A new homepage for FT readers

Anna Lisinski
Nov 30, 2021 · 4 min read

A product overview of how we tackled this high-profile project

New FT homepage
FT’s new homepage

The FT’s homepage is arguably the FT’s most powerful engagement and acquisition tool. Editorial and commercial promotion is highly sought and fought over.

While it will never be the aim to promote everything via this page, its lack of flexibility for evolving digital strategies was becoming a problem. Our Editorial department, in particular, felt they were having to make too many compromises, and as a result, the breadth of their output was being lost.

This prompted us in Product to explore opportunities of improving the experience for both internal stakeholders and paying subscribers.

The user needs

We narrowed the user needs of the homepage down to three states:

  1. To get up to date with the news
  2. To understand the news and dig deeper
  3. To lean back and enjoy content in moments of downtime

While we’ve paid attention to all of these with our redesign, we focused our feature development more on the second user need as that was where users considered the FT to be at its most valuable.

Initial concepts

Through the use of wireframes and user testing, we gained confidence in a solution where we enabled Editors to group stories on the same topic together.

User feedback showed having opinion content, features, and multimedia in close reach to the main news story provided users with the context and detail they craved.

This concept also had the potential to give the page structure, with each group able to act as a configurable block we could provide a playbook from which Editors could gain complete control over the layout.

The outcome

Following a series of AB tests, we are now in the midst of launching this new homepage. Feedback from our colleagues in the newsroom is very positive, the additional flexibility and freedom to promote more of their breadth have been cited as key improvements.

Regarding our users, we’ve so far found our new homepage increases click through rate (CTR) by 1.8%. While a positive result, this impact has not been consistently achieved in all and subsequent tests, or easily identified. Which leads me onto the next section.

Problems we faced:

Testing the homepage has been one of the hardest parts of this project. In part, because we have been testing a whole new design along with a specific concept, so separating out the cause and effect has been hard.

We were also reliant on Editors curating the new page separately which meant we were unable to test multiple variants to identify how each subsequent improvement of the design compared to the previous version.

Lastly, we focused our tests on subscribers rather than anonymous users due to the focus this project took. However, even though subscribers are incredibly valuable to us, they already have a habit with our homepage and as we’ve found with previous redesigns, this group in particular takes a bit of time to get used to a new layout. Had we included anonymous users in our AB tests we’d have likely observed more quickly any positive or negative results. So far in our ramp-up to launch we’ve noticed CTR to be higher for anonymous audiences, validating this assumption.

Launching this new homepage not only enables us to reap the benefits of the engagement improvements but also helps us navigate around the testing issues by providing us with three successes:

  1. Increased curation flexibility for Editors
  2. One homepage from which we conduct iterative tests more easily and quickly
  3. More data on the impact of our new homepage on all our audiences

Where are the opportunities post-launch?

While design improvements are important to the overall look and feel of the FT, particularly on the homepage which has a big job in setting the tone of the FT brand, we believe the impact this can have on our metrics is limited.

We have however, identified a constant theme around improving relevance.

In a previous project we increased CTR for a homepage component by 13% by improving the relevance for international audiences. While our exploration of how to improve the myFT experience on the App increased visits by 39%, suggesting there are opportunities in carving out a better space on desktop for this feature too. Lastly, our exploration of improving the article page onward journey for users, utilising the Crux algorithm to help readers increase their knowledge on a topic, increased CTR by just over 4%.

Watch this space on how we navigate the next phase of the initiative. In the meantime, I’m very keen to learn from others how you have approached initiatives like this. How did you approach a homepage redesign? How did you identify the priorities? How did you test and validate your assumptions?

If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our current vacancies.

A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology…