Redesigning the New York Times app — a UX case study

A UX case study

Brief: Timely provide to quick read articles from 2–5 mins. News catered to specific users based on their schedule and habits..

Note: Official The New York Times team does not do this, This is just a concept our team (Addi Hou, Ke Hu, and Myself) made up with a help fo our professor Renda Morton.


The New York Times app loses the love of users, due to a myriad of reasons. Along with the competition and cost, the following factors are the reasons for the difficulties.
1. Coverage (Users are unhappy about something they read)
2. Life-changing event (moving).
3. Lack of usage.
4. Irrelevant content.


  1. To build incentives amongst the sea of news apps, many of which are free.
  2. To lead to lasting habits for readers of The New York Times app.
  3. To help them retain their long-term loyalty.

Our Proposal

Instead of overhauling the existing NYT app, we will add a subtle and useful feature to that landing page called Timely.

That will enable the user to receive notifications at opportune moments throughout a busy day: at breakfast, commute, before a meeting, during a coffee break or right before bed.

These notifications will assist the user to open Timely and access articles. It will take only a short time to read. Most importantly, the articles are catered to each user based on their interests and habits.

Design process

My role and team:

I primarily worked on Interaction/Visual Design teaming with Keh and Addi Hou who are expert in UX thinking

Topic research

We researched the habits of young people. Hence we can fit into their life instead of just urging our app.

How do people check news currently?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Random news on radio
  • If someone is talking about the news in their workplace or school

When they use mobile phones?

Target user and market

As it is a four weeks project, we have set a boundary to design a simple solution. We have interpreted the possible solutions suitable for the user.


User: People aging 20–40 years old are tech savvy and use google calendar for scheduling their life.

Market: Young population in New York.

Themes and insights

A 2017 Reuters Digital News report gave us tremendous insight into the state of news consumption globally.

  • After a period of little or no growth, there has been inflation in the use of news apps in almost all countries.
  • Young Americans paying for News Time is a vital factor in the ability to read the news.
  • Google calendar is the most popular calendar followed by Outlook and Apple.

Potential Users Interviews

We have selected young people as the users, who don’t have time to read the newspaper as their daily schedule is loaded fully. We chose this category of people to understand the pain points and their day to day challenges.

  1. We conducted initial field research.
  2. We sent the survey report.

Team brainstorming — Myself, Addi, Ke hu

Key Quotes directly from user:

“I’m not very informed about the news.”
“I’m interested. I think it’s time. I don’t have a designated time besides the morning email I get where I just look at the news.”
“I have many little free time slots.”
“I spent all my time in reading the crappy news.”
“I wish I could do that! Maybe time management is a major issue.”

Design principles

After our research and user interviews, we have come up with a set of design principles to admit while designing. We want to maintain the direct relationship between the interview result and our UI design.

1. Seamless integration

Each user has a unique schedule and habits. The experience has seamlessly integrated into their daily program without any complicated steps.

2. Simple

The intact background of this app is simple to use. The users need not learn a new pattern.

3. Polite

The design should be beneficial and accessible to the user. There should be no insignificant disturbances with many notifications.

Empathy Map

After our interview, we mapped the response and thought of the user to understand their environment and emotional connection.

Empathy Map— Myself, Addi, Ke hu

Ideation + Validation

  • We come up with 15 concepts to solve the problem for the initial phase.
  • We tested our idea with VP design in The New York Times to know the sustainability and viability of the notions.
  • We inquired our 15 test groups to vote for the best idea.

9 concepts — Myself, Addi, Ke hu

User Journey

Drawings by Addi, Ke hu

First-stage of Story Boarding and Wireframe

We made a visual storyboard to study how they will explore this feature and what are all the circumstances they use in this app.

Credits: Addi Hou

Keh and myself

Design Critic

  • Our initial concept was to showcase the news like calendar view. But VP of design validated that 96% of user use portrait mode. Hence this idea is not feasible.
  • Insufficient space to showcase the news.
  • Become tricky to navigate and find news at a glance.

Second Round Wireframe

Based on the feedback, we propose our design in portrait view with more typical scroll pattern.

Addi and Myself

The Journey of Ideal User

As we started accomplishing more on the screen, we thought to zoom the lifestyle of the user. Hence we can think of the simple way to fit into their life.

Credits: Addi Hou

Final Prototype

Two Modes of App

After our brainstorming section with storyboarding, we come up with two modes.

  • Manual Mode: It will ask the user preferences, asking how much time he has. The personalized news will be given to the user based on it.

Addi and Myself
  • Automatic mode:
    We emphasize more on the seamless integration with google calendar. It understands the user lives in a better way and give them news at the right time.

Addi and myself

Final Prototype


Based on the interviews with participants and researchers, we have devised a definite pattern. It symbolizes the young people to use this app if it fits into their lifestyle and schedule.

What can I do better?

  • Research about the features and results of competitors.
  • Select participants from different areas.
  • Usability test of the prototype with users.
  • Design direction.


Presenting our Idea at The New York Times Headquarters — Addi Hou and Myself. Ke Hu in France on that event

This project gives me an understanding that how difficult it is to introduce the small new feature into a reputed company. The touch points we need to consider before changing a small button on a screen.

Working closely with Renda Morton (Executive Director of Product Design, The New York Times) was an estimable experience. I have enhanced myself in understanding the broad spectrum of design, thinking about the limitations and asking the right questions.

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