This being my first foray into the world of User Experience Design and Research, I had the opportunity to work in team of three on a New York Times mobile app redesign. This was a student project for a User Experience Design Certificate course taken at FIT. The goal of the project was to bring the Times, a legacy news organization into the digital age, to give users the incentive to subscribe to a monthly digital news source in an era when free news media is readily available in a variety of mediums. As the project progressed, we discovered that a well placed audio function for news content would entice users to subscribe to the Times.
My role as a UX researcher was to study a specific target segmentation, to create a persona based on said research, and to create prototypes based on the specific user needs of the persona. Delving deeper into the iterative design process, I was surprised by the lack of gesture controls on the current Times app, and a lackluster search function. These became my main redesign objectives as the project progressed.
The competitor research I conducted focused on Twitter. Although twitter is not a traditional news organization, it is a popular source of news for many users. The app provides a unified space for up to date news content. However, it is fraught with misinformation and unverifiable sources.
City based, college students became my target segmentation. Although, these users were interested in the content provided by the Times, they were unwilling to subscribe to traditional news media. This segmentation was one of the least represented in the subscriber base of the NYTimes. These users found traditional news media not easily digestible and preferred a shorter medium of news information. A design exploration of these challenges became a necessity for this project.
Leigha is a politically active student living in Boston, MA. She is an immigrant and her home country is experiencing political turmoil due to recent parliamentary elections, which are widely believed to be rigged. She first encounters election news on her social media accounts and is overwhelmed with conflicting information. Although, she attempts to do further research, she finds it difficult to sort through the noise and to pay attention to longer articles.
Scenario: User accesses the New York Times app to search for a recent global event and to listen to related articles in audio form
In conclusion, with the help of an iterative design process, we learned to trust the user not to underestimate them. We discovered that people will react differently than what we anticipate or predict. However, their insight, their pains, and their goals are paramount in guiding a project to a successful resolution.
A key user insight that we discovered was that users, especially the younger ones enjoy listening to articles instead of reading them. This can be due to a variety of reasons, such as a short attention span or a lack of available time. However, we found that a well implemented audio article function would sway many of these individuals into using the Times more frequently. We also found delighters to be a really useful tool in grabbing a user's attention. Creating an experience that is more that just getting the job done.
Looking to the future, fine tuning personalization, gesture controls and improving design through further testing would be a priority.