more interaction with our engineer readers."

"The No. 1 goal of this redesign was to maintain our rock-solid reputation as the leader in deeply technical design content," Dodge said, "but we did want to raise the bar even higher." Two examples of this approach are new departments called "Prying Eyes" and "Reality Check." In "Prying Eyes," EDN editors tell readers how a hot product, such as a Nintendo Game Boy, was engineered. "We have six engineers on the editorial staff, and they’ll literally take something apart," Dodge said. "They’ll look at everything that was used by the designers and the tradeoffs the engineers made, such as where performance was sacrificed for speed or vice versa."

"Reality Check," which will be found on the last editorial page of each issue, takes a look at a product or innovation that was once in the limelight to see how much of an impact it actually had.

All told, six single-page departments, which will run on monthly or biweekly schedules, have been added to EDN. There’s more change to come, Dodge said, adding, "It’s an evolutionary process."

Dodge said the Web site had not had enough resources devoted to it in recent years. "Now we post three times a day and we’ll keep adding new things," he said.

Reneau, who is an engineer himself, said he likes the fact that engineers can easily provide feedback on Web site articles.

EDN has editions for Asia, Australia, China, Europe and Japan. "We don’t dictate what they do, but we anticipate they will all adopt the new look by September or October," Dodge said. Meanwhile, Dodge will leverage EDN’s network of correspondents around the world to contribute to a new monthly department in the U.S. edition called "Global Designer."

Two consultant designers helped the EDN team with the revamp. Vicki Splaine, online creative director for Reed Business Information, spearheaded the Web site redesign. Anthony D’Elia of New York-based Big Designs oversaw the print redesign, while EDN Art Director Michael O’Leary "filled in the gaps and solved any problems that came up along the way," Dodge said.

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