How O Povo Online recovered its market share and experienced a three-digit growth in user engagement and advertisements after realigning core products to their audience’s changing needs.
O Povo Online is a popular news portal in the Brazilian northeast. It is part of the O Povo Group, a nine decades years-old media conglomerate that includes TV, Radio, Internet, Print and book publishing.
Problem and Challenges
The declining user engagement and the arrival of new competitors with strong nation-wide partnerships were slowing down the online revenue growth for months, putting O Povo Online’s local leadership position at risk. In addition to that, the company was facing long-lasting internal challenges:
- A big release with a tight deadline
The tight deadline set by the directors’ board (five months to deliver a new portal) created an atmosphere of high uncertainty given the complexity of the product.
- Guesswork, even with data available
The project team (17 people from management, marketing, journalism, social media, development, and sales) was struggling with pre-conceived opinions about problems and potential solutions, even with rich data (web analytics, surveys, etc.) available.
- Information in silos
As usual in many companies, the day-to-day operations sometimes lead to the creation of silos of information and collaboration that prevent the flow of project activities.
I was hired as an external user experience consultant to facilitate the process of UX strategy redefinition and execution throughout the project. I led the research, ideation, prototyping, and usability testing. I finished my participation after the release of the first version of the web/desktop portal.
O Povo Online clearly needed more than a new portal, they needed to reconnect with their audience, understanding their new needs and desires.
- Instead of a big release of a “new portal” in just five months, I suggested to to something radically different: deliver something valuable, but yet to be discovered on the same deadline.
- To break the silos and make the information flow within the project, we enhanced the collaboration by allowing everyone to share and discuss their data in seminars.
Once the directors agreed with the format, we started the project divided into three phases: 1) Emphasizing, 2) Ideating and 3) Experimenting.
Phase 1: Emphasizing
The first objective was to identify the real problems users were facing and potential opportunities.
As the team was big, we created sub-teams to collect and generate qualitative and quantitative data from primary and secondary sources: access logs, direct user feedbacks, previous surveys, public statistics, social media, customer interviews and usability tests with existing products.
The results were then presented and discussed in weekly seminars by each sub team. During those seminars, essential user behaviours and other characteristics were collaboratively identified using individual notes organized into affinity diagrams.
After a few rounds of analysis and synthesis using personas and empathy maps, the team came up with the main challenges for the design phase.
Phase 2: Ideating
With the main user problems in place, the team generated around 40 solution ideas. We started with individual ideation to allow equal participation and to avoid groupthink, followed by group discussions to sort, merge, evolve and prioritize ideas using a matrix based on technical complexity and business value.
Based on the team prioritization, I created an action plan for the next steps.
For some ideas, we ran design studio sessions to quickly generate artifacts for the experiments (see next step).
Phase 3: Experimenting
Following the action plan, we created several experiments to test:
- The main information architecture (tree testing, card sorting);
- Visual design (Layout, Typography);
- Mobile version of the portal (usability testing);
- Desktop version of the portal (usability testing);
- A WhatsApp news delivery service (user satisfaction, behaviour, engagement).
After passing through the first experiments, the services / features were updated and set to be developed and released independently in their own schedule, instead of a full, monolithic portal.
Using the agile development methodology, the products were released first by device (mobile first) and then by area (Sports, News, Home page, etc).
Deadline met, releasing first the mobile and then desktop version.
245% increase in visits after three months.
800% increase in advertisers after one year.
500% increase in the WhatsApp news digest after three months.
Product development culture shifted to UX-Agile mindset.
This project is a good example of how a good team and proper methods based on evidence can yield truly great results, capable of not only elevate the product or service, but also the people involved and company’s culture.
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