UX researcher and designer

The Economist Intelligence Unit

User research - mobile

Overview

Background

The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) are an economic and geopolitical insights think tank guiding the world’s organizations and governments. 

Problem statement

How might we best scale the EIU Insights section into a smartphone app?

The EIU marketing department wants to create a smartphone app based on the free “Insights” section of the EIU website to generate more user engagement ‘outside of the office’.

Research questions

  • How can we introduce new users to the EIU brand?​
  • How can we create a path to conversion for EIU customers?​
  • What are the user’s unique needs?​​

background

The EIU help clients

  • Analyze political and economic developments
  • Understand country-specific regulations and business practices

Generative research

Methodology

  • Design review
  • Content inventory
  • Competitive analysis
  • User interviews
  • Affinity mapping exercises
  • Persona building

Design review

Navigation was challenging. There were lots of “ends of the journey” as one user told us. Many of the EIU products and services were difficult to find.

The website was not mobile-enabled and was extraordinarily difficult to use on a mobile device.

To resolve these issues, we realized that the new app should be stylistically consistent. Content should be more logically organized and discoverable. The process of downloading and viewing content has to be consistent. There has to be an easy way to access paid content and subscription services.

Because the product is content driven, we needed to design for media like videography, podcasts, photography, illustrations, interactive and animated elements, maps and geo-visualizations, information graphics, data visualizations, and pdf white-paper documents. 

Content Inventory

User interviews

Frame-1
vlcsnap-2020-08-06-15h18m01s086

Encoding

We re-watched our recorded exploratory interviews and began to take notes. We looked for non-verbal clues like body language, and transcribed everything our users said too.  

Affinity maps

We translated our observations to post it notes and created some affinity maps so we could begin brainstorming. Some of the artifacts we created are displayed here. 

Insight

User context

Our users worked in the public and private sector. They were business leaders, company directors, executives and investors. Some worked in the media, like editors and journalists. There were those who worked in academia and research. 

There were data scientists, economists, and librarians. Others worked in government as policy writers and makers. There were also product developers and managers.

User needs

Users talked about using the EIU to do things like finding out about events, seminars, and webinars. 

They also wanted to download content like white-papers for offline use or when they were traveling. One user—a journalist—described being deployed to a new country on short notice. They needed to study up on geopolitics, economic trends, and indicators while en route without connectivity while flying.

Some needed to check exchange rates and get top-level data to compare and benchmark. 

There was a clear expectation of customizable feeds; users wanted to do things like filter by city level, by industry, or country. A competitive analysis showed this to be consistent with similar products. 

They also talked about needing to personalize alerts and notifications for the weekend or when traveling and wanted to use a bookmarking tool for items they needed to get back to. 

Frustrations

“It’s not always clear what is free and what is not.”

“It’s hard to use the EIU website in a mobile browser and its hard to read on a smartphone. It’s difficult to do research or get more ‘in-depth’ information on a smartphone.”

“There are a lot of ends of journey. Too many dead ends. It’s hard to find what I am really looking for.”

“Making an inquiry is a really long process. It can take days because staff are spread over multiple time zones.”

Brand perception

Users described the EIU as global, impartial, scholarly, credible, authoritative and serious. 

Persona cards

New prospect

Researcher at a university

Looking for the right product. Never purchased from the EIU before.

Goal

Get updates on special reports.

Pain point

When making an inquiry takes too long

Future subscriber

Young professional

Not yet ready to buy. Presents ideas to other people for a living.

Goal

Find something to tweet about

Pain point

Reading longform on a smartphone

Switcher

Executive at FMCG company

Is close to a buying decision. Has a lapsed EIU subscription.

Goal

Get updates on special reports.

Pain point

Confusing navigation

Influencer

Journalist

Horizon scanner. Can influence the buyer in their organization.

Goal

Get updates on special reports.

Pain point

Ambiguity around pricing

Prototype

Low-fi

Mid-fi

Wires

Interactive prototype

Usability tests

Expert review

First, we created a usability test plan. Then, we conducted usability tests with five expert proxy users.

Imagine you’re a journalist, downloading and using the EIU App for the first time. You know about the EIU and many of its products and services. You are being asked to browse the App and decide whether to sign up for it or not.

Task

Description

Tasks to perform

Success criteria

Score

1

Onboarding

Sign up or skip or go through onboarding tutorials

The user decides to sign up

20

2

Personal-
ization

Set preferences during signing up or later from ‘Profile’ settings

Follow the public policy of the G7 and N-11 countries

The user finds personalization easy

90

3

Explore the App

Read an article

Bookmark an article

Explore the bottom navigation

Find an article you want to read

Tweet a story

Sign up for a webinar on the general election of the UK

The user finds everything easily and completes all tasks without any problem

The user decides to sign up if they didn’t sign up earlier

90

Insights:

Four of the five users chose to skip sign up from the onboarding screens. However, one of them chose to sign up once they had seen the features of the app. Linking the webinars to their corresponding articles was one example of feedback we received that revealed a blindspot. Another option could be grouping them together for easier access. This would require a reassessment of the article, webinar, and podcast categorizations.

You’ve signed up for the EIU App and get a notification about a topic you’re following. You’re on the tube/metro/subway, so can’t read it now (no internet). You’re being asked to save it to find and read the article later.

TaskDescriptionTask to performSuccess criteriaScore
1Bookmark

Bookmark the notification to read it later

User bookmarks it from the lock screen90

Insights:

All the users were able to complete this task successfully. However, we gave a score of 50 (a partial success) to the task of one of the users because they mentioned that they would not use the bookmark feature in real life.

You have access to the internet now and decide to read the article while waiting for the next train.

TaskDescriptionTasks to performSuccess criteriaScore
1Read bookmarked articleGo to the app and read the article you bookmarkedThe user finds the bookmarked article80
2Download a whitepaper

Download the ‘Global Liveability Index’ report

Email the PDF to yourself or a colleague

The user downloads the report successfully90
3Read the Global Liveability Index

Read the report that you downloaded

Read a related report

The user successfully finds the downloaded report100

Insights:

These tasks were successfully completed by most of the users. Two of them did not manage to find the bookmarked article once they returned to the app from the lock screen of the phone. One of the users was not sure about the differences between the free and paid content, and hence the task received a partial score.

You’re satisfied with the ‘Global Liveability Index’ report and decide to purchase the ‘Global Liveability Matrix’ report.

Task:

TaskDescriptionTasks to performSuccess criteriaScore
1Interact with/ purchase a paid product
  • Find the ‘Global Liveability Matrix’ report
  • Buy the report
Email a link or buy a report75

Insights:

The majority of the users did not get to this task. The reason might be that, as mentioned by one of the users, there needs to be a clearer distinction between the free and paid content. So they might have overlooked the option to purchase a paid product thinking that it is the same as the free content. 

Scoring

We used the Nielsen Norman Group metrics to score the tests using and the System Usability Scale (SUS) survey—once the participant had finished the tasks they were asked to complete.

Success: 100
Partial success: 50
Failure: 0

The percentage of tasks that users complete correctly or partially correctly showed the measure of success.

The results were scaled, added, and multiplied by 2.5.

The final score for the prototype was 85. A score of 80.3 or higher is an A, which means that the users enjoyed using the app and would potentially recommend it to others.

Research: Adam Inglis
Information Architecture: M.E. Muzio
Prototyper and Visual Designer: Nazia Roushan
Mentor at The EIU: Ian Roberts, Lead Product Designer
and Lead Experience Architect at The EIU. 
Capstone Class Instructor: Michael Suen.