Improving the Hindustan Times news app experience— a UX case study

Adi Gajbhiye
6 min readDec 10, 2021

About Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times is one of the leading news platforms in India, which was founded in 1924 and inaugurated by none other than Mahatma Gandhi.

Why this redesign?

I was looking for a news app to keep up with the new COVID-19 variants. I decided to install it because I had a subscription to the Hindustan Times newspaper. I expected a rich user experience from an app with such a large following and history, but the Hindustan Times news app in its current state violates many UX heuristics and WCAG guidelines, resulting in a variety of usability issues.

Goal

The goal was to understand how users respond to the current app and redesign it from the ground up to fit how people consume news on mobile devices.

My Role

UI/UX Designer.

Design Process

Problem & Hypothesis

The first thing I did was an in-depth analysis of the app to understand the brand ideology, main features, and overall architecture.

As you can see, the app’s UI is something of an assault on the visual senses, with ads taking up almost 50% of the screen estate and a lack of visual hierarchy. Apart from the bad UI, I was also able to identify some clear usability issues, such as poor navigation, unclear information architecture, low content discovery, and no search feature on the home page. I listed all of them to validate them after my user research.​​

​“Problems with visual design can turn users off so quickly that they never discover all the smart choices you made with navigation or interaction design.”​​

User Research

Digital users' demographics

The Hindustan Times audience is 62.85% male and 37.15% female. The largest age group of visitors is 25–34-years old.

User Interview

To validate my assumptions, I conducted user interviews with 5 users of any news app to understand what motivates or demotivates them from reading the news and their news consumption habits. Their ages ranged from 24–34 years old.

Insights from the interview

  • Almost all the participants read the news 3–5 times a day.
  • Their main goal to use the news app is to keep themselves updated about daily events.
  • Every participant said they like personalized news.
  • The features they use the most are saving and sharing the news.
  • Some participants stated that certain notifications piqued their interest and prompted them to open the app, whereas others stated that constant notifications could become irritating, particularly during working hours.
  • All participants felt that Ads are annoying.

Guerrilla Usability Testing

Next, I conducted guerrilla usability testing on the same five participants. 4 of them had never before used the Hindustan Times app. For one week, I asked them to use the Hindustan Times news app instead of their preferred app. I gathered their verdict and overall experience after one week. After analyzing the data, I discovered some interesting findings

Insight

Most users forgot to use the app after a while and were unmotivated to use it. The poorly executed navigation system and constant ads were a major reason why users felt lost and eventually abandoned the app.

Desk Research

Play store reviews

After doing user interviews and guerilla usability testing, I went through some of the reviews of the Hindustan Times news app from the play store to get more insights. These are some of the reviews I found that are worth looking.

some of the pain points users expressed. Zoom in for a better view

User Persona

I also created a persona based on the users I spoke to during user interview and usability testing. The personas described their story, goals and pain points.

Defining the Pain Points

Based on the research, here are the 4 problems I decided to focus on:

Navigation

Main features like ‘E-Paper’ and ‘Quick Reads’ are difficult to access. ‘Search’ and ‘Saved’ news’s features are not visible. there is no heading on the sections like ‘top news’, ‘latest news’, etc.

No personalized news

Users have no control over what type of news they want to see. Most of the news is about celebrities and cricket.

Advertisements

A couple of participants said they felt demotivated to open the Hindustan Times app because of so many ads.

Notifications

Users received a lot of irrelevant notifications. Also, notifications during their working hours annoyed them, leading them to turn it off or uninstall it.

Ideate

Affinity mapping

The results of the user research, guerilla usability testing, and desk research were analyzed and categorized through affinity mapping. The affinity map helped me to brainstorm and come up with potential ideas to address the users’ pain points.

Pink: Users’ feedback, Orange: Pain points, Blue: Potential solutions to that pain points

Paper sketches

For low fidelity paper wireframes, I carefully went through the current UI of the Hindustan Times mobile app because generally, users don’t like radical improvements. They expect your design to resemble the one they’re used to.

Design

Final mockups

Based on the paper sketch, I created high-fidelity wireframes in Figma. I followed 8-point grid system and used some of the gestalt principles to improve the visual design. I also added a proper visual hierarchy, which creates a predictable reading path to improve the reading experience.

Final mockups of Hindustan Times news app

Design decisions

Behind the scenes work (sigh!)

Prototype Link

Validation

After creating the prototype, I tested my solutions on the same 4 participants that I conducted guerilla usability testing with. I asked them to perform the same tasks that I gave them during the usability testing.

Results:

  • 5/5 users were able to easily navigate through the app.
  • 5/5 users were able to easily save the news and re-read the news that they’d saved.
  • 4/5 felt that the ads were not disturbing.
  • 4/5 users liked the personalize experience.
  • 4/5 users liked the new user interface.

Conclusion & Lessons learned

The younger generation are radically changing the way they consume news and Hindustan Times need to adapt with them. They are one of the leading news platforms in India, but it will be better if they support it with good user experience to retain their loyal userbase and acquire new users.

I learned that it’s very easy to assume we know what's best for the users, but that’s not always the case. We have to test it and reiterate it from time to time to finally get that final product.

Note: This was a personal project. I’m not affiliated with the Hindustan Times.

And that’s a wrap. Thank you for reading!

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