Brand: The Economist

Project: New Product Discovery

Business Objective: Aquire New Mobile Users

The Economist digital editions app was originally created for iPad, often cited as the glass version of the newspaper. With iPad sales decreasing and smartphone screens scaling, the ask was to redesign The Economist experience for mobile. Initial survey data identified the current app user base at 35 and older. Stakeholders saw the redesign as an opportunity to acquire a newer, younger user base. As the lead user researcher, I spearheaded the discovery phase, investigating a new mobile product for a new audience.  

User Interviews

To kickoff discovery, I scheduled and conducted user interviews with current and former subscribers within the desired demographic (25-35). I identified these users from surveys where contact information was collected. To find previous subscribers, I enlisted the help of current subscribers using the technique snowball recruiting

Through these interviews I wanted to better understand the following:

  • Why do users read The Economist? What is the value?
  •  How did they get started reading The Economist? Who introduced them?
  • What was their initial perception of  The Economist?
  • How do/did they read The Economist? Where? When?
  • For previous subscribers, why did they stop reading The Economist?
  • Their overall mobile habits
  • Other news sources they read
  • What advice do they have for new readers?

With a distributed product design team in NYC and London, I used Trello to organize the interviews and results, allowing for easy sharing and collaboration. To communicate findings to executive stakeholders, I created a video summary using iMovie to highlight key insights. In addition, I helped stakeholders visualize product lifecycle with the intended demographic by creating the following user journey informed by the interviews.



From the user interviews and supplemental surveys, we were able to validate and invalidate initial assumptions about the target demographic. I identified the ideal users that would influence the overall app design. My main objective was to align stakeholders on the psychographics that drive the target persona rather than focusing solely on demographics such as age. 

Design Sprint

To expedite the ideation process and account for future approvals, my UX colleague and I organized a design sprint in London with Product, Editorial, Circulation, Marketing, and Technical stakeholders. The sprint occurred over 7 days:

  • 2 days with all the stakeholders to align on the problem, business goals, and the idea. 
  • 2 days for design and rapid prototyping. 
  • 3 days of usability testing with design iterations in between.

Usability Testing

Overall, I ran three rounds of usability testing to test the app concept and design. I recruited new users (non-subscribers) that matched our persona's psychographics. The users were recruited via survey forms distributed on websites such as Craigslist and The usability tests were conducted using InVision prototypes that were created in collaboration with the visual design team. I used Google Hangouts On Air to broadcast the sessions with the product and development team for faster reporting. Between each round, we iterated on the design, ending with a prototype ready for development. 

Through this design process, we validated our concept was usable and ready for market testing. Our prototype was handed off for production and then subsequently released into Alpha.