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Bringing a food innovation spin-out product to market at speed

Publishing & Content • Spinout
Strategy • Research • Product Design
4 months

Food Spark was born as a food innovation spin-out brand from William Reed Business Media, a globally-trusted name providing quality journalism and specialist research in the food and beverage industry.

William Reed are a business that understand trends in the food and beverage industries. With over 4 million monthly readers across a well established publishing estate, they'd built a reputation as the go-to source of insight and inspiration.

But launching a digital subscription-based editorial platform that would dive deep into the art, science, and business of food would be a bold leap. With a focus on innovators in retail and dining, it aimed to offer unparalleled insights into current food trends.

But it was planning to compete in a market not aware of the value such specialised insight could offer.

Introducing a subscription product into a challenging market

Introducing a paid platform in a landscape accustomed to free content posed its own set of challenges. While we had prior market research, the time to re-validate these insights was limited. Collaborating with a product team unfamiliar with online subscriptions business models and maintaining alignment with an offshore development partner added to the complexity.

Understanding the potential audience and opportunity

My responsibilities included designing the information architecture, crafting user story maps, formulating a paywall strategy, integrating search patterns, and overseeing the entirety of visual design and the interface pattern library.

Our first step was to deeply understand user archetypes, defining potential audience profiles, their roles, and motivations. To further guide our design process, we developed a list of persona-driven questions, leveraging insights from potential customers and internal stakeholders.

"Tom’s design approach is reassuring, informed, focused, passionate, considered, comprehensive. Most importantly, given that workshops can easily become hothouse environments, it is consistently unflustered"
Alan Totten, William Reed

Initial content classifications were re-evaluated for clarity. This led to the adoption of a more direct and detailed IA. Validation was done using remote card sorts and feedback sessions, ensuring our structure was user-centric.

With a clear IA and user story maps, the next phase was addressing vital design decisions. Through interface sketching, we could explore early design concepts for key pages and ensure alignment with stakeholder expectations before embarking on higher resolution work.

The outcomes

The product design concepts - along with the information architecture and interface patterns - were delivered on time and received positively. Collaboration with our development partner, Kaliop, strengthened over time, improving our design documentation and bolstering developer confidence. Additionally, the product team embraced new UX practices through our combined efforts, setting a foundation for their future endeavours.

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