Colorado Lawyer

Publication redesign, ongoing design, and print to digital transition.
Case Study
Colorado Bar Association

THOR has redesigned two flagship publications for the Colorado Bar Association for both print and web.

The Colorado Bar Association hired THOR Studio to upgrade the design of their print magazine Colorado Lawyer and to transition the magazine online in order to reach a new generation of digital savvy lawyers. Our team used it’s years of experience redesigning publications to lead their editors through a seamless process that analyzed each component of their unique content and repositioned and restyled it into a sophisticated and cohesive new print package. As with all of our redesign clients, we also produced numerous issues of the magazine in order to fine tune the design, adjust their workflow, and train their in-house team to take over on an ongoing basis. 

Print to Digital

With an engaging new print design language rolled out to their readership we shifted our attention to bringing the publication online. Like many print-first publications in the association space, Colorado Lawyer was bound to a legacy CMS that powered the main association site and did not meet the magazine's unique layout. Prior to our work, this forced the magazine editors to publish via PDF flip books. These rudimentary services package print magazines into clunky online readers that are largely inaccessible to internet systems and render poorly on mobile devices.

Building a Bridge

THOR specializes in bringing print publications online and we understand the unique demands that they present. At the onset of each project, our analysis begins with the content production process and the structure of the magazine.

Like many publications we have worked with, Colorado Lawyer contributors submit their stories as Microsoft Word files that are emailed back and forth amongst the editorial team. These files are imported into Adobe InDesign layouts to create layouts for print. Often, without much thought to how they will eventually be published online. This presents numerous challenges, as these print methods were not designed for the digital world.

Our assessment of the magazine divided content into Features, Departments and News Items. Each of these necessitated custom metadata with architecture that split them into unique data models. This cross-referencing ensured continuity between the print and digital editions. 

Citation Issues

Colorado Lawyer posed a unique challenge given that it is a heavily researched publication with numerous citations. Some articles include well over 200 citations that are marked in the main text with superscript numbers that correspond to endnotes. The editors were looking for a turnkey digital solution where the citation links made inside of Adobe InDesign would carry over into our WordPress CMS. 

To achieve this goal, THOR restructured the InDesign templates so each citation created an inline HTML citation within the article that pointed to the correct resource in the endnotes. In WordPress, we created a custom metadata space for each block of exported citations per article and, in the theme, we wrote code that automatically recognized the citations and formatted them into superscript, in-page links. The result are article pages that seamlessly move a reader between prose and citations with minimal administrative overhead. 

WordPress, The Right Way

Building custom WordPress sites can be handled in many ways given how vast the ecosystem is. For Colorado Lawyer, we too advantage of the parts of WordPress our client loved (the administrative UI) while remedying WordPress' shortcomings around complex functionality using plugins. We then layered a custom theme on top of the WordPress instance that compliments the print edition perfectly.

To build the data models for the publication, we utilized Advanced Custom Fields, a best-in-class method to model unique fields for each type of content. This allowed us to customize the site to our data needs, while the plugin gave us the freedom to meet the design requirements. 

The Colorado Lawyer team also wanted to go a step further and provide a weekly update of court proceedings for the state of Colorado. For this requirement, THOR leveraged FacetWP to build a custom sort/filtering interface to handle all 'From the Courts' content. We customized the user interface to give users a responsive experience that works across all devices.

Search was another challenge for Colorado Lawyer. Their previous website was unable to index their rich content trove. We utilized the excellent SearchWP plugin for the indexing requirement, then layered our custom UI experience on top to match the branch. 

To complete the project, we aligned our client with our favorite WordPress managed hosting partner, WPEngine. Their advanced network hosting option is a combination of excellent Cloudflare network management tools like fast CDNs and reliable 24/7 support. 

The end result of all of this work is a digital publication that performs on any device and that delivers the same sophisticated design as the print edition.

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