The Economist App Tour

I worked on improving The Economist's app pre-subscription onboarding experience for new users. The aim of this project was to better educate new users about our product features and benefits.

The story

The Economist has recently undergone a digital transformation which involved several initiatives to help Economist subscribers better consume our content. This included the launch of a new mobile app that empowers readers to moderate and customize their content consumption. 

One of the biggest concerns Economist readers experience is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content we provide them on a weekly basis. We know from user interviews that this is one of the main reasons readers choose to cancel their subscriptions– to free themselves from the guilt of not getting through the entire weekly magazine.

 

The new app was developed to offer readers a variety of ways to manage their content consumption. This includes reading articles on our Today page and listening to our audio edition–helping users feel like they can enjoy The Economist without the pressure of reading the magazine cover to cover.

The problem

Quick note on this– this is the first project of several we've launched to address these design and user discovery issues.

Although the new app offers a unique reading and listening experience to subscribers, we started to find that our users were having trouble discovering all that it has to offer. We kept hearing from users that they could no longer access the Weekly magazine as they could in our old app (they can) and that it was only months after starting to use the app that they realised that all articles have an audio offering.

 

We realised that we were not helping users in the discovery process, and new potential subscribers who downloaded the app had no idea what was available to them before deciding to subscribe. 

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New users frequently complained about not being able to sample or explore the app, since the app has a hard paywall.

At the same time, we frequently heard from users how much they enjoy certain features, such as our audio edition.

The audience

We defined the primary audience for this project as new users of the Economist app. These users were mostly unfamiliar with our offering and publishing cadence, and had never been exposed to our morning briefings and audio content. This audience was the least empowered to know what they were subscribing to.

The secondary audience were existing subscribers. We uncovered through interviews that despite using the app for months, they still struggled with finding key features that they may be interested in using: listening to daily podcasts, listening to the audio edition, accessing the morning briefing, among others. When we pointed these out, existing subscribers were often excited to keep their subscriptions. This was designed for both Android and iOS users, with a few differences in functionality.

The team & role

I worked as one of the main UX designers for this project and collaborated with another UX designer and UI designer to develop the interface and experience. We also worked closely with our product and delivery managers. Together, we supported app developers, developed assets, and set parameters for the project build. 

Activities included: Conducting initial research, including competitor research & benchmarking; mapping user flows for various use cases; developing several wireframe concepts; conducting user tests and interviews with new and existing app users; and finalising our final concept and conducting additional usability testing before proceeding to build.

Tools: Sketch, Figma, Invision, Validately, Apptentive, Miro

The design process

To start, we explored various options as to how we could introduce our users to our app. We went through past interviews with current Economist subscribers and app users to uncover some of the frustrations and challenges subscribers felt when using our app. 

One of our main findings was that readers who start using our app uncovered features they were interested in months after initially interacting with it. One user said:

"It was starting to feel like a chore to read through all of these articles. But about three months after subscribing I noticed you can listen to them, and that's how I get through them now."

We began to collect these insights to inform initial concepts. We also analyze quantitative data on the app features which users highly engage with. 

Next, we conducted competitor research and app benchmarking to understand how some of our competitors introduce users to their app. We found that a simple, but effective solution was introducing an app tour at first open.

Through this exercise, we found we were not fulfilling a clear benchmark when compared to competitors. This also helped us in developing our acceptance criteria and parameters for this project.

After completing the initial user research and benchmarking, we established use cases and developed user journeys. This enabled us to better scope out what was possible for this project, and the goals we wanted to achieve based for our users.

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Sticky notes show conversations we were having with our developers, identifying what was technically feasible and what data we could track.

Another key focus for this project was to better inform users about push notifications and to motivate them to enable them on our app. With push notifications, we inform users about new available content and features.

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Finally, we started to sketch and wireframe various concepts for our Economist app tour. We developed three wireframe concepts, which featured varied imagery, copy, and a different order of presenting content to test with users. Although the differences between each were small, the impact that copy had on user perceptions of the app was significant. We uncovered this by performing brief usability tests, including moderated and unmoderated interviews, with subscribers and non-subscribers.  

These various interviews (pictured above) allowed us to identify which approach resonated most with users, and aided them in the app discovery process. We organised and presented these findings to the team, and proceeded to develop high-fidelity designs based on these findings, which we re-tested with users before going into build. 

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The result

After developing a high-fidelity prototype of the app tour, we re-tested users and measured against several benchmarks.

 

Our goal was to

  • To identify whether users understood what was available to them in the app,

  • To observe what their perception was of The Economist after going through the tour

  • To measure user's perceived value of the app

Our user tests revealed that the proposed app tour achieved the desired results, and we were therefore confident in having the development team build this new experience into the app. Voila!

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Learnings

This was a fun project for the whole team– getting to interact with users and understand where we could better help them understand our app was insightful and useful. Putting this together was also quite interesting in retrospect– looking back, the process was definitely messier than it looks! There's always a lot of back and forth between different teams and a lot of stakeholders get involved. But in general, this is how we developed out this project. 

 

In the future, we'd like to conduct further testing, perhaps through focus groups and additional user interviews, to identify where some of the design pitfalls are in the app that is not allowing users to quickly discover certain features. We will also track overall user satisfaction, app reviews, and subscription rates to see how the app tour performs live in the app. 

© 2021 by Alana Matos