☕️ Morning Brew

Role: Product Design Intern

Team: 4 Designers, 1 UX Researcher, 1 PM

Tools: Figma, Notion, Sprig, Heap, Jira
Timeline:  Jun 2022 - Aug 2022 (2 months)
Morning Brew is a media company that focuses on producing newsletters and other media, such as podcasts, videos, and events aiming to inform and entertain readers.
Morning Brew users typically subscribe to a newsletter which comes to their inbox, so the website serves more as an archive for current subscribers or a place to discover new stories for new users.


On the Morning Brew website, currently search is hidden in the footer and is not highlighted as a feature. Since it’s not visible in the nav bar, there’s not much data on what our users would search for and if they would search in the first place. My task was to redesign the search experience to make it easier for users to search the Morning Brew site.

I led efforts around the end-to-end process of redesigning this feature, including planning and conducting user research regarding search and its filters, ensuring smooth collaboration with stakeholders in PM and Engineering, and leading the design and critiquing process.

Given Prompt: How might we create a search experience that helps our audience find what they’re looking for on our websites?

Search, but in the footer?

Morning Brew's current homepage, without search in the nav.

At the time, data around the search feature was very ambiguous - talking with engineers and looking at search queries, there wasn’t much to identify a pattern of what users would search for, or if users even use search at all. With the lack of knowledge and no solid business goals surrounding the feature, I defined the Whys and Goals for this redesign:

The Why

  • For users, without a visible search feature, they aren’t able to easily find the content they want to look up on the site, making the experience frustrating.
  • For Morning Brew, a search feature allows for content organization of our stories and other media on the site.
  • Our Hypothesis is that by having a visible way to locate content, story clicks from the search page will grow, increasing engagement across the website.

The Goals

  1. We want to better understand how our current experience is being used and compare it to other sites.
  2. We need to discover how people might use search on our websites (where it's located and the mental mapping).
  3. The experience should be seamless and either use an existing pattern or build upon one in our current design system.

A short explanation of necessary terms

There’s some terms that might cause some confusion, so read this before you continue:

Morning Brew currently has 17 brands, each one composing a newsletter and/or podcast(s). These are all on separate websites with their own domain. Since the brands are isolated from one another, their search feature only searches within that brand, not within all brands.

Single-brand search refers to that scenario - searching only within ONE brand.

Multi-brand search refers to a search feature that acts as a global search; searching ALL brands.

Brand is Morning Brew’s current content structure. A brand is different from newsletter as they aim to contain broader content types, such as newsletters AND/OR podcasts.

Current brands of Morning Brew.
One brand with its own separate site and domain (and its own search).

🔎 Searching for Answers

Due to the lack of data, I wanted to learn more about what our users’ needs, goals, and frustrations are when searching for something within a website, and specifically Morning Brew. I worked with our UX Researcher to conduct interviews to better understand our users’ motivations and pain points, and a competitive analysis to find out patterns of what the search feature looks like on other media websites.

The key user problem is that without a search feature, it’s difficult to find anything on the website due to the amount of content Morning Brew produces. I wanted to look more into what makes an ideal search experience for the Morning Brew reader.

Goals for this study:

Competitive Analysis

Search can vary by sites, and since Morning Brew didn’t have a solid search feature to start out with, I decided to look into 11 other media and non-media websites to see how they have designed their search experience and the different ways it could be done. It was interesting seeing how different websites prioritize different needs and goals in their search features!

I synthesized insights from those sites and looked at the different UX features and presented those results with PMs to get the “Go” on conducting further research and interviews.

My competitive analysis work.

User Interviews

In this study, I conducted seven 1:1, hour-long moderated contextual inquiry and task-based usability testing over zoom with Morning Brew’s current state and other competitor websites.

I reached out to people on Morning Brew's User Advisory Board and through a site survey to set up interviews. We didn’t have a target user demographic for this study as we wanted diverse perspectives on how users would use search, but our main focus was that they had to be familiar with our product.


🖥 Relevancy and Time are BIG Priorities

The key findings we gathered from the study were about the motivations and pain points users have when searching, specifically on a media website.

Frustration with crowded pages and confusing layouts.

Participants commented that having a lot of filters or other relevant articles on the page was “overwhelming” and favored clean and simple search features.

When testing Morning Brew's search most if not all were frustrated trying to find the search (even after I guided them right to it).

Relevancy and time aren't just for sorting.

Morning Brew's content is aimed at those who are working and don’t have time to browse a website. If it’s difficult to find a relevant story in a short amount of time, users give up searching.

From this, users also favored a multi-brand search over a single-brand search, as it consolidates everything and there’s no need to manage different site searches.

Most Morning Brew users don't browse.

From my research, the main goals users have when searching on a news site are either/or:

  1. To educate self on a topic
  2. To learn more about current/local news or a specific topic
  3. To look back on an article they read earlier

Most participants leaned towards #3.


❓ How might we create a search experience that makes it efficient and easy for users to find different content on our website?


💭 Designing for Busy Users

Realizing there were two opposite types of users on the search persona spectrum (leisurely searching and busy searching), I did some empathy mapping on those users to better understand their needs and goals in their experiences.

Then, I solidified three main design goals to hone in on while created the first iterations.

1. Simple, Clean, Transparent Search (for now).

Most participants favored a search bar that required less clicks and was efficient - no redirecting to another page. Most  were frustrated and overwhelmed having unrelated items around the search results page. Overall, we want to gather more data on search and then identify what features we need or don’t need.

News in itself is very stressful, I wanna go to a page that doesn’t stress me out.

2. Enhance Discoverability of Search

What? It's all the way down there?

Not having a visible search feature further deters anyone from trying to find content on the site. We want to pull it up the nav bar where users can easily see it. If it’s not easily visible, users will be frustrated, give up, and search somewhere else.

3. Filters/Sorting should optimize search time

Either I’m searching or browsing… when I’m searching, I don’t want to waste time… I’m usually on a time crunch.

Participants in our study mentioned how they are usually In a time crunch when searching. This means utilizing filters and sorting functions to quickly narrow down their search.

We want to go with a multi-brand search route - this means utilizing newsletter or brand filters which were favored over section or author.


👀 The Search for the Right Filter Labels

As we design the search results page for our site search tool, we weren’t sure if the filters we had made sense to users. Most favored a newsletter filter in the previous interviews, but since Morning Brew is pivoting to have “newsletters” be renamed as "brands" to become more broad in content, we wanted to see which term was more easily understandable.

To seek feedback, We decided to conduct an unmoderated testing to look at this as well as gather overall feedback on the page to gauge if anything is missing or confusing.

In a multi-brand (global) search, do users understand the term “brand” as a filter label?

Goals for this study:

I don't remember what brand vs newsletter means...

Thinking about Brand Awareness

A major pushback on this from PMs was due to the work in separating each brand’s website into single-brand searches to up brand awareness, a core business goal.

Referencing data from the previous study on a multi-brand search, I advocated for users in that it’s still good to uncover confusion users might face in the website, whether that’s from the filter labels or from the site architecture. And feedback is always good.

User Interviews

We had six Morning Brew readers look at the search results pages. We showed two wireframes with different labels on their filter bars and asked users to to communicate the goals of the features along with the filter bars side-by-side.

We had no target user similar to last time save for being familiar with Morning Brew to get a diverse range of perspectives and opinions.

My FigJam notes from the interviews.

Key Findings

This study reinforced my first design goal on keeping a simple, clean search and added a new recommendation pertaining to multi-brand search:

Easily understandable!

All participants communicated the goals of the search filters, sorting functions, and layout well. Aspects popular with participants were the sorting functions and the highlighted search terms.

Newsletter > Brand Filters

Participants remarked that they liked the newsletter/podcast separation vs combining all in brands, as “they come to us as newsletters” and are more familiar with that term.


⚙️ Ok, but is this all feasible?

After creating the Hi-Fis for search in nav, I worked with engineering to figure out feasibility of the different features and functions that search would have. It was great to get an engineer perspective on my work and discuss some of my design choices with him.

The changes I implemented in my designs include:

1. Having the search bar live in the menu on mobile instead of in the nav bar to consolidate all the items in one place.

2. Showing the description in the stories on the search results page as opposed to pulling relevant sentences out as it’s more feasible.

3. Replacing the “load more” on the bottom of search results pages to pagination, removing the need for a “back to top” functionality.

Unfortunately I won’t be there to see search to nav ship, but am glad I was able to contribute to the process and get the ball rolling.


🖼 Designing the Search - Hi-Fis


👀 Measuring Search’s Success

Thinking towards the future, if we shipped our product, the success metrics we would measure includes:

1. Number of clicks on the search bar

Can users see the search bar? Is it visible?

2. Percentage of clicked stories through search

Are people engaging with the search results? Does it drive engagement / discoverability and if so, can we leverage that to up engagement and ultimately subscribers?

3. Search queries

What are people searching? Why? How can we optimize their experience based on frequent queries?


🔮 What’s next for search?

1. Look more at user search behaviors once search is in nav.

We can learn more about what users search, whether it’s for a topic, a brand, specific story, etc, and continue iterating on the search experience from that data.

2. Have more conversations about multi vs single-brand search.

From my research, I recommend a multi-brand search over single-brand. This is definitely a heavy lift for Engineering and I acknowledge that, but it may be worth thinking about as we continue to grow our brands.

3. Continue collaborating with Engineering & PMs as search gets built into the site.

Going through Engineering feedback & questions from the SPIKE and making sure we’re all on the same page.

4. Of course, getting search into the nav!

Thank you in advance to Engineering for all the help!


💡 A soul-searching experience!

✔️ Got to work more closely with engineers.
✔️ Learned how to work more independently & trust my design / research decisions.
✔️ Experienced how UX processes work in a larger company, especially in an agile environment.
✔️ Learning how to advocate for the user even if there’s pushback.

🕵️ Thank you to my team for your hard work and guidance along the way!

Josh Filan, Jake Zuke, Erin Allen, Amber Mohammad-Castańeda, Kishan Antala - you all were amazing mentors and teammates and I’ll miss everyone dearly!

NEXT UP: pair – designing an app that won Most Aesthetic Prototype at the Product Buds protothon.