The American Prospect

Responsive Redesign for an Iconic Voice in American Liberal Politics

The American Prospect is a progressive political magazine based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1990 by Robert Kuttner, Robert Reich, and Paul Starr, the Prospect produces breaking news and analysis as well as deeply reported, long-form journalism. The Prospect is home to established liberal luminaries like E.J. Graff and Harold Meyerson. The magazine has also served as an incubator for a new generation of progressive journalists, who now write for publications including Mother Jones, The New Republic, The Nation, Slate, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, New York, and Newsweek.

Aten Design Group worked with The American Prospect to rearchitect the user experience, to design an effective user interface, and to equip the Prospect team with an agile publishing platform for delivering content to their users.

Unified Content Strategy

Typical Prospect readers are young, politically engaged professionals, expecting both breaking coverage of political issues and in-depth journalism on the subjects they care about. Historically, the online publication pushed content to its audience via multiple channels; blog posts, web articles, and magazine issues were sanctioned to distinct sections of the website.

As described by Prospect's then-Editor, "We need to be able to break down the distinctions between articles and blog posts, bring everything forward regardless of form, and make the best and most interesting pieces visible to readers no matter how they come to the site."

We worked with the Prospect team to create an information architecture that does just that. The resulting navigation system and layout work together to promote content based on substance, topic, and timeliness; not simply whether something is a blog post or a magazine article.

Cross-Promoting Content

Throughout the design, we implemented a multi-faceted strategy for cross-promoting content — both within the publication and beyond it. Related Articles are displayed after each post. Article author bios are displayed prominently, along with the authors' recent twitter posts. Blocks for most recent comments and popular articles are displayed site-wide, as a tool for both prompting users to engage in conversations and for promoting articles from within the website.

Addressing Multiple Content Formats

Articles on prospect.org follow a variety of formats: long, short, with images, without images, some with videos, some with slideshows, and so on. The design uses strong, clear typography (with custom web fonts from Typekit) to establish hierarchy, featuring bold serif headings and elegant sans-serif body copy that provide readibilty reminiscent of print. Bold drop-caps introduce articles, and JavaScript-driven pagination breaks longer articles into more consumable lengths.

Simple, Powerful Publishing

We built prospect.org with Drupal 7. Our developers migrated tens of thousands of articles and blog posts, along with their authors, from the proprietary system previously in place, automating HTTP 301 redirects to preserve incoming links and search engine rank.

The new system features flexible categorization, automated semantic tagging with OpenCalais, and configurable publishing workflows. Tasks that previously consumed hours or even days of web producers' time are now tightly integrated into an efficient publishing process.

Cloud Hosted

The Prospect's considerable traffic is served from a scalable array of load-balanced cloud servers. We configured Nginx as a front-end proxy, with Apache web servers and MySQL database behind it, providing near-limitless capacity for horizontal scaling.

Looking Forward

Today, prospect.org is a support client. We continue to work with the Prospect team to leverage their web platform and deliver enhanced, valuable iterations to their users.