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The Wall Street Journal

Sr. Product Designer

2015 – 2019

As the line between fact and fiction has blurred, there has never been such a great need for the truth. It was a privilege to work at an organization that sets such a high bar for ethics and standards. It was an equally interesting challenge to build design systems that power quality journalism and the subscription model that supports it.

The
        Wall Street Journal

Subscription Flow

The first project I worked on was a redesign of our storefronts and subscription processes. The previous subscription flow was nearly a decade old, wasn’t mobile-friendly, and was far too complex.

We started by designing a new storefront template that could be easily updated for seasonal promotions. The design was driven by years of feedback, market research, and A/B test results. Our primary objectives were to simplify product offerings, increase transparency, elevate the WSJ brand and, of course, convert new members.

Responsive storefront templates can be adjusted for seasonal
        promotions.
Responsive storefront templates can be adjusted for seasonal promotions.

Next, we redesigned the subscription flow from the ground up. It was as much an exercise in design as it was restraint. Do we really need a user’s mother’s maiden name? Do we really need a physical address for a digital subscription? We cut the number of fields in half, simplified the flow into three clear steps, and designed everything mobile-first. The result was a double-digit increase in conversions year-over-year.

Simplified
        3-step mobile sign up flow with 50% fewer fields.
Simplified 3-step mobile sign up flow with 50% fewer fields.

Single Sign-on

Riding on the heels of the subscription flow success, we tackled the sign-on flow next. We extended the system by providing a set of variables that would allow it to be repurposed across the entire suite of products.

Sign-on pages with various brand themes applied.
Sign-on pages with various brand themes applied.

Mobile Navigation

While we were at it, we rearchitected our mobile navigation to make the sign in and subscribe actions more prominent. We also cleaned up the organization of sections, tucking subsections away in drawers.

Redesigned WSJ.com mobile navigation.
Redesigned WSJ.com mobile navigation.

Component Library

After several successful launches, a component library began to emerge. We built out an extensive Sketch library and corresponding React Storybook of UI elements that could be used for future customer-facing systems.

WSJ UI
        kit and form library maintained in Sketch.
WSJ UI kit and form library maintained in Sketch.

Customer Center

The WSJ Customer Center was the first project to leverage the new component library. The centralized hub was designed to be an all-in-one system to help customers manage their subscriptions with ease. It provides a self-service interface for managing payment methods, temporarily pausing paper delivery, setting notification preferences, and many other critical actions.

The project led to a massive decrease in customer support costs. Support center call volume was significantly reduced and subscribers reported much higher satisfaction with their increased ability to self-serve.

WSJ
        Customer Center – subscriptions tab.
WSJ Customer Center – subscriptions tab.

Emails & Newsletters

WSJ offers a suite of more than 50 daily newsletters and alerts. Over the years, individual newsletters had drifted away from the brand guidelines. Many also weren’t optimized for mobile. We needed to bring emails into the 21st century.

We designed a modular framework that could be applied across the entire suite. Most components would be shared, but some newsletters could still leverage custom-tailored components such as the Olympic medal count module. Each component could be independently tested in various email clients and optimized for mobile.

I’m particularly proud of the build pipeline we setup. Our custom development environment made spinning up newsletters and making bulk edits totally painless. NiemanLab picked up the story, running a piece about our revamped newsletter strategy.

WSJ
        2018 Olympics newsletter and a Politics Alert email.
WSJ 2018 Olympics newsletter and a Politics Alert email.

Off-platform

WSJ content lives two lives. The first is on the mobile app and the website; the second is off-platform on social media and third party news aggregators such as Apple News. Our team took a cohesive look at the off-platform brand system, updating the visual identity across various disparate Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Banner featuring public figures illustrated in the iconic WSJ
        stipple style. Used for Facebook and Twitter branding.
Banner featuring public figures illustrated in the iconic WSJ stipple style. Used for Facebook and Twitter branding.
Business section branding.
Business section branding.
C-suite section branding.
C-suite section branding.
India section branding.
India section branding.
Life section branding.
Life section branding.
WSJ branding for Facebook and Twitter.
WSJ branding for Facebook and Twitter.

We also extended the system to in-home devices such as tvOS, Amazon Fire TV, and voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa.

WSJ
        Apple TV branding.
WSJ Apple TV branding.

With podcasts increasing in popularity as a news medium, we took the opportunity to refresh our suite of album art. Podcasts are typically consumed off-platform on apps like Apple Podcasts, so it was important that our shows all had a recognizable identity that tied back to the broader WSJ brand. We leveraged our iconic stipple art, choosing to add color to the traditionally black-and-white illustrations for a more modern look.

WSJ podcast branding / album covers.
WSJ podcast branding / album covers.

Marketing Direction

Quality products deserve quality marketing. Over the years, a number of marketing pages had sprung up at various obscure URLs. Many didn’t reflect our true product offerings. We decided to consolidate them all into one high-quality destination. After shooting new product photography, we designed an engaging single-scroll page detailing our latest product offerings and highlighting some of the year’s most acclaimed stories. We hope it’ll raise the bar for future marketing materials. Have a scroll!

WSJ subscription marketing site – mobile.
WSJ subscription marketing site – mobile.
WSJ subscription marketing site – desktop.
WSJ subscription marketing site – desktop.

Mobile Advertising

Although paid subscriptions account for a major portion of WSJ’s revenue, traditional advertisements are still an important piece. Over the course of just a few weeks, we set out to completely rethink our mobile advertising offerings. The result was a series of new “storytelling” units that help advertisers tell more immersive brand stories through full-screen visuals, video, and interactive capabilities. We even created a media kit promoting the new formats and providing helpful specs.

New
        storytelling ad units include full-screen visuals and videos.
New storytelling ad units include full-screen visuals and videos.

WSJ Design Blog

After years of honing the WSJ design language, we wanted a place where we could share our thinking with the world. The WSJ Design Blog represented the first time a behind-the-scenes view of design in the newsroom had ever been shared publicly. We wanted it to be a resource for designers and readers alike.

A side effect: the design blog turned out to be an effective recruiting tool, helping us grow the team from 5 to 20 designers over three years. The site was a 2019 Webby Award Honoree.

design.wsj.com – a public blog showcasing our work and team.
design.wsj.com – a public blog showcasing our work and team.
Articles about our video design system and the newly redesigned
        iPhone app.
Articles about our video design system and the newly redesigned iPhone app.

Onward & Upward

The above represents only a fraction of the work I was involved in over my four years at WSJ. So many other incredible things happened in that time. We updated all the fonts and typography on WSJ.com (read Matt’s account here / Che’s interview here). We also launched an entirely new iOS app that went on to win the 2018 Webby for Best News App.

Ultimately, I'd like to think we made the world a better place by leveraging the power of design to elevate and communicate the value of real news.

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