A Different Engine
643 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
The design of a new AOL homepage, grid and information system was a challenging project. There are a lot of hurdles when changing the front door to a page that supports a billion dollar business. Frequent users are used to navigating to specific pieces of the page so we had to be mindful of drastic structural changes to utility navigation as well as search and mail. Metrics gathered from intensive user testing which included eye tracking, heat mapping and in person interviews provided a lot of valuable data around the existing structure.
The first challenge was to create engagement further down the page, the metrics pointed to massive drop off in engagement when the content fell below the fold. There was also a lack of any visual anchors to promote scrolling and drive engagement deeper than the top dynamic lead area, search and mail links. We started by creating a new grid system for the page as well as a system that ensured all images were cut to a 4:3 ratio, this helped garner a massive efficiency from a production standpoint and also ensured that through the use of dynamic image resizing that a single image could be cut and used in any part of the page. Another big piece of strategy was to work with a passive personalization engine; the idea that users would be fed more content based on usage habits was one of the core drivers for the first model. We created engagement plug and play modules that could support content from multiple channels.
Other models included a shorter page with multi promo DL, this helped promote multiple pieces of content in a small space as well as delivering video content for sponsors. We also worked on a social strategy that leveraged your social network, working with the idea that you friends populate the page with content based on what they are sharing across facebook, twitter and check ins on foursquare. Another concept worked with the idea that content was pulled in real-time, this was anchored with a broadcast spot that worked like a traditional broadcast with a AOL editorial slant on the days must see content.
The information and grid system was also used in the concept design for the UK AOL homepage. This simple and modular structure allowed users to see content from each of the channels on the front page without having to dig too deep into the site.
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