American City Business Journals

American City Business Journals

Our mission at American City Business Journals (ACBJ) is to help people grow their business, advance their career, and simplify their professional life. I lead product design for our 43 local business journals, focusing on solving real problems for small and midsize business owners.

User research

A major focus for me has been instituting user research as a key part of our product development process, helping us make better decisions based on understanding our customers.

When I joined ACBJ, the product team was no longer conducting user research. Today, we talk to at least one customer a week. Partnering with our marketing research team, I spearheaded a large survey and over a dozen follow-up interviews that surfaced our users’ top professional challenges. This generative research has led directly to major new initiatives on our roadmap.

Account section

Our team overhauled the account section to better align with core user tasks and accommodate future initiatives. At the start of the project, we set up a survey asking our users why they came to the account section. The survey revealed that the most common reason for coming to the account section was to update your information, such as a new email address or mailing address. While the previous account overview page placed "Edit account info" in a secondary position off to the side, we designed the new overview page to place users’ core information front and center, along with a strong call to action to edit it.

E-commerce delivery information screen

Account overview screen on mobile. Navigation and customer support are front and center on mobile to help users find the information they need and get on with their day

The next most common user tasks were viewing/editing their subscription status and updating their email newsletter subscriptions, which led us to make those prominent tiles on the account overview page, too. We conducted usability tests on prototypes, which confirmed that the account overview's organization and language made sense to our users.

E-commerce delivery information screen

Account overview screen on desktop

E-commerce

My team has iteratively improved The Business Journals’ e-commerce flow over the last few years. As we added new features, we thoroughly reviewed best practices for mobile and desktop e-commerce and used that research to inform our design decisions. We then used remote usability tests to confirm that the e-commerce flow remains easy to use. These tactics have led us to receive high marks for usability in customer surveys.

E-commerce delivery information screen

E-commerce delivery information screen on desktop. We emphasized the cart on the right to make sure users understood what they were purchasing.

“Inline storytelling”

Our reporters have long clamored for more flexibility in how they tell stories, adding photos, graphics, and more at specific points in a narrative, but The Business Journals’ CMS only allowed visual elements at the start or end of an article.

With my background in publication design, I championed the value of this capability and collaborated closely with colleagues in design, product, and engineering to conceive it. We prototyped multiple options to understand which would be the most intuitive while avoiding situations that would be a technical challenge. The resulting “inline storytelling” feature has been widely adopted by newsrooms, with the most common response being that it just “makes sense.” I’m most proud that it has allowed some Business Journal designers who have only focused on print design to start creating engaging digital stories.

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