The Australian gay media was stuck in the ’90s, always using glitter and rainbows to define my coming-of-age gay peers. Unfortunately, although we were a group with more sparkle than Christmas, we were relatively invisible – but with nearly 1 in 10 of us identifying as LGBTQI, it was time to change things.
Gay News Network was my opportunity to visually to rebrand a dated Australian website that had the potential to touch every gay person in Australia who actively used the site to learn more about news and political issues related to the gay community.
As a visual designer, I wanted to create a strong, visually compelling site that had design thinking at its heart. As lead designer, I knew that user experience would be paramount for the GNN’s viewers. Rebranding the Australian national news, entertainment and information website involved merging seven state-based websites into one national site, and creating a strong, dynamic visual branding for the new entity.
I’m a designer, and I’m gay, so I thought redesigning for the LGBTQI market would be second-nature, so to speak.
However, creating a unique user experience for Gay News Network’s national base of LGBTQI users was a challenge. Long gone are the days of one-size-fits-all (which, to be honest, I’m happy about). I wanted to challenge the status quo of designing for the gay market. Personally speaking, the gay market should be a natural for marketing professionals. We are a diverse, smart, digital native community that can be very design-savvy and want online experiences that reflect this.
Fortunately, having previous practical knowledge in user experience design and knowing where to start, I picked the brains of the stakeholders who GNN had identified as their key users. These were from 18-45 year-old LGBTQI Australians who wanted to keep up to date on politics and gay-related local and international news, etc.
The brand had some Sydney-based competition, SameSame and StarObserver, which are two very good, youth-focused news-publications and websites. However, they had never earned the kudos that GNN had built up over the 10 years it had been in operation. This was the key attribute that would make it stand out from the rest.
I analyzed GNN’s old website for ideas about what content worked and what could be thrown out.The wireframes were slowly formed to tell a visual story of what the user wanted to see first when coming into site. They wanted to see hero banners of what was currently happening at the moment, so I designed four strong squares that would each house unique storytelling images. These were key UX elements that would ultimately help make the site successful at its relaunch.
I love design and how it can change minds and views, so after doing the UX and creating a unique and meaningful user experience, I then created (with a developer) the user Interface. This was incredibly important for cohesion of site interaction and the user journey.Using clear, simple designs on flat black backgrounds gave the user a clear path to where they wanted to go.
Now that the site’s UX and UI had been brought together, it was now time to use my design skills and really bring everything to life. With this in mind, the website’s amazing photographers created visually honest and compelling imagery that were key to my concept actually working! I wanted the images to tell the story. The images, watermarked with the GNN logo, instantly gave the user confidence that they were getting the correct story on a credible website. I limited the design to black, white and grey, so the images could instantly tell the story.
The project took three months to complete and presented a real learning curve for me as a designer. However, I gained valuable experience, knowledge and insight on on why you should always challenge the concept of “user”” and how the meaning of user is always evolving