Design / Engineering / Product / Agile

How we helped the Times increase readership by redesigning their app for a new set of customer behaviours

2.8 → 4.4

star rating

↑3.5

articles read

↑15%

user satisfaction

↑32%

monthly active users

Design / Engineering / Product / Agile

How we helped the Times increase readership by redesigning their app for a new set of customer behaviours

2.8 → 4.4

star rating

↑3.5

articles read

↑15%

user satisfaction

↑32%

monthly active users

Novoda was delighted to be approached by The Times & The Sunday Times, two of the UK’s most prestigious newspapers. Find out how we delivered the new Android app, boosting unique visitors by 32%. This built on our successful partnership with News UK, following our app development for The Sun, the biggest selling newspaper in the UK.
The Challenges
Developing this Android app for The Times & The Sunday Times gave us some unique challenges:
New content uploaded numerous times throughout the day required a seamless refresh process
Sophisticated, tech-savvy audience and a paywall for all content meant we had to deliver on very high expectations from users
All content elements had to be available offline for readers on the move
Access to images, videos, interactive graphics and sound clips without compromising on performance and load speed was critical
Significant readership of users aged 50-75 meant we had to keep accessibility considerations in mind at all times
We needed an API that could give us the flexibility to make changes quickly, which The Times API would struggle with on top of its own daily workload
Our Approach
Do the groundwork
We started as we always do: by  immersing ourselves in the brand . We learned as much as we could about  The Times  and its readers by delving into the extensive customer research, provided by the team at IDEO, and reading every publication we could get our hands on. Then we spent some time using their existing app and holding  bi-weekly customer interviews  to identify key issues.
Testing 1–2–3
Continuous, scenario-based  usability testing  allows us to highlight and prioritise usability issues to iterate on throughout product development. In order to A/B test the native application effectively, we built two simultaneous run-time versions of the app which could be easily switched between in the testing sessions. We held regular  cross-discipline workshops , which allowed us to define the information architecture early and prioritise the most important product features.
With such a vast amount of content to present, it was essential to ensure  quick, intuitive navigation  between sections and articles. The results of our usability tests showed that standard Android patterns would be most effective to achieve that. Our traffic light feedback system helped all members of the team identify the priorities raised during usability testing at a glance.
Collaborate and listen
In order to really understand the business and truly integrate with the team at  The Times , we set up a project base within their offices and worked closely with their researchers, designers, developers, and management team every step of the way. Working onsite together helps to build relationships and create an atmosphere of trust and partnership that makes the whole development process much more streamlined. We had daily 10 minute stand-up meetings with the cross-company project team and weekly refinement sessions to help us plan ahead.
Master the technology
To optimise our performance we needed a dedicated, reliable API written specifically for our development needs. So we built one. This enabled us to work quickly and effectively to produce prototypes, delighting our client.
The Finished Product
After several months of collaborative development with thorough testing at every phase, we launched  The Times  &  The Sunday Times  Android app. Key factors in the finished product were:
Seamless offline experience  — whether deep underground on the Tube or cruising at 30,000ft, users of the Android app enjoy uninterrupted browsing with automatic downloads of each new edition.
Intuitive interaction  — we used colour-coding and standard Android navigation patterns, based on Google’s Material Design guidelines, to make browsing totally intuitive for users.
Automatic web syncing  — content saved by the user in the My Articles section on the website will automatically sync with the app for easy reading offline, and vice versa.
Streamlined multimedia files  — despite large bundles of images and rich media files being uploaded daily, we were able to minimise the strain on the app and provide the best quality output.
Easily accessible  — we optimised the experience for visually impaired users, with considerations for easy reading, text resizing and a first-class TalkBack experience.
The outcome
This new Android application was a significant step forward for  The Times  &  The Sunday Times  and their readers. The results speak for themselves:

Excellent. So much better than it used to be. Very happy with navigation and readability.

Graham S, subscriber