Developing this Android app for The Times & The Sunday Times gave us some unique challenges:
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.
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.
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.
To optimise our performance we needed a dedicated, reliable API written specifically for our development needs. So we built one, with a little help from our friends at nearForm. This enabled us to work quickly and effectively to produce prototypes, delighting our client.
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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.
This new Android application was a significant step forward for The Times & The Sunday Times and their readers. The results speak for themselves:
We’ve also been delighted to get lots of positive feedback from users of the app:
This mobile newspaper app is great for people who don't have access to the printed paper or want the convenience of The Times on phone or tablet. Essence of the paper in the palm of my hand. Great!
Chris D, subscriber
Excellent. So much better than it used to be. Very happy with navigation and readability.
Graham S, subscriber
Easy to use. Useful on the go. Simple to update, read and use. I use it a lot on the underground so being able to read offline is great.
James W, subscriber
A project is an ongoing conversation. In our blog, we share a more in-depth view about the strategies, development, and features of our projects. Here’s what else we contributed to The Times:
Implementing a prompt for feedback for The Times Android app that helped boosting the rating from 2.8 to 4.3 stars, increased the average number of ratings per day by tenfold, and helped create a dialogue with unhappy users.