The Outline

The Outline is a self-proclaimed "new kind of publication for a new kind of human." The blog posts are mainly thinkpieces under the categories of Power, Culture, and Future. The visual design of the site is as esoteric, edgy, and abstract as the writing. 

I conducted an unmoderated usability test with Usertesting.com to gain qualitative insights into the user experience of the boundary-pushing design.

The Goals:

  • How do users interpret the site’s branding and content?
  • How do users navigate the site to find more content from an article page?
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My Hypothesis on the Clarity of Concept

I think new users will have a hard time understanding what kind of site The Outline is because of the following issues:

  • There is no slogan on the homepage.
  • The sections are uncommonly named.
  • Story headline copy is vague.
  • The only clear CTA to “read more” is in the third section of the homepage.

I can gain qualitative data on a user’s interpretation of the homepage to tell me if this is true or not true.

My Hypothesis on the Navigation

I think users will not be able to find stories by side-swiping unless prompted by the animated hand icon because side-scrolling is not a common mobile action for reading blogs, and the indicators at the top of the page are very small. I can measure the time it takes a user to find a certain type of article to see how easy it is to navigate.

My Hypothesis on the Clarity of Concept

I think new users will have a hard time understanding what kind of site The Outline is because of the following issues:

  • There is no slogan on the homepage.
  • The sections are uncommonly named.
  • Story headline copy is vague.
  • The only clear CTA to “read more” is in the third section of the homepage.

I can gain qualitative data on a user’s interpretation of the homepage to tell me if this is true or not true.

My Hypothesis on the Navigation

I think users will not be able to find stories by side-swiping unless prompted by the animated hand icon because side-scrolling is not a common mobile action for reading blogs, and the indicators at the top of the page are very small. I can measure the time it takes a user to find a certain type of article to see how easy it is to navigate.

The Tasks

I set up my tasks to give the user a lot of time to talk about what they thought about the site and what they expected while they navigated the site. I did not prompt the users to swipe left and right on an article page, but set up the test to give them the opportunity to do so.

Task 1: Review Homepage
Task 2: Find something interesting to click on (what did you expect, and did it meet your expectations)?
Task 3: Review Article page
Task 4: Find another article to read
Task 5: Final thoughts

Key Findings and Recommendations


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None of the users swiped right/left on the article page to find more content, even when prompted to do so.

The animated icon to swipe showed up for one user, and she did not notice it. Two users slightly pulled the screen to the left on accident, but they did not realize there was more content and it did not prompt them to continue swiping. 

Recommendation: Remove the article carousel.

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Users were particularly confused when the headline did not match the copy s/he clicked on the homepage, and when a hero image had text in it.

Recommendation: Keep the headline copy consistent from the homepage and list pages. Since there is headline copy on top of the hero image, limit hero images from having copy in them.

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Users understood the post-article content section and felt more familiar with the layout than the homepage.

Recommendation: Simplify and shorten the homepage layout. Organize the sections by tag. Consider a layout similar to the post-article content, or even the section list pages. 

Observation Notes & Themes

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Positive/Neutral Observations

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Negative Observations

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Observation Themes

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Brand Design

Positive: Colorful, vibrant, fun
Negative: Distracting, inconsistent

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Content

Positive: Understood that content is articles for millennials
Negative: Confusing, untrustworthy, not appealing

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Navigation

Positive: Post-article content and headers are clear
Negative: HP is too long, did not side-swipe for more stories

Test Video Sessions

Click each participant below to watch their test session.

Participant 1 - Female, 40 years old

Participant 2 - Male, 37 years old

Participant 3 - Female, 49 years old

Caveat: I wrote my screener to limit participants within the ages of 18-50 because I wasn't exactly sure what the target audience for The Outline is. All participants happened to be older than millennial age. If resources were available, I would run the test again and target a younger audience, specifically Millennial and Gen Z ages.