If you’re a regular reader of the online version of the UK newspaper The Guardian, you’ll notice they’ve made some changes — big ones — that amount to a rebooting of the whole brand. The Design Council recently ran a profile of how The Guardian used design thinking to do it.
Design thinking helped The Guardian not only revamp its website, but it helped them redesign their funding model, boost revenue in an industry that has seen sharp declines, engage more profoundly with readers, and even change the company’s culture. It was a tall order, but design thinking led them there.
Where They Started
It all began with The Guardian realizing that time is a valuable commodity. Their customers — readers — are bombarded with online news all day every day. So they tested ways to streamline the process for readers, simplifying choices. In an interview with the Design Council, executive creative director, Alex Breuer said it best: “We used design thinking to place ourselves in the customer moment.”
One great example of how The Guardian used design thinking is in the reboot of the navigation of its website. Using the old version, people found their way around the site via a large list that reflected the internal structure of the newsroom and the departments within it. Using design thinking, they realized that consumers didn’t have a newsroom approach to consuming content, so they flipped the navigation concept on its head and redesigned it to reflect the reader’s frame of mind. Now, the website is headed by five sections or “pillars,” that simplify the experience for the reader. The result? A huge increase in traffic.
The Customer Moment
Next, it was time to tackle another demon: revenue. In an industry that has seen sharp declines in revenue, The Guardian wanted to make sure its bottom line, and employee jobs, were safe and secure in order to bring value to their customers. It started with, again, putting themselves in the “customer moment’” and understanding exactly what sort of value they brought to their customers. Safety, security, and an honest explanation of the happenings in the world and in their own backyard. They also realized that, while other news sites charge a fee for content, customers don’t appreciate that sort of firewall when they’re trying to get their news.
The solution: People would have no barriers to accessing news on The Guardian’s site. Instead, they’d find a banner ad asking for contributions, and no amount was too small. This resulted in financial support from 1 million readers, proving that this new model of delivering the news is viable.
By leveraging design thinking, The Guardian staff was able to look at their business model with fresh eyes, and brainstorm innovative solutions that have had measurable results. And this is just the beginning.
In our next post, we’ll talk about how they made it all work internally.
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