When conversations about a major redesign of the 6AM newsletters started in August of 2022, we were in 24 – soon to be 25 – markets across the United States. We knew it was time for some design updates, but we had to ensure that they’d work across all of our existing markets and our future, prospective markets.
Seven months later, we rolled out the updated newsletter. The new design is simple, clean, and readable throughout, from the editor-generated copy to banner ads from advertising partners.
How did we undertake such a major task and execute the redesign in seven months? We sat down with our Creative team, who spearheaded the project, to get the details.
Strengthening the Visual Language
6AM City’s newsletters have always had an identifiable voice. Our subscribers can count on our coverage to be informative, positive, and accessible – like a good friend in-the-know about all the goings-on in our market cities. While we’ve had a fairly streamlined brand look since we launched, it was time to make some updates to strengthen the visual language and improve readability.
Our redesigned newsletter features a modular design that clearly defines sections and is great for skimming. While the entire newsletter typically takes five minutes or less to read, we know that our audience is busy and want to accommodate their precious time. Plus, having clear sections allows readers to move around in each more easily.
Each email now displays a 6AM branded top hat that ties all of our markets clearly to the parent brand, supporting connection across markets and growing audience awareness of our company.
Other redesign elements include emojis at the front of sections, which grab attention and give a small visual preview of what will follow; easily identifiable engagement modules that pop with colored borders and backgrounds; a simplified Wrap section, which features key links and resources, a takeaway from the local City Editor, and a photo; and simplified text formatting and clear sponsored content labels – both of which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Listening to our Readers
Our readers have always been the heart of 6AM City’s products, and we value their insights and ask for their feedback often. They are more than simply end users; they are our community – and their feedback had the biggest influence on the redesign. We started a conversation about what they’d like to see in a redesigned product early, and continued to check in with them during and after the official rollout.
Prior to the update, we received feedback about the newsletter text formatting being difficult to read. Bolding, italics, and links dominated sections, making the content challenging to digest. Feedback on this directly influenced our decision to strip down the formatting to only what is necessary, including removing bolding entirely and making links easy to see but not distracting.
The other major piece of feedback we received prior to the update was that some readers felt that our advertising content wasn’t identified clearly enough, which we resolved through the use of “sponsored” tags above paid sections.
After the update, we received feedback that the style and size of the typeface was hard to read and made the newsletter too long. Although this only affected a handful of email providers, we responded by temporarily updating all fonts to the legacy format until we are able to have more control over the text hierarchy.
We also received feedback that links in the newsletter have been hard to identify due to some email providers not rendering the colored underline that identifies links. In response, we created a few options for how links could be displayed and had our audience vote on what they would prefer. Our development team is now in the process of implementing the desired change.
Celebrating the Results
While we continue to actively evolve our newsletter to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people, we are excited for how the redesign has resulted in a cleaner product that our audience loves. The more minimalist design puts focus on the quality of the content and how our audience interacts with it, rather than focusing on trendy design aesthetics and use of powerful colors. This modular design also allows us to create modules that seamlessly weave in our advertising to clearly show how our readers might interact with the product.
Our redesigned newsletter sets 6AM City apart from both traditional media and other companies in the space. The design more adequately reflects our positive, community-minded content, allowing it to shine. Traditional news outlets, by contrast, focus on the negative, and tend to place ads in the middle of controversial topics and content. This creates a brand tone that is chaotic, overwhelming, and hard to navigate and digest.
Although our business is supported through advertising dollars, our goal is to be transparent with our advertising and content coverage to maintain the trust of our readership, while also providing valuable advertising partnerships to brands that resonate with our audience. All of the changes we have made support our primary goal of connecting, educating, and engaging local communities. Our redesign positions us as a lifestyle brand, not just a digital news product.
This is truly a full team win, as well. 6AM City wasn’t initially planning to update the entire newsletter; rather, a plan was in place to deliver the same product through a new CMS. When our Creative Director realized that his team faced challenges during that transition, he proposed developing something new that would be updated and truer to the current brand, rather than going with an older style that felt a bit outdated. That feedback was heard by the highest levels of company leadership, and the team was given the go-ahead. It’s one more example of how feedback drives everything at 6AM.