When the Financial Times set about the third redesign of its definitive luxury guide How To Spend It, the end user was our one and only focus. Having successfully adapted the publication from print to digital, the FT’s new challenge was to answer the evolving needs of our affluent and growing readership; chiefly, their demand for mobile accessibility that didn’t compromise on quality or functionality, and content that would inspire them to make a purchase.

We’re sharing our experience with what worked best on the latest iteration of How To Spend It to help you too put the customer at the heart of a website redesign.

Know your users

Firstly, we set out to define the audience we sought to serve. How to Spend It in print is a product aimed at high net worth individuals and those on the way up. The success of our website was dependent on catering to our loyal and established readers while also providing a platform that worked for a broader aspirational audience. Our approach to understanding our users was data-driven and entirely evidenced based.

We began by segmenting users according to what type of products they buy and how regularly, on a scale of rarely to frequently and expensive to luxury. This matrix, combined with customer mapping, built a picture of the audiences we wanted to target. We then recruited people who fit the behaviours of the matrix and grouped them according to common needs, which led us to develop two personas of typical HTSI digital users. These were Ian; looking to make an efficient gift purchase, and Chloe; who enjoyed browsing the site.

Understand your challenge

We kick started our work on the HTSI redesign with a Design Sprint; a five day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. This quickly created a shared understanding among a multi-discipline team about the goal of this redesign and the main user and business problems to be solved. It also quickly got our team to a rough prototype through which we could test assumptions about our users and the product.

Vary your content and pathways

With different audience personas, come different content needs. We identified two in particular: those that know the type of item they’re after but want recommendations, and those that want inspiration to find something new. The features of HTSI are designed to address these variations.

For the efficient user, we placed the gift guide in a prominent position on the site, making it the first tab on the navigation bar rather than the last tab, and featured on every section page. The gift guide also boasts new search function tools.

For the browsing user, we introduced long-from editorial based on insight about the topics that our audience want to read. As well as subject sections, there are three new content categories:

Unforgettable Experiences, Things to Love and Personal Recommendations, each curated by the website’s senior editors.

Provide a next step

Actionable content is important to HTSI users – 87% have bought products or services they found on the site. Now, each article includes a ‘where to find it’ box, linking to a purchase point. An alternate step in the gift guide now allows users to click on an item to expand the view, rather than being immediately directed to a new page for information, then another to purchase. Not loading another page helps lower the time delay and latency.

Ease of movement through the site was front of mind in our design. Through the continuous scrolling of stories, a user can move through the site without needing to touch the back button, reducing friction and making it easy to discover what they want.

Be accessible

To capture the fleeting attention of user, a website must be responsive and speedy without compromising on quality.

The previous HTSI site was not mobile friendly and this resulted in a bounce rate of over 70%. To ensure we optimised speed while maintaining the quality and impact of our retina images – another upgraded feature – we used image scaling technology developed in-house. This proprietary tool enables us to use higher quality images with the lowest possible bandwidth. Despite our images being better in quality and higher in number, the size of our page sizes has decreased, allowing the site to operate faster.

Less than a month from the relaunch of HTSI, the results show our new approach has struck a chord with users. Daily average page views have increased 58% with a 60% rise in pages viewed per session, while session duration is up 57%. For now, this is evidence that our redesign has boosted engagement and when it comes to HTSI 4.0 user data will again be harnessed to show where the next developments are needed.

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