SupChina new media platform – UX research

Project Scope:

Complete news platform redesign and development.

This page details the research component of the project. Please see the related UX design


UX designer/Project director, Art Director, Web designer, Technical director, Full stack developers (2), Content manager/QA tester

My role:

As UX project director and point of contact to the client, I created and carried out the project plan, competition analysis, UX research, UX design, wrote technical specifications, and directed all UI design, development and QA.

  • interviews
  • card sorting
  • tree testing
  • survey
  • goal completion user flow testing

SupChina came to me with a template-based blog website looking for a transformation into a porous new media platform.

SupChina is an independent, fully digital, new media company dedicated to informing, entertaining, and educating a global audience about business, technology, politics, and culture in China with a product line including: a porous website, subscription-based newsletter and a network of podcasts. As a growing news source on all things China, SupChina had outgrown its template based blog and needed a full new media platform.

The challenge

Based on SupChina’s internal analytics the most prevalent users at project start were university-aged students  (~21-27 years old) with a focus on China and senior professionals (~45-60 years old) with jobs that intersect with China in varying industries including diplomats, fortune 500 executives, non-profits and other journalists. SupChina felt that this was an established demographic to focus on- obviously open to expansion.

How do we create a platform that instills trust, is modern, intuitive and improves membership sales conversions for a wide-ranging audience?


A major challenge was how greatly the user profiles varied in age, digital adaption/familiarity, everyday life, environment, and goals for visiting the platform. Additionally, the industry-standard for news platforms varies greatly from simple newspaper to digital adaptations to 100% Internet-founded. How do we create a platform that instills trust, is modern, intuitive and improves membership sales conversions for a wide-ranging audience?


As project director, it was my role to ensure that the following goals are achieved throughout all team members and departments, while taking primary lead in UX research and design.

Marketing and business

  • Increase time spent on website
  • Increase user willingness to go to website
  • Increase brand awareness including awareness of other core products ie. newsletter, podcasts, events, etc.
  • Increase paid users


  • Create a media platform that users naturally feels familiar with
  • Deeply understand user flows and goals
  • Redefine hierarchy and architect topics, columns and content types
  • Add features meaningfully: porous paywall, ad space, member-only paywall
  • Create a user-friendly CMS (Currently only one team member knows how to publish and edit articles)

UI and branding

  • Unify branding and create a VI guideline
  • Maintain user brand familiarity
  • Define content type visual cues
  • Design UI in congruence with media platform standards


  • Ensure security
  • Address GDPR compliance
  • Manage paid/free users
  • Create user-friendly CMS
  • Integrate with third-party applications, including Stripe, Mailchimp, podbean, etc.


To better understand the industry standard, I conducted secondary research and an audit to identify news platforms that ranged from major international media outlets to smaller topic-specific websites. I defined key aspects to notate systematically for each, along with general observations of the look & feel. This was imperative for setting the foundation and familiarity of industry best practices in IA (especially in regards to mixed media treatments, headings and topic hierarchy), user flows, and general UX and UI design.


Utilizing Google Analytics of the existing website and Mailchimp’s insight 0n the newsletter subscribers and in collaboration with the client, we wrote hypotheses on why the goals were not currently being met.

1-on-1 stakeholder and employee interviews

I conducted 1-on-1 interviews with SupChina stakeholders, management, and journalists.  I conducted an ethnographic study by having relevant users use the CMS and upload an article (through screen share). I then had each interviewee participate in a card sorting exercise. Finally we talked through participatory design solutions for the set goals with the focus on creating hypotheses for why defined goals were not being achieved on the old website.

1-on-1 “fan” interviews

To test out the hypotheses for why the goals had not been accomplished with the current website, I created correlating interview questions coded by “type,” ie. demographic, behavior, feature, branding, UX, etc. used to conduct ten 1-on-1 interviews with devoted SupChina “fans” that are familiar with SupChina and active on the platform. Keeping these questions open-ended, this research served as a foundation and orientation for the larger-scale user survey.

User flow/ goal completion walkthrough

I asked each user to complete two goals. Finding a specific article and signing up for the newsletter. The user flow was tracked and the number of extra clicks (from the shortest possible route) to reach each goal was tallied.

Tree testing

Since these initial interviewees were all active users of SupChina, all interviews concluded with tree testing based on the card sorting conducted with SupChina’s internal staff.

Key takeaways

This fan interviews gave great qualitative insight into users’ general news digestion behavior, likes/frustrations when interacting with SupChina’s website (design, content, usability), user environment (device, location, time of day, etc.), and user goals. It also provided quantitative insight that was crucial in building the IA and user flows.


Goal: 500 participants

Total: 446 participants

Using the information learned during the 1-on-1 interviews as the foundation, I created a 20-question mixed-survey utilizing demographic, multiple choice, ranking, dropdown, and open-ended questions. SupChina distributed it throughout their various platforms and offered incentives. Samples questions seen below.

Key takeaways

This quantitative research was imperative to confirm/confute hypotheses, understand the users, and really gain a greater understanding of the goals of the website redesign.


The website redesign involved major changes in every aspect from branding to UX. The user research was imperative to see what was established, what worked and what needed improvement.

This research provided much insight on how people scan headlines, select articles, and view SupChina as a brand. It gave understanding of ethnographical influences on SupChina use habits and decision making, and on users’ digital familiarity and news reading habits in general. The research oriented the entire project and not only drove design and development decisions, but also impacted marketing and business plans for the company as a whole. 

Check out the implementation of the research

SupChina new media platform – UX design