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The art of the freebrowse

Three main T-shaped user types:
The Specialist browser
The Gossip Girl
The Free-browser


Research – Observational study of magazine browsing.

in WHSmiths and Borders.
How many magazines do people browse and how many do they buy?

The number of magazines browsed varied considerably, from one to a dozen, with often no magazines being bought at the end. I discovered that browsing the articles in the various magazines can be a way to pass time, as a form of “personal-interest-orientated” entertainment during shopping trips (or passing through) and husbands can even be ‘parked’ at the magazines for a short period by their wives.
Some people only look at a specific subject area or even a specific magazine (or a very small number). Additionally it was almost all males who were browsing the magazines (women’s magazine shelves were sparsely inhabited). Some people include the magazine shelves as part of the rounds if they are nearby- to see what’s new. Many people will buy a magazine every edition, whilst others (music magazines are an example) will be bought intermittently depending on the contents.

Browsers do read articles, so should there be articles that are free to view (or samples or blurbs of the article or even samples of pages that contain the main articles), this may be able to build anticipation to go and purchase the particular magazine. The service should allow the entertainment factor of browsing to be available on the various platforms (web/social media/mobiles). Users may also like to be able to “tag” they have now bought the magazine edition and that others should get a copy (which could be a method of revenue generation).

in Asda
When you go to the supermarket, it is unlikely you go for the media, so it was interesting to watch people’s interactions in what is probably a casual market for newspapers and magazines.

The magazine aisle seemed to have a wide selection of titles, arranged quite messily, with hardly anyone browsing. Over a ten minute period I saw 7 magazines being placed into shopping baskets and trolleys. Most of these were weekly gossip type titles, though one older gentleman picked up a copy of the Economist in a manner that suggested he always read it. Some did hang around in the aisle visually checking out the titles, but not picking them up, before moving on to the more pressing task of doing the weekly shop. The visitors to the magazine aisle were predominantly women with children, probably due to the mid-day time of my visit.

That island type newspaper stand you seem to get in most chain store newsagents was placed by the impulse checkout in the direction the queue went. Everyone waiting in the queue would take a look at the titles that were within eyesight, with a handful picking up a paper, predominantly the red tops in this particular Asda. One lady opted to lose her place in the queue so she could circle the island taking a good look at every title, without picking a single one up and returning to the back of the queue.

In WHSmiths as well
I went to WHSmiths to see how people interacted with magazines, as did my team mates. I went into the store at 17:30, almost closing hour. I observed 3 people, 2 women and 1 man. The man, which was the most interesting one in my opinion, was looking at a pc magazine and reading a specific section. He than left the magazine and walked towards the doors (and I stopped watching him). 3 seconds later he came back with his phone in his hand and checked something out, that had clearly to do with the mobile he had in this hand. After checking what he wanted, he put the magazine back on its shelf and went away. One woman was fairly quick at looking at a magazine, and she was clearly only looking at the bulk titles in every page. The third woman was also very interesting. She was reading (yes, clearly reading) an international magazine – couldn’t really see the cover, but she was on the international section. She read a few pages with interest and a couple of minutes later the lights in the shop department were shut down; people were being invited to leave due to the closure of the shop. Instead of putting the magazine back on it’s shelf, or buying it, she shifted lightly to the left so that she could have more light and finish reading the article, and a few more pages.

15/20 minutes after observing people my conclusions are: none of them bought a magazine; they all looked at one specific magazine and saw their contents and each had a different reason in doing it.

Browsing in a local newsagent
This proved to be the most challenging place to kop a quick look at the news and mags on offer. The watchful eye of the proprietor deterred even the most hardened ‘free browser’ and one poor soul was even challenged with “can I help you Sir?”, obviously to alert them to the fact that they were busted. One person I observed had an interesting strategy of picking up one newspaper, tucking it under his arm in an ‘i’m going to pay for this one’ manner, giving him an excuse to check out a few mags for free, before paying up.

Petrol station forecourt
This is another interesting place for the ‘front pager’. Newspapers are paraded out side the actual shop, alongside charcoal (in the summer) and logs (in the winter). Most people I saw had a very quick scan of the papers, but the perspex covers inhibited actual handling of the offerings. Mags were kept inside and under similar scrutiny from the attendant as in the newsagents. Not quite so fierce, but not a comfortable ‘free browse’ opportunity.

*Insert continued observations here*

Methods of delivery + Activitys and Communitiy

The internet offers a wide choice of information sources and delivery/collection methods.These are mapped in the image.
delivery map
There will be stiff competition for a standard news delivery service. A service that focuses on a more entertaining way of delivering the news information is our currently prefered direction.

Initial activities of the business and its community…
Provider – T-shaped

Users – Information hungry people, Smart phone (3G) / iPhone users, people who like to know when magazines are out.

Community – newspaper publishers, news sources (BBC + ITN +Sky News + others), magazine publishers

Tangible Objects – smart phones, computers, website, phone application

– needs to be automated, novel/stand out, entertaining, revenue generating, fast pickup rate (iphone app especially)

Roles/tasks/responsibilities – cover initial investment (minimum), contain uptodate information, customer service, partner relationships

Prototyping Vlog

After considering our research we put our findings into practice by individually prototyping ideas. We then shared the results with the group and found plenty of overlap, as well as some unique ideas to collectively build upon:

Research Vlog

After interacting with members of the general public, we got together as a team to discuss our findings and relate them back to the user’s cognitive, emotional and physical interactions within the area we are currently considering for our product. Ultimately, we looked to our results for guidance and assistance in refining our ideas:


These were our attempts at prototyping our ideas for a cross-platform news source. Click on an image to enlarge.
You can also open and download as a PDF: CLICK HERE

It was apparant that there were many similarities between the ideas for the user interfaces.