Wsj.com already has 625,000 subscribers and built its success on the back of its print edition, which the web site has traditionally emulated in look and feel.
But in an interview with Online Journalism Review (OJR), publisher Neil Budde explained that part of the reason for the redesign was to create a more individual identity for the site.
"In an online world, people navigate differently than with newspapers. They need labels," he told OJR's Staci D. Kramer.
Acknowledging differences between print and web was a core reason for changes to the site's organisation, he said, and much of the new content was a response to comments from subscribers.
The aim was to better meet the needs of the site's large online-only readership, he added. Only one third of its current subscribers buy both the print and online editions.
Another goal of the redesign was to increase the amount of time users spend on the site. Mr Budde hopes greater personalisation features - such as customised portfolios, home pages, news feeds and trackers - will achieve this. The new-look site will have easier access to all these features on the front page.
Other changes have come in response to outside forces. Constant browser updates, for example, made it impossible for some users to utilise a feature that gives headlines on the left and stories on the right of a page.
Wsj.com bosses also decided that the current climate of retrenchment on the web made it the best time to invest in gaining new readers.
"We think now is a good time to capture more people because there are fewer options out there," he said. "We can grow the business even more because people are looking at something stable."
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