THE NEW YORK TIMES
Delivering a More Personalized Mobile News Experience.
After remarkably navigating the news industry shift from print to digital, The New York Times (NYT) boasts 64% more digital subscribers now than at the peak of print. They’re confident in their journalistic strength and believe that people around the world are willing to pay for expert, on-the-ground reporting. They knew they could do more to meet their reader’s needs through their mobile app and approached us to identify opportunities to create more value for their users.
We focused on their frequent readers, the ones who are already using the NYT mobile app often but have yet to subscribe, and subscribed readers. We identified that the current news app was delivering a one-size-fits-all newsfeed and allowing users little control in seeing the news they were interested in most. Our approach was to acknowledge their global reader base as individuals with unique interests, journeys, schedules, and reading habits and give them control and vested interest in the experience from the start.
Our redesign improves the visibility of the Times' diverse non-political topics, allows users to tailor their feed, adjust the content to match to their reading habits, and offers a more intuitive method of navigation throughout the app. Moving forward, we hope that by connecting readers with the content they’re interested in most that they will increase reader investment within the app and in turn increase subscriptions and retention.
Product Design · UX · UI · Prototyping · User Testing
My Role —
Research, Strategy, Prototyping, UI, Pitch Deck
Amsha Kalra, Azucena Romá
Course Advisor —
Renda Morton, VP of Design, New York Times
Course Client —
The New York Times (NYT)
Helping readers around the world to uniquely engage with The New York Times content that matters to them most.
From One-Size-Fits All to Personalized
What I found most interesting about this problem, is that the Times’ app delivered readers a one-size fits all front page – a holdover from the days of print. I felt that they were missing an opportunity to leverage technology that could acknowledge readers as unique individuals and give them control and vested interest in their news experience.
On-Boarding & Active Personalization
We knew we needed to increase awareness of the Times’ non-political content. Adding an on-boarding feature, we’re able to educate users on their wider array of topics up front and let readers personalize their home feed. The redesign also continues to learn about reader’s habits through usage and offers to improve their feed based on topics they frequent.
After speaking with readers, we learned that they felt Times’ was “too New York centric.” They often read the Time’s in addition to their local paper. We wanted to recognize the Times’ diverse global audience and provide a more well-rounded way for them to stay-up-to-date by using location settings to reflect local content in their feed.
We learned that reading habits and schedules vary wildly between users. To meet reader’s needs, we focused on features that would allow each user to adapt the way their content is delivered. So if you’re a headline scanner, snippet reader, in-depth digester, a night-time reader, a visual person, or multi-tasker that prefers listening to your news – We got you.
We created a way for users to reorganize the amount of content in their feed through three different density modes: classic, cosy, and compact.
Many users are multi-taskers and enjoy listening to news during commutes, taking this into account we’ve also added audio narrative to each article.
Learning that many users were consuming larger amounts of dense content in the bed at night, we added an alternate dark mode that creates less strain on the eyes.
Everything on Demand
Readers value curated content on their feed, however they still want to easily browse stories about different topics, access bookmarked content, and search for articles as needed. We learned that the existing Times’ app put the feed front and center, but hid all of its other options within a hamburger menu that users found difficult to locate and navigate.
Tab Bar Navigation
To help users access content rapidly we added a bottom tab bar to make their options visible and easily navigable at all times. We added clearly labelled tabs and icons for home, topic categories, bookmarks, and settings as well as search bar option on top so that users can find content they are looking for.
Working with our class advisor Renda Morton, The New York Times VP of Design, my team worked on this project over the course of four weeks using a highly iterative process. We started with user interviews, desk research, and synthesizing data that led to our understanding reader’s pain-points. We used what we heard to identify key opportunities and features that might improve their experience. After prototyping, testing, and iterating upon a variety of features, we presented our solution to a team of 20 designers and researchers at the New York Times headquarters. Following our visit with the New York Time’s team, my teammate Amsha and I revisited the project to incorporate their feedback into the solution presented here.
I collaborated on research, synthesis, ui flow, and was responsible for final UI flow and hi-fidelity prototype design.
Conducted Literature review and light user research
Collaborated on research and synthesis of collected data to form themes, personas, and insights
Translated business goals and research insights into strategy and design principles that would guide our solution
Prototyping, User testing, Information Architecture
Identify ways to improve the New York Times mobile app experience.
The New York Times (NYT) remarkably navigated industry disruption by successfully shifting from paper to digital — boasting 64% more subscribers than they had at the peak of print. Their reliance on subscriptions makes attracting, engaging, and retaining readers their most pressing challenge.
The Times hopes that by providing a better app experience will help convert casual readers to subscribers and retain current subscribers – creating a win-win situation that offsets the Time’s reliance on ad revenue and in turn the ability to continue engaging readers with less noise. Our challenge was to get to know their readers and understand their needs and pain-point and key identify areas for improvements to the app in order to gain and retain subscribers.
Improve the NYT mobile experience
Growing and retaining NYT subscribers
Frequent Readers and Current Subscribers
In our research, we found that the Times’ has a large audience of “frequent readers” in their subscription funnel. This audience is between the ages of age 25-39 and read the NYT 4-9 times per month, but haven’t yet subscribed. Our goal was to remove pain points and add valuable features that might convert these frequent readers into new subscribers as well as help retain current subscribers.
These readers were interested in high quality journalism, but had very busy schedules. We needed to optimize their time, so they could catch up on top news stories and content of interest during small windows of time.
Research Goals and Methods
We began with desk research, received survey results from 79 respondents, and conducted 12 interviews. Through our research we wanted to:
Understand how is our target users perceived the Times
Assess if their digital content is currently serving readers adequately
How our target users engaged with the Times mobile app and where their pain-points lie
Identify opportunities to add high-value features that readers are interested in
Getting to know our users
Readers value the TImes’ as a credible news source. We learned that the overall perception of the times was that their tone came across as a “serious” and “hard hitting” news source. Current readers felt it was trusted, unbiased, and credible.
Readers quickly skim the news multiple times a day and time is their most valuable commodity. Readers of the Times’ felt that the content wasn’t easily consumed. The articles were considered “long reads” and required a larger time investment than users were willing to put forth on a daily basis. Readers preferred scrolling through the homepage to be up to date, multiple times a day. They valued speed.
Format doesn’t fit in when the context in which they use the app. Desk research and user inquiries revealed that the top three locations to consume news were in bed, in the restroom, and while commuting. The current app wasn’t meeting reader’s needs for these contexts.
The existing navigation makes content of interest difficult to find. The existing navigation is confusing and adds more work onto users to find the content they are interested in. The hamburger menu hides all of the additional settings and features, as well as the search bar.
OPPORTUNITY & APPROACH
How might we connect users to the news they care about most?
The Times’ was failing to acknowledge users as unique individuals located across the globe – ones with different interests, schedules, and reading habits. We discovered that the apps one-size-fits-all content approach missed significant opportunities to engage existing readers and attract new ones.
We wanted to explore ways to help bring awareness and visibility to the New York Times’ enterprise content and connect readers to the news that they care about.
We also wanted to offer readers options to seamlessly get their news throughout their day. We hope that these improvements will deepen their engagement and investment with the app and in turn converting frequent readers into subscribers.
Our research drove a list of principles that reader’s value as essential to improving their news experience.
Connect reader’s directly with the content that matters to them most.
Allow readers to adapt the experience to their personal reading habits.
Help readers access the content they are looking for faster and easier.
When developing ideas, we had several constraints to help guide our decisions as provided from our stakeholders. They weren’t looking for a complete overhaul of the app, rather recommendations that would work with the existing app and that could be implemented without completely disrupting current users. Part of this included:
Working within the existing New York Times brand guidelines – aesthetics (color/text/layout), identity, and messaging. I.e. Retaining the serious tone and newspaper feel of the Times digital experience.
Rethinking the current information architecture to align content to each user’s interests
Our initially track of work called for a re-evaluation of the app's current information architecture (IA) in order to present the most efficient and logical way of educating users on the Times’ diverse topic areas. The organization of the existing New York Times' feed offered all of their readers the same homepage content, one that was mostly focused on politics. From talking with readers we learned they wanted to feel up-to-date on current events and also wanted to read content based on their personal interests. This ensures that everyone finds content beyond just politics on the app. We tackled balancing our user’s main goals in two ways.
Adding the Times’ daily briefing to the top of the feed to keep readers informed on top news stories. This feature reduces clicks and also adds opportunity to fit more personalized content on the home feed.
Adding an on-boarding experience that played an important role in educating users on the wider array of topics up front, so that readers can personalize their home feed – giving them a vested interest from the get-go.
Designing flows that drive engagement
Before we started sketching the wireframes, we created a user flow of how the newly redesigned features would connect with each other and how the users would navigate and use them. We did two rounds of wireframes on paper, paper prototype testing, and two rounds of digital prototype testing and iteration to arrive at our solution.
Immediately following download, The New York Times app presents users an option to login or subscribe, but does not elaborate on the value of subscribing. Currently, the publication allows up to five free articles per month before requiring payment. We redesigned the UI flow to provide users with the value up front, followed by an opportunity to save their setting by providing an email address or subscribing.
Optimizing for user context
We sought out to create a more flexible and convenient experience for users to fit into their daily habits and reading preferences. We wanted to identify features that could create more flexibility for user’s to modify how the content was being delivered to better work with the typical settings, environments, and points in time that they engaged with the app. Keeping in mind that the top three locations to consume news were in bed, in the restroom, and while commuting, we considered ways to adapt the experience that fit within the existing app.
Want to hear more about our process?
For more information from user research to insights, wireframes, user testing, UI, to final solution, etc. — Please reach out