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Full Scale Personalization Across Channels – ESPN

At ESPN, I had wide responsibilities for the product and for the UX team. My team was responsible for the layout of ESPN, managing the templates, the design strategy and also making sure we had the right research in place to inform these decisions.

One of the most impactful projects I worked on was revamping the ESPN navigation. This was an incredibly political project. Every editor and senior leader had an opinion about the navigation. I was also told “it couldn’t be redone”.

However, ESPN had a problem. Users were bypassing the navigation and search traffic was rapidly expanding. Further, despite ESPN’s success they had a problem with users logging in and personalizing the apps. What was ironic about this, was being a sports company our users had a very clear idea of what they wanted to personalize.

The Challenge

In the past, teams and personalization had been done as a one off. The user would have to search for the personalized experience. They had to choose either the conventional ESPN experience or the personalized one. I was in a very fortunate position to have all the research at my disposal and I was easily able to see our bounce rates and how few people were going to sports specific pages. This was problematic because ESPN makes its money on advertising. The more deep a user would travel, the more money and page views ESPN would make.

The Solution

We started our approach by baselining the information we had at our disposal. We then started sketching an ideal state for the ESPN navigation. Once we came up with two concepts we thought would solve some of the problems we had, we started iterating and testing these concepts with a large amount of users to weed out what would work and what wouldn’t.

Ultimately we came up with a navigation that was personalized and we utilized wide panels to showcase personalized information to the user

Personalization Across Channels Fuels Growth

Traffic Increase

Traffic to Sports Specific Pages went up 150%.

#1 in the Sports Category

Change helped propel ESPN to #1 in the Sports Category.

Significant Increase in Digital Revenue

More advertising page views meant more digital revenue. In 2012 digital revenue rivaled that from television.