UX Research for
The Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) are an economic and geopolitical insights think tank guiding the world’s organizations and governments.​ I was beyond excited to contribute as a UX Researcher alongside a team of extremely talented designers.

Overview

Background

This project took place from December 2019 to February 2020 as part of a capstone class project with CUNY students and the EIU. We worked with their lead product designer to produce UX designs and research for a potential future app. 

The problem

The EIU wanted to increase engagement outside of the office and with greater frequency

The EIU marketing team publishes free marketing content to raise awareness for the brand and showcase its capabilities. It currently gets promoted through PR companies, newsletters, or social—and people come to the website to register and download it. The user data enters a marketing database and the sales team jumps in at the appropriate moment.

The purpose of this project is to increase engagement with this free marketing content. The EIU has a few major marketing campaigns throughout the year that pull in the most interest. But there is not much going on in between these peaks of engagement. 

Constraints

We had some challenges but made it work

Marketing objectives vs user needs

Marketing objectives meant our design needed to consider the objectives of the marketing department as well as users. Our design is for a “freemium” version of a premium subscription product. Consequently, we needed to address the needs of both stakeholders. Sometimes these goals felt discordant with one another. We had to strike a balance and it was important to find compromise where possible.

Access to real users

The EIU was unable to provide real users. proxy users stood in instead. This presented real problems for me as researcher because the proxies were ultimately viewing the actual users from their own angle and through their own biases. I was acutely aware of this during generative interviews. We still need to talk and test with real end-users before we’ll ever really know if it works for them. 

What did success look like?

Here's how we defined success

We completed all of our deliverables

They included a summary of findings, clickable prototype and a final presentation at Google NYC. 

 

Our usability tests scored highly

Usability testing was an important step in confirming the success of our designs. The final score for the prototype was 85. A score of 80.3 or higher is an A. This was a positive outcome and can be seen as a marker of success. 

We are ready to test with real users

Our usability tests helped us understand more about how our solution met our proxy user’s needs. We think it’s time to test with real end-users to see what they think.

Process

Methods we used to find a solution

Process

A quantitative content audit revealed the full scope of the digital assets and content models on the EIU's website

A quantitative audit is a tally of every piece of content, including all relevant attributes and metadata. Content models identify the structural and semantic relationships between content types. A qualitative audit was outside of our scope, but gets even more granular, measuring every piece of content against the project goals and overall quality. 

Process

A brand position matrix helped us visualize the ecosystem our product would live in

Process

A competitive analysis helped us ensure we provided a better experience than our closest competitors

We were able to identify where our competitors were outranking us. We produced a features comparison matrix, identified strengths, weaknesses, marketing strategies, keywords they are ranking for, and countries they are targeting. Tools like Google, Owler and Alexa helped us build a clearer picture. 

Process

User interviews helped us empathize with and better get to know our users

Interviews were conducted remotely over Zoom with proxy users supplied by the EIU. We recorded them, used a tool called Otter.ai to transcribe them and identify keywords. Re-watching recorded interviews also helped us pay closer attention to codifying body language and tone.

Process

Affinity and empathy mapping exercises helped us distill the data we captured during our exploratory user interviews

Process

We came up with four distinct personas to represent our users

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

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

Insight

We discovered that our users work across diverse industries and sectors

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 also those who worked in academia and research. 

Insight

We found out what frustrated them

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

“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.”

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

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

Solution

We produced a high-fidelity prototype and conducted a series of usability tests with it

Takeaways

Our usability tests with proxy users were positive. We could learn more if we tested with real users.

Proxy users are not real users

There can sometimes be a concern within organizations about letting researchers talk to actual end-users—but there really is no substitute for the real thing. 

 

The marketing aspect needs tuning

The app is for marketing content and access is free, but the question of how to drive users to purchase paid content may need further consideration and was beyond the scope of this project. 

Our design has options for accessing the main website for paid content—but during testing, some users were confused and thought all the content was free. 

Access to paid content and its pricing needs more precise consideration but was again, beyond the scope of this project. 

Credits

The team

PM/UI 

Nazia Roushan

IA

Mary Ellen Muzio

Research

Adam Inglis

Want to work together?

Adam Inglis – UX Designer and Researcher based in New York.

Adam
Inglis