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Introducing the new-look Which? Magazine

Members should now be receiving the new-look Which? Magazine. The redesign was informed by your feedback, so I’d love to know what you think.

Over the course of its 62-year history, our magazine has experimented with different looks.

Our pop-art-inspired 1960s issues are iconic; our 1980s tabloidesque phase best forgotten.

For this redesign, our first since 2014, we’ve freshened things up with new typefaces (Tiempos is our serif, National our sans serif) and a more elegant colour palette.

Difficult questions

A good redesign isn’t just cosmetic. We didn’t shy away from difficult questions. What’s the purpose of a print magazine in 2019?

For me, this was about recognising that the magazine plays a different role in members’ lives now compared to most of its history.

20 years ago, and even 10 or five years ago for some, the magazine was the main way that people accessed our product reviews. Now, our website and app are best for that.

The magazine has increasingly focused more on features, investigations, interesting insights and useful advice, but I didn’t feel like the old design was showing these things off well enough.

Meeting with members

When we met with our members across the country, we were reassured.

They told us they want the magazine to keep them informed, with advice you can trust on a range of consumer issues.

Most agreed our website and app are best for seeking out information when researching something specific, so a magazine should serve a different purpose: it should be more relaxing, inspiring, and sometimes challenging.

It should surprise you, offering insights that you wouldn’t look for online – things you didn’t know you needed to know.

The new-look Which? magazine will be arriving with our members now. It’s informed by their feedback and will continue to be.

Let me know what you think of the new look in the comments below.

Richard Graham says:
25 September 2019

Print is blurred in latest magazine not sure if this is down to the redesign or using recycled materials

Hi Richard – would you be able to email us a photo of the blurred print to conversation.comments@which.co.uk? This might be a printing error and we could send you out a new copy.

25 September 2019

I do not like the new format as a long standing member I like the layout as it was quick and easy to look up what was under examination and look up what was being discussed I do not have time to read a long along piece of reading many of my friends feel the same I may resign after many years membership you will find many of us dont have time to read through instead of previous copies which were functional bad move Which

George11236 says:
29 September 2019

I agree. I found it disorganised, confusing and less focussed on general consumer goods. Lots of specialised stuff. I suppose the one benefit is that I have been able to read it in half the time and devote the rest to other journals which I tend to skimp on. It is interesting to know that BA is comparable with Ryanair but not relevant to Which article, Least loved cars – waste of space and embarrassing if I had one. Coincidentally my thoughts were that the value has dropped and I have to consider whether it is worth continuing.(I needed a new equally spaced Fridge/Freezer and Which hadn’t reviewed either of the two available).

Yesterday, whilst in my local library, I managed a quick side by side review of the September and October magazines.

As an author of engineering reports and standards documents, I’m not usually allowed to change the “graphic design” of the documents that I work on, so I’m not an expert on “graphics design”. That said, I can see that the objects of freshening up the pages have been met by the redesign of the page components. Overall, I’d say those responsible have refreshed the design without attempting any dramatic changes to the Which? house style.

As others have commented on fonts, I think the greater use of serif fonts should be an improvement for body text. A related topic is the continued use of very narrow columns of text – I’m not sure that helps readability.

The editing of the new format has also seemed to continue the evolution of the magazine towards greater focus on well-being and lifestyle articles and away from articles on product test and DIY know-how. I trust that is in-line with the wishes of the target readership/customer base.

I did notice some quite long articles that might have benefited from improved executive summaries, WIIFM (what’s in in for me) introductions and more frequent subheadings.

I’d also reinforce your observation about the use of Serif fonts, Derek; Sans Serif fonts are innately harder to read unless they’re huge, and Serif’s leading edges make reading and comprehension a great deal easier.

I have no reservations about the different fonts used in the body text of the October Which? magazine whether they are serif or sans serif letterforms. However, I did not like the prolific use of the uppercase sans serif font used for headings and emphasis which give the impression of a slab of text. Something more elegant might be better. I don’t understand why traditional and long-standing fonts were not selected as they have stood the test of time for legibility.

Years ago I regarded Which? magazine as a technical journal to be kept and consulted. It was appropriately presented in a suitable style for such purposes. I hope it doesn’t lose some of that flavour in its attempt to become an ephemeral coffee table magazine with the lifespan and future irrelevance of the Radio Times.

At first sight I found the new layout rather a heavy read. I did how ever like the photos of the staff ,nice to see a positive face in our electronic age.
Life style interests. May I make a request for a look at The Cruise Industry medical care, are they still operating on some old sailing boat regulations with the power of the Captain to put ashore any one having a medical problem ( my wife and I have suffered from this treatment )
Raymond payne

That is a good suggestion, Raymond. There are a number of aspects of medical treatment on cruise ships that would bear examination by Which?. I expect the sick bay is now a profit centre.

On the captain’s powers to disembark passengers I would expect that to be necessary in respect of certain contagious or infectious conditions but also for the benefit of the affected passenger if a hospital on land was likely to be able to offer better treatment. Given the tight schedules of cruise ships I doubt that such powers are used lightly but a proper investigation would be welcome.

Not as good as the old one seem to flash over items and where is the latest tips item Iam all for new and up to date ideas but I think you have spoilt the magazine

Stephen Robinson says:
26 September 2019

I would like the option of paying a lower subscription and not receiving the magazine, but accessing everything online.

Marian Monteiro says:
26 September 2019

I was delighted that the plastic coverig for Which magazie is compostable. I wish that more companies or organisations would follow your example.

Paul Hewins says:
26 September 2019

Is the new look Magazine still being distributed? I haven’t received mine yet as at 26 September so am unable to comment yet.

Hi Paul,

I am sorry – there has been a delay in getting all the magazines packed and delivered due to voting forms and a technical glitch at the packing warehouse. We expect the rest of them to be sorted and posted by the end of the week.

What an appalling redesign! It looks like one of the cheap throwaway magazines which come with the weekend newspapers. Only fit for the bin. Sack your designer and go back to the old format or I will be cancelling my subscription after being a loyal Which? subscriber for decades. And please spare me any of the patronizing replies I have read so far from Richard Headland. No, we will not get used to it! You have been sold a pup by some expensive design team. When will editors learn to overrule designers who never read anything anyway?

The type is dreadful: too small, spindly and hard to read. The articles are too long and waffle. Get back to the slick Which? style we all loved, full of short, sharp reviews and tests of products.

Put your hands up and admit that you have made a dreadful mistake.Many national newspapers and magazines have made the same error in the past and paid for it in circulation..

Hi Ronald. As Richard has said elsewhere, we are taking all feedback on the new design onboard – we worked with members to create it and members will continue to inform the way we shape the magazine in the future.

However, while we do appreciate feedback on the new look, including negative opinions which you’re absolutely entitled to, we would ask that everyone considers the tone and content of their criticism when posting here, especially when mentioning Which? staff directly.

If you would like to formally complain or discuss your membership, our Member Services team is available by email at which@which.co.uk, or by phone on 02922670000.

In addition, our Community Guidelines for Which? Conversation are available here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/

Thank you.

@gmartin, morning George. Can you tell us how many Members helped in the creation of the new mag and how they were selected? I’m still waiting for my copy so can’t comment on the new layout.

Incidentally, you mention contacting Member Services. I have 3 (automatically acknowledged) emails asking for comment from Which?, two going back over 3 weeks, with no response. So this route is, and has been in the past, a little lacking in attention from Which? I really miss the Member Community Forum where, despite its shortcomings, issues could be raised out of the public gaze and were responded to. I wonder why Which? resist re-introducing a means where Which? Members can have a proper interaction with Which? and its staff?

Hi Malcolm, the numbers aren’t public I’m afraid, however I do know that it was a good mix of long-standing members and others who had only vaguely heard of Which?. Work was also done via survey while insights were also taken from the monthly surveys we send that receive hundreds of responses.

I’m sorry to hear you have queries outstanding from Member Services – have you tried calling them? If you could email me over what they’re each for I can try to find out why there’s been a hold-up. The reason I’ve mentioned Member Services here are because the commenter specifically mentioned possibly reconsidering their membership, which would need to be discussed directly with that team.

With regards to the member forum, you are right to point out that there were shortcomings, and those shortcomings will have contributed to its closure. If we’re going to have platforms such as that then I’m sure you’d agree that they need to be on the right technology platforms, without bugs, well-staffed and useful for everyone. It’s not that we’re resisting features like that, it’s that if they’re going to exist then they need to do their job effectively – things like this are considered when we review the tech used on the site, and decide what is and what isn’t possible with the exisiting site, and what we might be able to do in the future.

I don’t want to get too off-topic however, so let’s keep the discussion here on the magazine from here on in. Do feel free to email me with the other queries and I’ll do my best to help as always.

@gmartin, thanks George. I intend chasing Which? at the appropriate time.

I am concerned at why the “numbers are not public”. When Which? publish survey results they usually include the number of those surveyed. Why is this different? Perhaps now the new mag is revealed a survey of all Members might be conducted after, say, 3 issues, to get a feel for whether it is generally acceptable or whether changes need to be made?

I haven’t yet received my copy of the new mag. However, I count so far 9 people like the new version, 52 do not. I hope Which? will consider their comments when preparing future issues. I do wonder though, as with other topics of this kind, whether it is mainly people with views “against” that contribute, whereas those who are not in disagreement with a topic don’t generally bother to give a positive opinion? I, for example, from time to time take issue with Which? on something I believe they have misrepresented, done incompletely, or maybe just have a different perspective to offer on the topic from the position Which? take. That does not mean I have a negative attitude to Which? Most of what it does I approve of, but do not say so; that would take up too much space and seems unnecessary – I expect Which? generally to do a good job.

Hi Malcolm, the process differed from the usual survey method as workshops/focus groups were held in-person with a variety of different people. The redesign was the result of months of work, meetings and collaboration across these groups – I don’t have a figure/number I can put on it I’m afraid.

Let’s not shy away from it – the comments on this post are indeed generally very negative and the team is well aware of that. However, this must also be balanced against other feedback they’ve received directly; whether that’s on the phones, during the research or directly via email/Member Services. It’s important that the team combines everything that’s been said in order to build an accurate overall picture.

As Richard has said, the feedback given will inform the direction that the magazine will take. This is the very first issue of the redesign and some (such as yourself) haven’t even received it yet. We’re still in the middle of the process, so to speak, but rest assured these comments are being listened to, as evidenced by the Editor-in-Chief’s responses.

Steve Blackwell says:
27 September 2019

I’m not usually keen on change, but I like the new look. The type is perhaps slightly too small, but not unreadable. I approve of the general move towards informative articles, which I might not bother to read online, while reducing the buying comparisons, which are in any case easier to look at online.

I do not know whether there has been an issue with the print of the magazine or its distribution, but I have yet to receive the October editions and with the weekend it looks unlikely that I will receive them this month. So I cannot offer any comment on the magazine itself as yet, but I am concerned that this change represents a shift away from the traditional focus on the testing of products and services to a magazine that is more “a relaxing read”. I have seen many iterations of the magazine over the years but a reduction in the product testing results and the Test Lab Buyers’ Guide is not likely to be welcomed by me. It is not enough to say that the website is the preferred source of such information, I find that the Search facility does not always work as well as one might wish when doing research of a type of product even if it can do when one is searching for a specific model of a product. This is where the Buyers’ Guide is such a helpful start point before doing more detailed research online. If there really is no room in the print magazine then its equivalent should be available online.
This change of direction exercise seems to have not paid sufficient attention to the existing membership who were neither consulted widely nor even alerted to the exercise even taking place (the only reference I can find in back issues is on page 75 of the September issue, no editorial, no news that I have found). Yet these same members have funded the exercise. I believe that it is always easier to retain existing members than it is to recruit new ones. Perhaps the structure of the exercise should have been a survey of non members in the target group to inform the sort of changes that might persuade them to become members and then do a proper survey of the existing membership. That such an approach is feasible is highlighted by the way in which Gardening Which sometimes canvasses members’ view of possible front pages of a future edition.
Lastly I sense some of the positive posts in this topic may be from Which? staff members. Conscious of Hannah Walsh’s recent report on fake reviews, would it not be better if such posts clearly flagged them as staff members?

7oaks – All comments posted by Which? staff are identifiable by a red ring around the avatar and a red vertical bar on the right-hand side of the comment. These are all clearly visible in this Conversation. Any other comments that appear to you as positive were submitted by Which? Magazine subscribers a number of whom are regular contributors to Which? Conversation and are occasionally given to criticising the organisation.

I would add that a blue ring around the avatar and down the RH side of the post identifies the author of the piece.

John Thank you for your response. I confess that I had not even noticed the red ring and bar!

Even if you had noticed, you might not have realised what they signified as I don’t think any explanation is given.

John, I would not have realised what the red meant, as you say. Perhaps I could have analysed all the red posts and reached a conclusion but that is not the most transparent way to display such comments in my view hence the reference to fake reviews. If Which? is to call others out it must be whiter than white. Similarly had I seen any blue posts!
My original comment was about transparency rather than positive or negative. I have lurked on this site previously without posting an comment. I have seen many iterations of the magazine, including the tabloid versions, and do not get too fussed about style, it is the content that matters to me.

@7oaks I’m sorry you haven’t received you magazine yet. The packing process has taken longer this month due to the upcoming AGM and associated voting forms. You should have it by the end of the week.

We’ll take your feedback into account about the red rings and making it clearer that we are staff. In the meantime, here is our FAQ page which will help you navigate the world of Which? Conversation. https://conversation.which.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/

Still waiting for mine also.

Sorry it is taking so long to get the magazines out this month. It is just such unfortunate timing with voting papers and reduced capacity at the packing centre adding to the woes!

Good to see you, Alfa. Missing you, we are…

Having finally lifted the magazine from the door mat, a week later than others, I find myself with a fairly neutral stance to it. I would liken it to a wander through a museum or an exhibition, turning corners and coming into something different taking it in and moving on to the next bit. There wasn’t a sense of continuity and the headings didn’t really convey an instant clue to the content. “Upfront”, “In The Know”, “Your Which” are a little non-specific. Page 4 was a waste of space as was 58, 20 and 13. The magazine itself used different coloured page backgrounds and good graphics to make it attractive and this worked well.
Page 16 is an example of where you have, for many years, pasted a column of text into the main text. This means that one has either to stop reading the main text or has to remember to come back to the insert afterwards. You do this at the bottom of seventeen when one should be turning the page to read why “isolated citizens are hounded”.
Page 7 has a useful piece of consumer news though you don’t comment on the excellent graphic that shows the child friendly packaging that contrasts with the sugary content. I had to read your free sugar explanation more than once to understand it. There’s a kind of car test on page 8, somewhat inconsequential. Your Fraud report is utterly depressing and that is not a criticism. Perhaps it is a prequel to a campaign to improve things. True, many frauds rely on people doing something to make it happen, but I found the e. mail scam particularly alarming since the fraudster obviously knew a great deal about the client and the builder involved. One of my choir members spent a day recently cancelling bank accounts and wiping computers because she trusted the fraudster to fix her computer for her. It is difficult to know what to say. While I applaud your report I hope you consider this unfinished business and not just a wringing of hands. I liked your stay safe advice though the opposite flow chart didn’t do much for me.
An interesting piece on electricity supply. Mine comes down a wire and I’m about to invent a filter that separates renewable energy from the rest. Until then, your chart is of interest but doesn’t change much. And suddenly we’ve turned the corner and are into boilers followed by a mish mash of mattresses, coffee, dishwasher tips, almond milk, smart watches and vacuum testing. All interesting and slightly non-sequitur-ial. Lo, under the same heading two substantial reports (equivocal) on health checks and (depressing) on insurance.
The buyers guide didn’t do much for me. page 42 and 43 contained snippets on five different products. This isn’t testing it’s eye candy as was page 44. What on earth have headphones and gold plated vacuum cleaners got to do on the same page? In the past you would have devoted a couple of pages to one or the other and done a proper test. In the past, past, that would have been five pages and would have meant something. Pages 46 to 50 don’t test anything though you manage a small paragraph each on some Wi-Fi extenders and explain what various systems do. The useful information on cameras that follows is not a product test. Just two make it for a brief comment on page 51.
Hooray! A proper test in the good Which tradition on televisions, and a chart to go with it. So you still know how to do these things when you want to.
Then you end with a current affairs magazine which might have been better “Up Front.”
Six and a half out of ten.

So it was worth waiting for then, Vynor!


M Bloomfield says:
29 September 2019

I’m not entirely sure why you felt it necessary to introduce such unwelcome changes, other than perhaps the need for some of your staff to ‘do something’ to justify their employment. If you paid any consultants to come up with this, you wasted your money. As someone once said – ‘If it ain’t broke …’. With waning eyesight I find the new font very difficult to read – is it just smaller or less legible as well? There seems to be a lot of wasted space (i.e. pp4,13, 20 24, 2942, 52/3, 58) and new colours do not aid legibility.

On the whole, a big and unnecessary disappointment.

For anyone waiting for their magazine this month, the last of them are on their way tomorrow. It has unfortunately taken a bit longer this month to pack due to the upcoming AGM and additional inserts needed for the Ordinary Members.

My copies have just arrived. I hope to have time to look at them in the next day or so. I guess that the postal system may have slowed distribution this month for some reason. That is in addition to the packing centre issues. Better late than never I hope.

It feels like it’s gone back to the 1960’s with the change in typeface to a serifed one. I much prefer sans-serif for clarity and less ‘clutter’. I also prefer an A4 size to the US Letter but I think that change had been made a while ago and is now almost ubiquitous in UK magazines and journals.

For the visually handicapped, Roz, Serif is a far easier font to navigate. The clarity afforded similar-looking letters and numbers is essential.

A significant proportion of the population is affected by dyslexia, a learning difficulty that can be severe or mild and in the latter case may not be discovered at school. Here is some advice from the British Dyslexia Association: https://cdn.bdadyslexia.org.uk/documents/Advice/style-guide/Dyslexia_Style_Guide_2018-final-1.pdf?mtime=20190409173949 Among the recommendations, which have existed for many years, is the advice to use sans serif fonts: https://cdn.bdadyslexia.org.uk/documents/Advice/style-guide/Dyslexia_Style_Guide_2018-final-1.pdf?mtime=20190409173949

When I was was a university lecturer we were recommended to use sans serif fonts, particularly for computer projection, to help those with dyslexia. With other visual problems that might not be the best solution but these were relatively uncommon in young adults.

General advice – e.g. https://health.gov/healthliteracyonline/display/section-3-3/ – suggests that simple sans serif fonts are easier to read for people with a visual handicap, including visual degeneration with age.

I have not seen the new Which? mag yet but hope that they have considered the range of their audience and not only used a clear typeface of a suitable size but also used good contrast between the type and the background; an easy way to impair readability for many is to print on a tinted background,

This advice relates to using text on websites etc. rather than on the printed page.

I would expect basic principles to hold. However, here is one discussion on printed fonts – https://www.fonts.com/content/learning/fontology/level-1/type-anatomy/serif-vs-sans-for-text-in-print

The key principle is to establish a font, size, contrast and spacing that makes reading as easy as possible for those whose abilities, disabilities, visual acuity, visual degeneration, is not at its peak. I’d suggest achieving this requires knowledge and expertise and I hope Which? tapped into this when redesigning the magazine. We see many publications where the principles are ignored to the detriment of many readers.

There are some similarities but also significant differences in guidelines on preparing text for display on screen and in print. PowerPoint has always defaulted to a large sans serif font and most websites use sans serif fonts.

The new magazine and the previous version use both serif and sans serif fonts for different purposes. As Rosalind has pointed out, there seems to be more serif text. I suspect that the majority will find the new magazine easier to read on paper but possibly more difficult online (in the magazine archive).

As a long standing member, I find this new updated Which a step backwards.
We should have the choice …… old original or muddled new.

David Lee says:
3 October 2019

A few thoughts on the new look.
1. The front cover “Fraud – You’re on your own” seemed very negative – if you’re on your own why bother to read the magazine !!
2. I thought the layout and fonts were generally fresh and attractive.
3. The “Energy Tariff Greenwash” article on page 20 was excellent – at last a clear explanation dispelling the myth that energy companies can supply the electricity or gas they buy directly to a customer’s home.
4. Page 25 and yet another article on boiler brands – I think we get the message by now that Worcester Bosch are pretty good !!
5. I’m not quite sure what the point of the item on page 30 was where a Which? Researcher described his favourite mattress.
6. In the past the percentage of space given to product tests was much greater and I regret the change which seems to have been continued here. Also the range of products tested seems to be more limited (this may be just my impression and the evidence may be against me) and the tests on these products are repeated too often.
Hope these points are helpful.
David Lee

J Brindley says:
4 October 2019

There seems to be less content in the new format and I notice the number of pages have been reduced from 76 to 68. It reads more like a newspaper supplement than the old very informative version which directed many of my purchasing decisions. I save back copies and file them away for future reference. When the date was clearly printed on the top right of the front cover filing was easy, now the date is hardly noticeable next to the spine.

Daphne Cosens says:
6 October 2019

I liked it as it was, not keen on the new .

My new-look magazine arrived yesterday, I have only had a glance at it so far.

The date on the front page is too small. What is wrong with the top right-hand corner making magazines easier to find for those that keep and refer back to them?

The front page is repeated as a whole page within the magazine, a waste of the space. Some of the other images are also too big and could be better presented if they were smaller within the text.

I don’t have a problem with the layout and text except the wasted space of large images.

Where are bits and pieces from members?

I received my magazine on 5th October, the closing date for crossword entries was 1st October. Not sure a crossword is in the interests of consumers, and could the cost of providing it be better used elsewhere.

I am very pleased Which? is taking fake brands seriously at last, although the image of the food processor I brought up 18 months ago is still shown on How to buy the best food processor

It has been mentioned the number of pages have been reduced from 76 to 68.

This would appear to be shrinkflation in action. In July 2017, Alex Neill, Managing Director of Which? Home Services and Products, said: ‘We have found that many popular household and food products have shrunk over the years, often with the price staying the same or increasing.

‘Manufacturers and retailers should make any changes to their products clear otherwise they risk people feeling cheated.’

I can only assume that the designer of the cover had no idea of the function of the date for subscribers. My Which? magazines are in active and passive use over a three or four month period and lie around the house in different rooms. I pick them up to catch up with articles I have not yet read or to re-read articles that I have more time for [often following comments in Which? Conversation]. It is therefore very handy if I can see at a glance which Which? I want. Design over function again. I hope a simple reversion will ensue.

The magazine does need a much better index of what can be found inside.

Several mentions now of the date, so hopefully that will be changed soon.