When at least 2 million Dutch people open your app every morning to read the latest breaking news, check the gossip column (has someone married or divorced overnight?) and, of course, see if they need to bring an umbrella today, optimal usability undoubtedly has top priority. aFrogleap, a Merkle company has been collaborating with NU.nl for almost 4 years now in a design partnership, where, true to NU.nl and aFrogleap’s values, any new feature or redesign is first validated with the end-user. We would like to give you a peek into this validation process for a couple of new NU.nl features.
Apart from NU.nl's consumer branch (i.e. the app and the website), NU.nl also develops business-to-business solutions. One of these is NUlokaal, a platform through which local smaller entrepreneurs, be they part of a franchise or not (i.e. from the local New York Pizza to the jeweller around the corner), can advertise on NU.nl. With the NUlokaal platform, these entrepreneurs can design their own banner (or upload a previously designed one), upload their own images, edit text and determine to which location the banner will link. They can also target the advertisement specifically so that the right group is reached at the right time.
The NUlokaal platform is already widely used, but NU.nl felt that the platform could potentially reach a much larger audience. That's why, together with NU.nl, we redesigned the platform with more attention to simplicity and clarity, especially for designing the banner and determining duration, budget and targeting. For testing purposes, we made a clickable prototype of this design. A clickable prototype is a 'fake' representation of a working (web) app, in which not all features are actually functional, but they are usable enough to feel 'real'. We tested this prototype during a number of validation sessions with NUlokaal's target group (six small entrepreneurs with some digital knowledge, but not too much), by taking them through the platform with only the task of making an advertisement. By asking a lot of questions and observing well, we gathered a tremendous amount of feedback and insights that allowed us to make those changes to the design that resulted in a platform that is a lot more usable than it would otherwise have been.
In the upper part of the NU.nl app (and in the upper right corner of the website) one can find NU.nl widgets. These are a form of apps-in-app that offer certain functionalities for specific purposes, like a TV Guide Widget that shows you what's on TV tonight or in the near future and a Weather Widget that shows the current weather and weather predictions. There is also a stock widget, a goal widget (where one can follow goals from live football matches) and a traffic widget. The TV Guide and Weather Widget have a large number of users and NU.nl felt that both widgets deserved some fresh paintwork. In addition, the wishes of our end users have changed drastically (e.g. less TV is being watched and more streaming services are being used) and it is important to keep all functionalities on NU.nl as relevant as possible. Here, too, we have put the redesigned widgets through a rigorous user test, with extremely valuable insights as a result. You will soon see what these results are in the NU.nl app and website!
Why user testing?
When we work together with NU.nl on new functionalities or designs, we do this on the basis of insights we have gained from our end users. Sometimes we have a good idea of our own and we develop it to see what our readers think of it, but, since you always understand your own design, it is key to test it with people who see it for the first time. Furthermore, we like to test with a mixed group of participants, some of which may open NU.nl several times a day and some of which have only visited NU.nl on a few occassions. This way one can ensure that the design is clear for each target group and new users can also understand how to navigate through the app or website.
One of our core values is that we always put the end user at the top of the design process, both in the research phase prior to design and during the validation phase. We are delighted to see that NU.nl values this as much as we do and as a result, we are always able to collaborate making the most widely used app in the Netherlands even more successful, beautiful and user-friendly!
Do you want to learn more about what a validation process can mean for your existing digital product or would you like to validate your proposition and concept before you let your idea enter the design phase? We think it would be great to have a talk about this!
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