The Week is the UK’s most popular weekly subscription Magazine, with over 180,000 subscribers. As fans of the publication we were both excited and flattered when Dennis Publishing asked for our help bringing their magazine to a new generation of tablet users. This was a two man, ten week project. I was UX Lead and Paul LLoyd was Visual / Interface Designer.
This project had a generous discovery phase, which we began with a week of stakeholder interviews. This uncovered some interesting differences in opinion about the strategic direction needed. Some stakeholders felt the app needed to use multimedia liberally, while others wanted a minimal, true-to-the magazine translation of the print content. We quickly realised that some key decisions were needed, so we arranged a day-long workshop in which we carried out a series of exercises, including empathy mapping and UI sketching. This helped create a shared vision that the stakeholder team genuinely believed in.
We then began the design process, initially starting with paper sketches, then proceeding into implementation of a quick, low fidelity prototype. We took this into usability testing and experimented with some different design approaches before setting on a formula that was intuitive and easily navigable.
At this point in the project we joined forces with a development partner, and began the detailed UI design. We based themselves on-site and integrated ourselves into the agile development process up until launch of the product.
The Big Insights
The usability testing uncovered some critical challenges in the subscriber on-boarding process, which we safely solved within the design process. Existing print magazine subscribers were required to enter their subscriber numbers in order to unlock access to the iPad edition. This seemed fine in concept, but in practice we found that most subscribers referred to the plastic magazine envelope for their subscriber number – and it was printed on a low quality dot matrix printer, making it hard to distinguish certain numbers from letters. This was a far cry from the seamless, stress-free experience that Dennis Publishing wanted to give its customers. In the end, they felt this was so important that they upgraded their printing machines to prevent this pain point from ever reoccurring outside of the lab.
Thanks to some carefully negotiated sponsorship deals by the Dennis Advertising team, our engagement actually paid for itself on the day of launch. The app was far more successful than anticipated, spending a number of weeks in the top grossing Top 10 News and Newsstand categories of the UK App Store. The editors of the US and Australian editions of the magazine was so impressed that hey decided to re-use the same infrastructure and user experience, thus bringing an additional economy of scale.
This Case Study was first published on clearleft.com.