Those with a taste for luxury in real estate might remember Luxist, what used to be an extremely popular online hub for everything upscale. The site became successful covering “real estate, trends in travel, the art world, shopping, fashion, gourmet food, wine and the spending habits of the rich and famous,” and had a very loyal following. Then came a maybe not so brilliant re-branding campaign, and the Perez Hilton look plus thunder thigh celebrity photos (see below).
The Estates section of Luxist just happened to be one of their most popular categories, with more comments and social shares than the other topics they covered. It seemed a recipe for success, until it was all shut down, rebranded and moved to a new venue, StyleList.com.
The switch was sudden and quite hard to understand for many. I would never dare (and I doubt anyone would) say the Luxist website did not need a redesign, for surely it did and does. It could have used some creative work and some added functionality, but from "tweaking" and upgrades to a complete switch in targeted audience and topics of interest, this is asking for a leap of faith by readers and potential clientele, at the very least.
As the comments on the announcement state, fans were completely disappointed and very few of them followed Luxist to its new home. It made sense, they were fans of the initial editorial coverage and the new direction was completely different. StyleList was just another fashion site, targeting women (or so they claimed, we’d say girls), and there was no trace of the fine living air Luxist was spreading through each article. From luxury estates, fine wine and gourmet dining, it all went to the latest beauty products and celebrity news. In short, a tabloid recipe that AOL advertises as the number 1 fashion website, bragging about lots of fans and followers and impressive numbers of social actions each month.
Yes, there were hundreds of shares and likes on Luxist, but we fail to see it on StyleList. The social counters on their latest articles certainly fail to impress and the activity on their Facebook page is rather low. Less than 10 likes and a comment here and there seem disheartening for a page with 50K fans! And. Even now, two years after the fact, Luxist is a Page Rank 6 site with an Alexa of 45,660. True it is, the new site is even higher (PR 7 and even lower Alexa), but my point is really about what Luxist could have accomplished without sacrificing so apparently many fans, and time.
StyleList was bound to lose most of Luxist’s initial readers given the complete shift in focus. But they couldn’t stop there and they had to go for an average redesign job as well. If you check the initial comments, you’ll see how badly the design has been received and there was a lot to improve on the old design! Failing at that was quite difficult. As for "feeling the pulse" of the net and trends though, StyleList clears is in tune with the tabloids and celebrity watcher world wonders.
Since then, Stylist underwent a new facelift process. It’s very colorful and there are ads blipping all over the place. It’s hard to decide on what to start with and the category names are so faded out it’s easy to miss them in the mass of distracting pictures. Did I mention the fact that their logo is boring and that AOL’s advertising page didn't even manage to get that right, as the one they uploaded is different from the on the website?
This rebranding process was a great loss for real estate. A great resource was killed off, not moved into a new home. The fans of Luxist did not even get the courtesy of a proper goodbye. They were told their beloved luxury news source had been moved when it had actually been completely shut down. The good news in the end may be, AOL's unfettered search for traffic, any traffic, may have been a success here.