Reimagining European Athletics’ digital magazine

Inside Track front cover
By maintaining our stamina and pooling our strength, we crossed the finish line victorious for the first digital issue of European Athletics’ magazine, Inside Track. Working closely together to understand the client’s vision for the mag, our team of talented creatives paid as much attention to the finer details as they did the big picture.

Background

Creative design runs in our veins here at White Light, and we’re proverbial gold medalists in both digital and print. Clunky web pages or offset panels are as jarring to us as NFTs, and we channel our creative energy into making digital publications just as enthralling as anything you’d see on paper.

Having previously worked with Nick Howard on various projects, including his own venture, Performance Journals, he reached out to discuss a further collaboration. 

This time, Nick was getting in touch to talk about designing a bi-annual digital magazine for European Athletics. As the organisation’s Content Editor, he was looking for a sleeker, more user-friendly digital magazine. Nick wanted to replace the current digital version of the magazine and increase online readership. 

Old Inside Track layouts

Identifying the problem

European Athletics first foray into a digital version of the magazine followed a traditional approach to magazine design: an A4 template with a simple two-column grid and a large font size to make it legible at full page on a reader’s screen.

While it was very image-led, which worked well for a digital output, there wasn’t a lot of supplementary information; for example graphic panels or sidebars to hook the reader in. 

The structure also made it challenging to read on mobile, with a lot of pinching and zooming required, and there was limited scope for access to analytics to track SEO. In addition, advertisers had little visibility or ability to customise their offering.

Finding a solution

To combat readability issues and to make the magazine more visible online, we suggested creating a new design using a custom platform built specifically for a bespoke magazine experience. This promotes digital storytelling in an easy-to-read format, which meant we were able to add some fun and engaging new elements to the mag. 

We were able to introduce animation and interactivity which gave the magazine a lease of life in it’s new digital format. Instead of ‘flipping through’ the magazine on desktop or mobile, we designed the magazine with a vertical scrolling navigation, allowing readers easier guidance through whichever feature they click on, with less clicks. This way,  they are less likely to lose track of the story as it progresses. 

Inside Track magazine feature on a smartphone

Let’s get together: working through the process

To make sure we’re on the same page as the client – so to speak –  our first steps are always to clearly communicate our proposed plan of action.

We set up a call with Nick to chat through the interface and how we’re planning to use it, and supply a few examples of our previous work. This way, the client can better envision how things might be placed, and gain a clearer idea of how the final product could look. 

So, instead of thinking of content in purely print-based terms, the client has a chance to approach their processes through a digital lens; for example providing video content for a story instead of purely text and static images. 

We also encouraged a mindset shift in terms of using more evergreen content, rather than content you could find on the client’s website. We suggested featuring exclusive interviews with athletes, providing strong video content of event recaps and avoiding news-based stories that will date quickly.

Going digital: reimagining the mag 

With Nick providing all the copy for the magazine, we were able to pour our energy into the new design. We created a new masthead and reimagined the issue. While we continued to use traditional magazine techniques – like a strong front cover – we introduced moving images rather than a single static post. 

The WLM team also input a menu that effectively works as a navigation tool, allowing readers to click on whichever feature they want to read and being taken straight there. Eye-catching colours and heading designs hook the reader into the story, which they can scroll through whether they’re on desktop or mobile. 

One of the client’s main objectives was to improve their digital offering. To make for a more rewarding reader experience, we showcased European Athletics’ three main social media channels (Instagram, Twitter and YouTube) in a three-panel animated feed which showcases their digital reach, including detail on views, engagement and reach. 

We also introduced an animated feature, activated by scrolling, which details the client’s reach across their digital platforms by showing likes, subscribes and video plays. 

Future planning

In order to keep the content gathering process as streamlined as possible, our team suggested the client implement a traffic light system at their next content planning meeting.

Green, for example, would be content that has a relevant reason for being included in the magazine. Amber would apply to posts that might be better suited to the website, while red would be for things like updating athletes’ records, which is content that would date very quickly on the magazine compared to the website.  

The aim is to be able to create a stronger content plan going forward, so that we have a clear idea of the type of content the client will send over ahead of time, and work out how best to feature it on a digital platform.  

Inside Track feature

The end result

Both the mobile and desktop versions we created for the issue offer a sleek, finely tuned user experience which promotes easy navigation and encourages a wider readership.  

By introducing interactive digital elements like video, embedded social posts and animation, we have made the magazine more engaging, easier to read and have also been effective in illustrating European Athletics’ wide digital audience.    

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Client feedback

The response from European Athletics on this project was resoundingly positive, with particular emphasis placed on the team’s creativity and flexibility, while still delivering on the client’s overall vision.

Nick Howard, Content Editor at Inside Track magazine shared his positive thoughts on working with White Light, alongside European Athletics’ Deputy Head of Communication, Biljana Danicic.

“I have worked with Eric and the team at White Light on several occasions and I keep going back because of their expertise, creativity and the fact that they’re great to work with, too. I’ve never been disappointed.

“Because the format of the magazine was changing, we wanted to work with a designer or agency that could bring creative ideas as well as technical expertise to help us in our mission to really move Inside Track forwards from a print publication to a digital one.

“Working with White Light is always incredibly smooth. We have a tried and tested process for creating content, but equally I know that they will have the flexibility to deal with any hiccups or challenges we might face along the way. It also helps when you get to work with nice people, and that’s one of the major draws to working with Eric and the team at White Light!”

 

“I have worked with Eric and the team at White Light on several occasions and I keep going back because of their expertise, creativity and the fact that they’re great to work with too. I’ve never been disappointed.

“They are strong communicators and always bring the right level of sticking to the brief while offering their own creative ideas, too. They’re great to talk to, whether it’s in person, over video call, email or messages.

“I’d highly recommend working with White Light. As always, the team exceeded my expectations and I’m really pleased with the final result. Following our project debrief, I’m also excited to work with White Light again on the next issue and bring yet more creative ideas to life!”

Biljana’s account of working with White Light was also really positive. “I loved White Light’s analysis of how they could improve the magazine,” she said. “This includes their recommendation to move it to a new digital platform, and making it more accessible for all athletics fans to enjoy.”

“We were really pleased with the final digital magazine, especially the increased usability, creativity and accessibility. It’s another step forward in making the sport more digital.”

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If you’d like to work with us on a similar project, get in touch. We’d love to have a chat.