After the inception with New Internationalist, our next steps as a team were to begin the research phase and set up the development pipeline. Given that we had a tall order - increase readership - Andrea, my BA pair, and I’s approach was both to understand and tackle the UX issues and potential business processes that could support this request. My challenge was to ultimately to gather foundational learnings about NI’s readers and processes, on which the project would be based, and ultimately deliver plans for an MVP.
Location & Duration : Oxford, England for 4 months
Establishing the Baseline
In order to determine what area of NI’s digital space to needed to be tackled, we first needed to validate the co-op’s assumptions about their readers. To do this a call out was made on NI’s social media to gather a list of reader’s interested to be interviewed. To make sure that we had a diverse set of respondents we had reader’s filled out a quick survey. The co-op also contacted people from their known network of readers, contributors, and student volunteers. As I prepared for the interviews and scheduled the upcoming sessions, I also completed a heuristic analysis of the current site, as well as a competitor analysis.
Mapping the Reader's Journey
Readers were asked to participate in two separate sessions, a 1 on 1 interview and in a usability test of NI's website. Through these sessions I was able to map out reader journey’s, their pain points, and their goals. I was also able to create reader archetypes with behaviors and characteristics. Through the usability tests, specifically, I was able to identify quick wins and larger opportunities that would improve the reader experience.
From the research we learned that reader's felt that the way NI organized and represented their information not reflect the identity the organization had cultivated in the physical magazine space. They also were not able to distinguish from NI's long form journalism pieces and their pieces on current news from the site representation of the material, this resulted in the investigative journalism, which NI is known for, to be missed.
And most readers didn't even realize that NI had an online subscription. This was due to a combination of ineffective advertising and because NI released all of their content bit by bit, until a majority of it was publicly available by the end of each month. The readers that knew this would just wait and the others assumed they were accessing all available content and that it was for free.
Understanding & Analyzing NI's Business Process
After sessions with readers were completed, Andrea and I performed contextual interviews with members of the NI staff. We gathered information about their business process, their strategy, and their technology use in order to understand their pain points and needs. Areas we looked at included editorial and publishing process, advertising and social media strategy, as well as their strategy for online subscriptions.
As I went through the research session I analyzed the findings through affinity maps. I also compared the data to NI's goals, self perception, their understanding of their readers, and their business processes. The insights gathered from NI's editorial processes were used to help us determine the kinds of tools they needed to be available to them through the new CMS we would create.
Analyzing & Communicating our research
The tricky part of the researched performed was communicating our insights about their current site and their reader's experiences with it to the co-op. What we presented had to not only show them what their current state, but also help guide their decision making on the site's new direction.
To communicate the analysis sections were broken down and presented with the following: examples of the current functionality, reader's quotes, patterns found, and when applicable video snippets of the reader interacting with the specific part of the site. I also presented best practice examples of functionality to provide references for reader's feedback.
Lastly, overall key learnings were highlighted.
Translating Research FIndings Into an MVP
After the analysis of the research phase I explored options for NI's new UI and functionality. I iteratively created several sets of wireframe sketches and lo-fi prototypes based on insights that were gathered.
From the various options I chose one that I thought should be recommended to NI and added enough detail to highlight areas of UI functionality and information architecture. The data gathered, the artifacts to communicate the analysis, and the wireframes were all presented to the NI co-op.
I presented the data gathered, the artifacts used to communicate the analysis, and the wireframes to the NI co-op. I also provided interim solutions as quick wins for business processes, design, and development for the team to work on as NI took time to make larger decisions about next steps.
Epics & a development road map
At the end of the research phase, I provide NI with the following strategies:
1. Based on the intent and ethos of the organization I suggested a framework to shape the identity of New Internationalist and demonstrated how it could be translated into the user experience of the site.
2 Highlighted the disconnect between New Internationalist's business strategy and its execution in its digital space and recommended a potential solution.
3 Provided techniques for stakeholders to have a sustainable, iterative decision making processes based on user needs.
4 Paired with our new BA to create a product roadmap and high level epics for our development team.
I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with New Internationalist. Because I was originally brought in as emergency, a London office designer was staffed so that they could be closer to the client after the first half of the project.