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What is Foreign Affairs Magazine?

Like its name suggests, Foreign Affairs is an American magazine that focuses on international relations and foreign policy. It is different than most magazines because it is published by Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit nonpartisan think tank. 


What did I do?

I met Foreign Affairs’ Product Manager at a Tech Ladies event and she revealed that they have never conducted user testing on their site before. What started as 5 current user interviews, a survey and 5 usability tests, snowballed into a year of research and redesigns.

Our first rounds of research showed us that the biggest problem was surfacing and organizing content. Both current and new users just got lost within the 92 years of content. The navigation bar was too simple and people had to guess and click on too many sub-channels. The home page was disorganized and was somehow both too long and had too little information. The paywall didn’t have enough information for users to feel confident making a decision. After finding the issues we set off on the redesign of four different areas: the paywall, the navigation bar, the homepage, and the landing pages.

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Challenge: Foreign Affairs had never conducted user research before and solely relied on data from marketing campaigns, in house data and gut instincts.

Solution: The first month, I conducted 5 new user interviews, 5 usability tests and surveyed 4,000+ current readers. The results lead to a plan for the redesign. During the redesign I implemented a lean research plan to gauge the progress that we were making. I also followed up with more surveys and a competitor usability study.

Results: An informed plan. 

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The Paywall

Challenge: Payers were unsure about what they were getting.

Solution: I redesigned the paywall to have more information about the different types of subscriptions and clarified the process.

Results: Increased registration CTR on desktop by 1.3% and increased registration CTR on mobile by 2.1%. Decreased the CTR by 50% on the subscribe buttons but increased the actual  orders by 27%. So more people who wanted to buy, clicked on the correct subscribe buttons and less people clicked on it by accident.

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Navigation Bar

Challenge: Foreign Affairs has 92 years content that covers the entire globe, multiple administrations, and a variety of topics. There are also different types of media, interviews and magazine archives. So in short, there is a lot of content that users were having a hard time finding.

Solution: This is actually a two part roll out. For the first phase, we changed the structure of the channels and subchannels. We also introduced a rolling nav bar. The 2nd phase, focuses on a new aesthetic as well as surfacing new articles within the nav bar.

Results: Increased page views by 15,000 a week. Increased CTR by 2% and decreased article bounce rate by 1.8%

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Challenge: When I first started the user research, Foreign Affairs was surprised that so many of the current user's browsed the site. They always assumed that the users entered through a newsletter or visited the site to research a particular topic. Their original home page design was not optimized for browsing. It was aesthetically pleasing, but lacked labels, organization and being concise. 

Solution: The entire homepage got a facelift. We added new modules that featured more articles and were more interactive. We redesigned modules so they surfaced more content. We also updated the aesthetic to make it more modern and easier to read.

Results: The homepage is currently being built and will undergo sectional A/B testing.

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Landing Pages

Challenge: There were two main challenges: the above the fold was an image, a filter and a giant timeline which some users couldn’t figure out how to operate. Foreign Affairs felt that it should surface more content and mirror the homepage. Current users also had a hard time filtering the topics.

Solution: Designed a featured story section above the fold. Moved and redesigned the filters.

Results: The landing pages are in the pipeline to be built.   

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