This year, Fast Company embarked on the first major site redesign in nearly five years. And in many ways, the redesign process has brought the magazine back to its roots. When Fast Company launched in 1995, the goal was simple: create a magazine devoted to the reader that was a mix of the Harvard Business Review and Rolling Stone. “That rock-and-roll mentality has permeated the magazine throughout its history,” says Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Mehta.
Bill Riordan, Chief Product Officer
Fast Company is a community, and it’s a community of people that identify as trailblazers in design and innovation and business.”
But times change. Magazines grow up. And so do readers. “I think it’s fair to say that editors and readers have, in some ways, grown a little farther apart than we were 25 years ago,” Mehta says. So in today’s media-saturated world, how can a magazine like Fast Company still build strong connections with its readers? With the help of a partnership with SAP, Fast Company went looking for answers.
TARGETING THE READER
To better serve its audience, Fast Company in 2019 planned an ambitious redesign of its website. The goal: deliver an experience that strengthens the magazine’s relationship with its existing readers, brings new ones into the fold, and recognizes how their tastes—and habits—have evolved.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in business news,” Mehta says. “It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but we are competing against not only other media companies, but people sitting in front of their iPads, or their phones, or binge watching a television show on a weekend.”
Most magazines drive their redesigns internally, with editorial and design executives taking the reins. But that kind of approach wouldn’t work for Fast Company, says Bill Riordan, chief product officer of Fast Company‘s publisher, Mansueto Ventures. Instead, this redesign needed to be driven by its readers. “Fast Company is a community, and it’s a community of people that identify as trailblazers in design and innovation and business,” he says. “This was a chance for us to involve that community in the design process.”
LISTEN, LEARN, REACT
In order to involve the community, Fast Company started by utilizing SAP Qualtrics technology to reach out to readers directly, asking them to share their feelings and feedback about the magazine’s online experience. And thus, The Fast Company Experience, powered by SAP Experience Management, was born. The design process offered an opportunity to collect and analyze data on readers’ relationships with Fast Company, from the types of articles they most like to read to the role they want Fast Company to play in their lives.
Readers’ feedback helped inform key design changes. For instance, smarter, more simplified navigation gets readers to the content they want more quickly, leaving them with more time to lean into and learn from the content. A new homepage design also highlights a frequently updated trio of stories specially chosen by Fast Company editors. The aim is to deliver to readers the most relevant and fresh content and to present that content in an eye-catching and thought-provoking format.
The six-month process included three stages—listen, learn, and react. Through each stage, SAP Qualtrics technology leveraged real-time data and findings to inform the next steps in the design process. The result: Fast Company can listen, learn, and react more quickly. “This is something the consumer-electronics world has been doing for years,” Mehta says. “It’s very exciting to be able to leverage technology and to leverage this partnership with SAP.”
The partnership with Fast Company was the first of its kind for SAP, which employed its Qualtrics technology to capture real-time feedback from readers as they interacted with the site. “These days, connecting with consumers is key,” says SAP Global CMO Alicia Tillman. “SAP enables users to feel that their voice is being heard and that their feedback matters.”
Fast Company‘s drive to inspire and educate readers is as strong as it was when the magazine launched 25 years ago. And through the current redesign, Fast Company aims to keep its readers at the center of its community. “We have a really exciting opportunity right now to understand what our readers like about our digital experience, where we can do better, and where they think the world is going,” Mehta says. “And that, for me, is the most exciting part.”