How we redesigned our blog, Inside Intercom

Main illustration: Blake Thomas

We pride ourselves on the fact that Intercom has become synonymous with high quality design and content. But we never take that reputation for granted.

We are one of that growing band of designer-led startups and believe we have a strong design-led culture. We’ve also invested heavily in content in the past 18 months. We’ve published four books, each of which have been downloaded by tens of thousands of readers. We have a well-regarded podcast featuring conversations with builders and makers in our industry that we respect.

We paid close attention to hierarchy, typography and illustration in order to create a connected and organized experience.

Earlier this spring we moved into live content: Inside Intercom spawned a world tour, and the talks from that tour are in turn captured for posterity on the blog (Yeah, we know it’s kind of meta). We have a team of content marketing managers – Adam in San Francisco and Geoffrey in Dublin – who make sure that as a company we continue to publish high quality content on an almost daily basis.

With all those changes it’s little surprise that the functionality and design of Inside Intercom had not kept up with the content. E.g. our podcast is now one of our core pillars of content but was hard to find on the blog unless you knew to search for the podcast tag. It’s just one example of how producing more meant the design and functionality that worked for us 18 months ago was creaking at the seams.

The design team kicked things off with a series of sketches. Although we’re proud of the aesthetics of the new design our primary goal was to make it easier for you the reader to discover and consume the content we publish.

New homepage

You might think it looks and feels like a magazine. That’s because we aim to provide content that’s more akin to a high quality editorial publication, rather than another run of the mill corporate blog. Above you can see a few of the explorations we went through before landing on the current design.

We paid close attention to hierarchy, typography and illustration in order to create a connected and organized experience. To increase visual impact and give the homepage a sharper point of view, we focus on one lead article, followed by secondary and tertiary articles. To build out this hierarchy, it was essential to have a solid grid in place to form the backbone of the design and give pages their structure.

Suffice it to say you can expect it to be much simpler to discover the articles, podcasts, books and videos that make your working life easier.

Podcast integration

We recently launched Season 2 of our podcast, and to reflect its popularity it is now fully integrated into the design with its own top level category. We’ve also introduced an inline player so you can listen to episodes where you find them and continue to browse the site.

New categories

The podcast is not the only new category regular readers will notice – we’ve also added Startups and Marketing. Inside Intercom has always shared the lessons we’ve learned as Intercom has grown and now you can find all those articles in a single place. Rollover any of the categories at the top of this page to to see the latest stories in that category.

Reading enhancements

While we’ve made improvements to make it easier to discover the 400 or so articles we’ve published on Inside Intercom, we’re also making it easier to consume them through enhancements to usability and navigation. We put a sharp focus on how readers navigate a blog and what’s important to them. You’ll see things like estimated reading, viewing and listening times and progress bars as you read through articles. We also got rid of the in your face pop-up to sign up to the newsletter :-).

From a typography perspective we used combinations of different weights of serifs and sans-serifs for headlines, body copy, category titles, pull quotes and everything in-between. These type choices act as a guide for readers to navigate the blog. We chose two typefaces, Tiempos (for headlines, body copy, and pull quotes) and Akkurat Pro (for category titles and CTAs). The serif font helps with readability and amplifies the editorial feel.

Illustration and portraits

We went deep on this design to bring a more editorial sensibility to all aspects of the blog. That includes our approach to editorial illustration. We have been commissioning a diverse range of illustrators to interpret the subject of each post in their own unique ways. These visual metaphors aim to spark curiosity and bring a more personal approach to how we present the most insightful writing in the industry.

Lastly, we wanted to bring a final human touch to the blog and call attention to the people behind each article. We commissioned local San Francisco artist Jon Stich to paint individual portraits of our authors. These bring a sense of uniqueness, craft and personalization that reflects how we think about design at Intercom, whether it is this blog design or the product itself.

Over to you

Credit for our new blog goes to Maria Gonzalez for the design, Daniel Husar for the build, and those at Intercom who encouraged us to get creative and really push the boundaries. We’d love to know what you think – and not just about the new look and feel. Let us know what you’d like to see more of on Inside Intercom, who you’d like us to interview on the podcast, or what book you think we should write next. Just leave a comment or drop us a note through the messenger on this page.