Case Study:
UX Refresh for the Harvard Gazette website

While working for the Harvard Public Affairs and Communications office I participated in a biennial UX review and feature enhancement project for the Harvard Gazette, Harvard’s primary online news publication.

GOALS

  • Our goals were to revisit our primary business objectives; are they still accurate, are they still relevant, have newer stakeholders had a chance to weigh in?
  • Rethink UX design and user flow to accommodate updated business goals and evolving UX trends and best practices.

Business Goals were defined as:

  • Lower the overall site bounce rate
  • Increase time on page for articles/stories
  • Increase average page visits per user (with the goal to visit/read more than one story)
  • Increase sign-ups for our daily HTML email newsletter

Research:

  • Website feedback form – We pulled together the last two years of suggestions, complaints, feature requests, and praise that came in through our standard website feedback form, and created a report documenting the highlights and commonalities.
  • Internal Google Analytics data
  • Online survey results
  • Daily HTML email newsletter click rates and heatmaps

From here, user personas and user journey maps were created to flesh out and humanize the data collected.

A few tips we picked up directly from our users and web tracking data:

  • People are less likely to read a second article if they have to put extra effort into finding a related topic or story
  • Appropriate use of continuous scrolling can serve up content options quicker, and has been proven to lower bounce rate
  • Our time on page rate was actually on par with industry standards

SOLUTIONS:

In article 'explore' option

To increase page visits per user, we added an additional way to browse articles with an on-page and editorially curated ‘explore’ option.

End of article 'next story' option

We also added an an end of page ‘next story’ option, mimicking the ‘turn of a page’ feeling of reading a newspaper, and serving up content in chronological publishing order.

Continuous Scroll browsing option

To lower our homepage bounce rate, we added an infinite scrolling action so that users could more easily peruse stories with the flick of a wrist.

Embedded newsletter 'sign up' form

To increase our html newsletter sign up rate we embedded a single-field sign up form inside a continuous scroll arena.