Harvard Business Review (HBR)

Future-proofing Harvard Business Review to inspire the next generation of global business leaders

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Engaging an increasingly global and youthful audience with a brand-worthy mobile experience

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User-validated prototype for new React Native mobile app; fully estimated product roadmap

About HBR

Globally trusted source of ideas & advice for business leaders.

HBR’s current digital evolution is the latest iteration of the organization's commitment to learning and growth. With a pedigree stretching back 100 years to its inception as a journal from Harvard Business School, HBR remains on a mission to improve the practice of management in a changing world. Their multiple platforms include a print magazine, digital articles, videos, podcasts, newsletters, and mobile apps.

Collaboration is HBR’s beating heart, so when faced with the question of how to future-proof their offer for tomorrow's global digital leaders, a partnership with thoughtbot was the natural solution.

Screenshots from HBR

The Challenge

Evolve offerings with a changing audience

Building on their strengths of quality content and premium reputation, HBR were looking to evolve their offer so that it remained relevant to their youthful, global, and digital audience.

The team also wanted to reimagine their educational ecosystem and expand their services with individual customization.

Research conducted by Profitwell indicated that HBR’s younger audience were increasingly mobile-focused. These aspiring leaders expected a premium-feel mobile app, fully integrated with the HBR experience. However, HBR’s existing app was a no-code solution, disconnected from the rest of the brand’s architecture.

Quote from HBR

thoughtbot has been invaluable to HBR as we think about the future app experience we want to offer our readers and subscribers. We worked with a nimble and creative thoughtbot team to envision options to our current app. They created three prototypes in just five weeks, and then a fourth, hybrid approach, testing each with small groups of our readers to help us choose a direction.

Jim Bodor
Managing Director, Digital Product Strategy, HBR.org

The Solution

Upfront research and strategic exercises to confirm approach

Sharing a commitment to continuous learning, thoughtbot and HBR knew that finding the path forward meant walking in their customers' shoes. thoughtbot’s Discovery Sprint was the ideal way to do this.

thoughtbot’s agile team of Strategist, Developer and Designer worked remotely with a diverse HBR group throughout the 6-week sprint. Collaborating via Miro, Slack and Zoom, they began by co-constructing a deep understanding of the problem.

HBR Visuals

Next up was shared problem-solving to develop and iterate possible solutions for testing with user interviews and clickable prototypes.

This rich user feedback indicated that bringing the mobile app in-house would create a more coherent user experience, doing justice to HBR’s world-class content whilst unifying the subscriber base.

Energized by these results, HBR and thoughtbot kicked off a second project: a five-week series of Design Sprints to zoom in on a prototype for a new React Native mobile app that would ignite the imagination of HBR’s younger global audience.

HBR Visuals

The Outcome

A mobile app primed to engage a community

Thanks to this radical, learning-based collaboration, HBR now has confidence in the path forward: a user-validated app prototype and a fully estimated roadmap to deployment. 

Invaluable real-user feedback confirms this new mobile app will increase subscription and conversion rates amongst HBR’s younger, more global audience. The new app will also act as a bridge to future learning experiences, meeting another of HBR’s goals.

thoughtbot added value with validated recommendations about searchability and community engagement, with the aim of helping younger users find and discuss the big ideas that will shape the world’s future. 

That future may be uncertain. But, no matter what tomorrow brings, we can be sure that Harvard Business Review will be there, guiding the way. Just as they have done for more than a century.

quote from HBR

While we are still sorting out where we want to invest next as a company, thoughtbot helped us crystalize our ideas rapidly, and gave us a strong sense of which concept might work best for our users. The teams we have worked with from thoughtbot have absorbed our business needs quickly, prototyped fast, and synthesized many ideas into something coherent and delightful.

Jim Bodor
Managing Director, Digital Product Strategy, HBR.org

HBR Visuals

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