Independent & ES Redesign

Redesigning the online experiences for two iconic news organisations

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"

Peter Drucker


The Independent and Evening Standard are sister publications in the same organisation. They were going through a large technology replatforming project and this provided a unique opportunity to improve the user experience of the websites which had grown unwieldy over time and become bloated with unused features and overwhelming ads.


Lead UX


Leo Xavier - Front End Developer

Niall Ó Tuathail - Business Analyst


January - May 2015

The Problem

Both titles faced the problem that news organisations have been facing for many years: how to remain profitable and maintain quality in the face of declining revenues. This meant commercial interests gained more and more influence over editorial interests. As a result the site had become bloated with increasingly intrusive ads and scripts which had huge performance impacts.

The navigation had grown organically to fit the needs of the publisher but with no thought to the overall effectiveness or experience for readers.


We followed a typical user centred design process, taking a consultative approach and engaging stakeholders from across the business throughout the project.

  • Discovery Phase: In the initial phase we spoke to a lot of the key stakeholders in the organisation to understand their needs and the issues they face with the current system. We gathered background data and analytics to gather insights and help inform our decisions.

  • Persona Creation: We created some lightweight personas based on segmentation data to help ground our work in the audiences for each publication.

  • User Journeys: For each persona we looked at typical browsing behaviours we defined as Scan, Dip and Dive, to understand patterns that users take for engaging with content at different levels.

  • Information Architecture and Navigation Design: We looked at the information architecture and navigation for the site in its current state and built a tagging structure based on this as well as a new navigation structure.

  • Wireframe Design: Due to the nature of the project, we did not need to design specific pages but rather define how templates and components within them could be used on different page types such as article pages or landing pages.

  • UI Design: Similarly the UI design stage was more akin to creating a design system today where we defined the look and feel of the components and the core design elements such as colour, typography and spacing.

  • Front End Development: We also created a number of front end pages to support this and reduce the number of tracking and advertising scripts that were being run on every page to greatly improve the performance of the website.

"The sketch is the best version it's all downhill from there"

@jasonfried - Jason Fried


The project was successful in creating a much better platform for growth for The Independent in particular.

In the following years The Independent closed the newspaper to become an online only newspaper with online readers doubling that of the print publication.

The website became profitable again and had a daily readership of 6 million unique visitors in 2018.


While we managed to achieve a huge amount in a short space of time, many of the previous bad habits slowly returned after we had left.

We improved the website and online experience however many of the fundamental issues for the business remained and were bigger than could be solved within our scope of work.

The other shortcoming of the work was that we couldn't include user testing within the scope and budget. I think if we were doing it again today that would be much more achievable and we could have had some more confidence in our output and recommendations.