News App UX Best Practice Guide

The average person spends over 3 hours per day in mobile apps – but, you’ll agree with me, keeping your mobile app users engaged is a tough battle.

When creating your news app, you need to design it with user engagement in mind.

If your app is engaging, you’re 5x more likely to retain your users.

We’ve put together the most actionable UX best practices to take into account to ensure your news app is user-friendly and engaging.

    1. Show Users The Most Relevant Story First
    2. Keep Your User’s Attention with List Views
    3. Increase Subscriptions 10x by Allowing Registrations
    4. Help Users Find Content with Categories
    5. Get More Users by Encouraging Social Sharing
    6. Keep Users In-App For Longer With Related Posts
    7. Use Estimated Reading Time to Increase Time Spent on Page
    8. Sell More Subscriptions By Making Your Premium Options Obvious
    9. Increase Engagement by 68% with Social Logins
    10. Grow Subscription Revenue with In-App Subscriptions
    11. Make Ads User Friendly
    12. Encourage Commenting to Build a Community

1. Show Users The Most Relevant Story First

Showing your most recent or top story first obvious is a simple but important step.

Rather than having a carousel with multiple options, having one article as the main focus will increase your CTR to that article significantly.

News App featured top stories
The BBC News app highlights one trending top story, rather than using a carousel.

 

Carousels, while functional, are often ignored, and your users will only see the first frame in most cases.

Notre Dame University found that when they tested a carousel, only 1% of their total visitors clicked on it. Of those, 84% only interacted with the very first slide.

Carousel click-through-rate
Posts #2 and beyond see little engagement in carousels.

 

Instead of a carousel, highlight the most important story of the day that your audience are coming to your news app to see.

Metrics: The key metric you want to track here is changes to Page Views for your top post, which will increase as more people take the action of clicking through to your top story when they open your app.

2. Keep Your User’s Attention with List Views

You need to have a layout that matches the content you’re creating for your app.

The two most common layouts for content-heavy apps are the Grid View, and a List View.

For an eCommerce app, a Grid view may be preferable as users would want to see images of the products, with only a small description.

But, if you own a news app, a List view is going to be the best choice. With list views, users rely primarily on reading the text to make a decision of which option to choose.

Grid to List icon transition
Grid vs List View.

 

For a news or content app, clear, visible text is exactly what a user wants to see. Many news apps also choose to add an image thumbnail to improve the visual appearance of the list page, as you can see in the example below.

news app list view
Evoke.ie use a clean list format in their app (built by MobiLoud), allowing users to easily scan and find content to read.

 

In List views, attention typically reduces from the top to bottom of a page, which is why your most recent and relevant content will be at the top of the list, and older, less relevant posts will be closer to the bottom of the page.

Metrics: The key metrics to track when making this change to your app are Time in App, and Page Views. As your users are able to see and access the most relevant content first in a list view, they will be more likely to click through from the list and view your content, and spend more time in your app as a whole.

3. Increase Subscriptions 10x by Allowing Registrations

If your readers can create accounts in your news app, you want them to register and use their accounts. This will help you gather useful data such as your reader loyalty, and what kinds type of content performs best for registered users.

Login for NYT and FT
Both the NYT app and Financial Times app include a login option above the other sidebar contents.

 

There is no need to re-invent the wheel here, as many news apps have good examples of where to place your login button to make it easy for your readers to find.

Many popular apps like the New York Times and the Financial Times choose to place the login option as a primary call-to-action in the sidebar.

Making it easy to register is going to bring more benefits in the future – according to Wired, registered free users are 10x more likely to convert to a paying subscriber.

Metrics: With this change, you will see an increase in sign-up rate, and an increase in returning users to your app as you can re-engage them once registered.

4. Help Users Find Content with Categories

If your readers want to access different types of content on your site, you need to provide an easy way for them to do so. Adding categories to your main menu is the perfect way to do this.

Categories in News Apps
Business Insider NL, a MobiLoud customer, use categories to help their readers easily find the content they want to read.

 

A categories section won’t take up much screen real estate, yet offers users with simple and effective way to navigate around your news app.

Metrics: After you add a categories section, you will see an increase in Page views and Depth of those page views. Rather than sticking to one category, your readers will end up discovering content in categories they hadn’t previously considered.

5. Get More Users by Encouraging Social Sharing

Despite social media reach declining for publishers, you still want your readers to be sharing your content with their own network on social media.

News app sharing feature
Users can share stories from The Telegraph app with no friction.

 

Adding a native social sharing button to your news app is an easy way to increase the sharing power of your content by reducing the effort it takes to share an article. In just a few taps, your readers can share your content on their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds to get you more reach and brand visibility.

Social sharing is also a good signal to Google that your content is relevant, and that content that receive a good volume of social shares is more likely to have more visibility in Search.

Metrics: You should see an increase in New Users coming from social media channels increase.

6. Keep Users In-App For Longer With Related Posts

Adding a related posts section to the bottom of your article pages is a great way to provide users with an incentive to stay and read more of your content.

Importantly, the related posts need to make sense, rather than just be a random post from your app, and many WordPress related posts plugins will use existing categories and tags as a base for the suggestions shown to readers.

As you can see in the example from the BBC News app below, all of the related stories are similar (and linked from a post warning readers of a snow alert in parts of the UK.

Show related posts news site
The BBC News app shows related stories, closely related to the one that was just read.

 

Metrics: When adding a Related Posts section, key metrics that should increase are Page Views to your content (as more people are clicking through to your other posts), and a reduction in bounce rate as people explore more pages on your app.

7.Use Estimated Reading Time to Increase Time Spent on Page

The average adult in the United States spends 5 hours and 16 minutes with digital media per day, and only part of this will be spent reading your content. Adding an Estimated Reading Time indicato is a simple change to your news app UX, but can have a strong effect.

Estimated Read Time Feature
Medium add an estimated read-time to every article.

 

According to psychologists Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke, the more we know about something, the greater chance we will commit to it.

By being transparent about the length of your article, more of your audience are likely to then commit to reading them.

Even if your articles are long, this won’t scare readers away. In previous studies, data has shown that for content publishers who regularly post content that’s over 1000+ words, bounce rate has dropped by 13%.

It’s a simple change that can lead to a significant traffic increase to your content.

You can find a host of WordPress plugins that enable you to easily add this feature to your articles.

Metrics: The key metrics that will be affected by adding this are your Time Spent on Page. You should expect it to increase, as your audience are more likely to commit to reading the article.

8. Increase Free to Paid Conversion By Making Your Premium Options Obvious

If you have a subscription or membership model to generate revenue from your news app, you should make this obvious. Don’t worry – a small button or sentence isn’t going to turn your readers away.

Content Subscription Call to Actions
The New York Times & Medium both use dynamic call-to-actions within articles, encouraging free readers to subscribe.

 

Having a clear Call-To-Action will help make your non-paying readers aware of your premium option, and improve the chances they will sign up to a paid plan in the future.

The New York Times move their paywall and subscription call-to-action dynamically depending on how much a user engages with their content, and Medium warns their free readers about how many stories they have available to read in that month.

Metrics: After implementing a clear CTA for your premium or paywalled content, make sure to track your Free to Paid Conversion Rate. As well as this, Click-Through Rate to your payment page should increase as users won’t need to look far in order to find it.

9. Increase Engagement by 68% with Social Logins

Your registered and paying subscribers want a great app experience. A simple upgrade over a typical, email and password based login portal is to add a social login system.

Easybook, a company with 1.5 unique visitors per month implemented a social login and saw a 68% spike in user engagement because their users were more likely to login thanks to not needing to remember their credentials each time.

Adding a social login was all it took to see a huge lift in engagement.

Offering your users with the choice can help streamline the sign-up process, as the likelihood is that they’re logged into one of the social channels on their phone already.

Social log in for app
Sign in to Medium with Google, Facebook, Twitter, or email.

 

Metrics: When you implement this feature, expect to see more of your users regularly signing in. You should also see a higher conversion of non-registered to registered users.

10. Grow Subscription Revenue with In-App Subscriptions

In-App subscription purchases are the ideal way to let your users easily purchase a digital subscription straight from your news app.

The New York Times does this well, in just a few taps, users can choose their subscription plan, pay (integrated with GPay for a smooth checkout experience), and start reading their premium content.

In app subscription UX
The checkout experience for Digital Subscriptions in The New York Times android app.

 

Integrating with Google or Apple Pay should have a significant impact on your checkout conversion rate, allowing you to increase your subscription revenue.

Metrics: Conversion rate of users who subscribe will increase, and your MRR will reflect this increase.

11. Make Ads User Friendly

UX-friendly advertising methods, such as native in-feed advertisements will help you generate more revenue, and provide a better user experience for your readers.

In-feed ads are a user friendly choice because they match your existing content style and fit seamlessly with your existing content. Here are two examples from The New York Times’ app and The Guardian’s app:

In-app ads
The New York Times and The Guardian both use unobtrusive ads.

 

If you include sponsored content like The Telegraph do, make sure to label them as Sponsored and be transparent with your users.

in-feed advertising
The Telegraph’s regular article vs. a sponsored article.

 

As you can see, the differences are minor. Where the regular post includes an author name, the in-feed ad shows text saying “Sponsored”. In-feed ads are a highly effective way to generate revenue, and at the same maintain the unique styling of your mobile app and not hurt the app user experience.

Metrics: The Click-Through Rate on your ads should increase as the relevant ads will look high-quality. As well as this, expect users to spend more time on page, as they aren’t encouraged to leave thanks to a poor ad experience.

12. Encourage Commenting to Build a Community

Adding functionality for article comments is a powerful way to increase user engagement with your articles.

The New York Times and Medium both show the number of comments an article has, and the number of comments can be used as a measure of content popularity. The NYT also has their own ‘picks’ section, where you can filter by the most popular comments that about the article.

News App Comments UX
The New York Times shows the number of comments from the article list page

 

Increasing engagement within your app, rather than limiting engagement to social media, is a good tactic for encouraging your users to spend more time, and engage more with your app content (and other members of your audience).

Metrics: A comments section should increase the Time Spent on your articles, as users are more likely to spend time engaging with it. It should increase the time spent in your articles, as users spend time learning and engaging with other users.

Wrapping Up

These news app UX best practices are key to ensuring your app is user-friendly, helps improve your metrics, and bottom-line.

By tracking your changes and observing changes in your key app metrics, you will be able to quickly find out if these changes work for your app, or don’t.

All of these news app UX features are importnat to think about when creating a mobile app for your news site, to improve reader loyalty and engagement.


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Written by
Georges Petrequin

Georges is MobiLoud's Marketing Manager and an expert writer on mobile app marketing, push notifications and WordPress development.

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