The Pineandlakes Echo Journal unveiled a new website Tuesday, July 9, complete with a new user interface and added features to improve the experience of our readers.

Based on feedback from user studies conducted by a third-party firm, Forum Communications Company developers, product managers and user experience professionals identified high-priority features, including a streamlined navigation system.

"We're excited for the launch of our new website," said Pete Mohs, publisher of the Echo Journal and the Brainerd Dispatch, which also launched a new website Tuesday. "It will offer a new look featuring the most popular content categories, along with quality local news that our audience expects."

The first step in the process was obtaining feedback through user studies from the company’s most valuable audience - its readers.

“Our readers are at the heart of everything we do, so it’s important for us to make decisions based on what our users are telling us,” said Steph Schroeder, chief digital marketing officer at Forum Communications, the Dispatch’s and Echo Journal’s parent company. “These studies helped us identify the most desired features from our users and then implement those into this refreshed version of the site.”

Considering readers’ responses and analytical data, new features were identified as priorities.

“We made the homepage even better for finding interesting and important news for our readers,” said Emil Hatlelid, a user experience and interface designer at Forum Communications.

After identifying top priorities, developers and product owners began work to implement the updates to the Echo Journal and Brainerd Dispatch.

The features added Tuesday aim to meet readers’ everyday needs, including finding content they love, discovering trending articles and accessing featured video content more easily.

“At the center of all of our products - print and digital alike - is content,” Schroeder said. “The new features and functionality we’ve added will allow our readers to more easily discover the content they want to read, when they want to read it.”

Although the site features were released Tuesday, this collaborative effort among the newsroom, FCC technology staff and its audience is ongoing.

“We will never stop updating our news properties,” Hatlelid said. “Not every update will be this big, but we won’t ever stop improving how we deliver news.”