Improving the POLITICO App

A UX Research Case Study of the POLITICO Android App

Background

As we approached the 2018 mid-term elections, I began reviewing websites and their associated applications to gather the information I needed in order to be informed on the issues and candidates. I downloaded a handful of different news apps on my phone, including POLITICO.

I was familiar with POLITICO having read articles on their website before. I went to download the app and I noticed a lot of bad reviews, which surprised me because I thought the website was fine.

When I first opened the app, everything appeared functional, although a bit dated in appearance. However, many problems began to arise once I began to use the app. The more I used it, the more frustrated I became with the entire experience.

I decided to turn my frustration as a user into a UX case study and evaluate all the problems with the app.

Analyzing the App

The POLITICO App I evaluated was Ver. 2.1.3 (Last Updated August 1, 2014). The phone I used was a OnePlus 6T. To begin, I simply opened the app and attempted to explore all the different features in order to determine the errors that interfere the most with a typical user. ​​​​​​​The following images illustrate the main features of the app; Top News, Navigation Menu, Sharing, and Settings. There was also a Save Article feature, but only a single pop-up.

Politico Home Confusing and Overwhelming Menu Bare Settings Large Share Icons

The biggest issue that I encountered was being unable to open articles when tapping on them. I soon learned that I would need to scroll down a little before being able to open an article.

In addition, I had no obvious way of navigating through the app. Eventually, I was able to open the navigation menu by tapping the square icon on the top bar, but nothing about that icon indicated the presence of a navigation menu. Once opening the navigation menu, I was greeted with too many different options to choose from. This caused it to take much longer for me to find the specific option I wanted.

Thirdly, the share menu displayed many icons of extremely varying sizes in a random order that made it harder to locate the preferred app.

Lastly, while not pictured above, the Save Article feature did not indicate where the article could be viewed later or any way to customize save location.

User Research

I continued my app analysis with the app reviews on the Google Play Store. This helped me quickly locate any common problems that I may have missed. The general consensus was that in addition to the dated aesthetic, the notifications were unreadable and therefore useless. As a result, many users were uninstalling POLITICO and turning towards other news apps.

Google Play Store Reviews Google Play Store Reviews

Given all these issues with the POLITICO app, I wanted to get some input from people who consistently use news apps, like POLITICO, to see which features people like and dislike. Unfortunately, since I was at home during winter break, I was unable to perform any user interviews in person. To get around this obstacle, I messaged some of the most active users on the subreddit r/politics. I asked them the following questions:

  1. Which (political) news apps do you have on your mobile device?
  2. What features do you like about those apps?
  3. What do you not like about these apps?
  4. What are the 3 most important features any news app should have?

From 11 users I aggregated the following information:

  1. The majority of responses emphasized the importance of timely push notifications for breaking news.
  2. The main issue people had with news apps was actually too many push notifications.
  3. The top 3 most important features were: Customizability/Filter Options, Easy to use navigation, No ads.

Personas

From the information I gathered through the user interviews, I developed the following two personas:

Robert Miller Persona
Jessica Adams Persona

POLITICO Research

I found that 40% of all of POLITICO's revenue is from POLITICO PRO. POLITICO PRO is a subscription service that offers "exclusive reporting, analysis, and tools." In addition, one user states that “[T]he service Politico Pro provides is highly specialized and is not offered, in this format, by any other vendor.” Given the importance of POLITICO PRO, it would be important to make sure the subscription option is visible. The current app, has almost no mention of POLITICO PRO. It can only be found hidden in the navigation menu.

Redesign Focuses

Should the process continue into the actual redesigning of the app, these are the main areas of need based on my research:

  • Design an easy to use and intuitive form of navigation
  • Fix notifications to be readable, as well as customizable
  • Expand customizability through filtering content
  • Make sharing content easier
  • Make saved articles more visible
  • Bring more focus to POLITICO PRO
  • Update the dated aesthetic

Conclusion

While this project was much more focused on the research aspects, I still enjoyed working on it. I learned a lot about user research and how important it is to thorough so that all pain points can be addressed.

Overall, I began to grasp the importance of a good UX. While it may seem self explanatory, going through the process of analyzing and finding areas of potential improvement on a currently released app gave me a much better understanding of the extent UX has on people's lives. Poor UX leads to frustration and as a result, many consumers miss out on lots of good content.