Piers Fawkes On The New PSFK.com

Last weekend, we rolled out the new PSFK.com, which includes user experience improvements for our various audiences. PSFK’s founder offers perspective on the site’s history and its future.

Last week, we rolled out the new PSFK.com, which includes vast user experience improvements for our various audiences, along with new, more comprehensive content and easy-to-find gateways to our services. To provide insight on the thinking behind the new site, we’ll be sharing Q&As with some folks at PSFK who had a hand in the redesign. First in this series, PSFK founder Piers Fawkes offers perspective on the site’s history and what to look out for in the future:

Tell me a bit about your background and your role at PSFK:

I founded PSFK.com in 2004 as a site about trends, ideas, and innovation. I oversee the company’s various business functions—publishing, events, consulting, product—and guide editorial and creative direction at a high level. Though I’m no longer active in the day-to-day writing of the site I constantly contribute story ideas to the editorial team.

What is the most essential feature of the new design?

We’re now publishing a Headline Stream of breaking news links. I want PSFK to become one of your destination sites–one of a handful of daily must-reads, and to do this, we need to give you–the reader–confidence that we provide access to all the stories in our zone (creative business). So, you’ll now find a stream of links to external news stories that relate to the field but are beyond the purview of the site.

With this new feature we can touch upon world- and other types of news. After all, the announcement of a No-Fly Zone or US jobless statistics impacts the lives of creative professionals.

The Headline Stream coupled with improved PSFK content should give our readers from the advertising, design, digital and media industries confidence that they don’t need to scour the web for their creative business news — they can rely on PSFK.

What ideas drive the new design?

There’s a strong drive to design (and continue designing) the site for the needs of the various audiences:

Our hour-by-hour readers need to be able to quickly access and share ideas with colleagues and their social networks. For our daily readers who grab stuff from our site for their work, the easier we can make cutting and pasting into PowerPoint or Keynote, the better. There are also occasional researchers for whom we want to provide a platform to explore ideas around a topic in detail. For users that happen upon the site via StumbleUpon or Google we are creating an experience that encourages further exploration and possible return. And we want to make it as simple as possible for potential event attendees, report buyers and consulting clients to learn what we do, how to buy tickets, books, our research services.

We have a million monthly visitors today–I’m hoping our new modifications and improvements will increase that number to 5 million in 12 months.

Can you talk about the evolution of the PSFK site from its beginnings? How does the new design move the site forward?

The site started off as a personal site just for me–I posted ideas that were firing my imagination. Then it developed into a site that I managed for friends to share ideas. The initial single-mindedness helped build a strong voice and spirit, but we had to become aware of our readers in order to appeal to a larger audience (and a broader set of writers).

It took a while for us to stop writing for ourselves and learn to write for the audience, and it was difficult because we had been so focused on creating a site we liked, respected and read. But when you turn to the audience, it becomes more enjoyable and your objectives change–you want to create a site that your audience likes, respects and reads. The work becomes challenging as you become acutely aware of the million monthly readers; the work becomes more playful as you seek ways to engage the audience, from headline writing to story selection to content programming. We now have a large collective of regular writers (who get paid!), a Managing Editor and we even spread our message by tweeting in Chinese.

Today we think about what the audience wants from content, balancing the worthy needs of education and inspiration with the more social components of status and presence.

I shouldn’t call this the new design. This is the latest design; it’s an iteration. Content and design are fused now–we need to continue to improve PSFK everyday.

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