How does a publishing company with a 100-year pedigree engage an increasingly global and youthful audience with a brand-worthy mobile experience?
Research on growing Harvard Business Review’s subscription base indicated that its younger audience is increasingly mobile-focused. These aspiring leaders expect a premium mobile app, fully integrated with the HBR experience. But HBR’s existing app was disconnected from the rest of the brand’s architecture.
The globally trusted management publisher recognized how thoughtbot emphasized working collaboratively and quickly. As an added bonus, both teams value smart design.
“We were a great fit,” says Andrew Spencer, a senior product designer who led thoughtbot’s design team. “Their designers had extensive experience molding the HBR web experience but were unfamiliar with what goes into a successful mobile app, so we could lean into each other’s strengths. Over time we gradually transferred knowledge between the two design teams to the point that we all felt ownership of the entire experience.”
What We Did
We led a Discovery Sprint, testing, and user feedback, all of which pointed the way to bringing HBR’s mobile app in-house. Our team could see that building a new React Native mobile app would create a more coherent user experience while doing justice to HBR’s world-class content.
“thoughtbot’s product managers partnered closely with HBR’s product lead to provide a blend of mobile product strategy and process optimization. Our goal was to keep all teams aligned on the key MVP features through ruthless prioritization as well as establishing lean processes that help development and design teams to deliver at a rapid pace.”
– Danny Kim, Senior Product Manager, thoughtbot
“The product-focused thoughtbot designers collaborated daily with the more editorially-focused HBR design team to create an MVP product that didn’t look or feel like an MVP. Together, with lots of user testing, we defined a beautiful vision for the app. Then the thoughtbot designers who can code implemented that vision in React Native.”
– Andrew Spencer, Senior Product Designer, thoughtbot
"Our challenge was to develop an app that would link with their website to unify the payment and subscription service. That required close collaboration with the HBR team and their vendors. We chose React Native because it costs less, can be developed quickly, and is easier for the client to maintain.”
– Stephen Hanson, Director of Mobile Software Development, thoughtbot
thoughbot team members love to build beautiful products, of course. But we’re even happier when clients tell us that they learned and grew through the course of the project.
Having worked closely with the HBR team, we know they will truly own the product moving forward, and they know that they have the tools to make it succeed.
“thoughtbot was much more than a great development team. They helped us coach each other to do our best work. This is how I want to coach my teams going forward,” says Anne Bartholomew, HBR’s director of product management.
“We ended up with a product that is better than I thought we would be able to deliver in this amount of time. When I look at the product now, I see how we made things happen,” says Marta Kusztra, UX & product design director at HBR. “Our final product is so much more polished and complete than I had imagined."