AOL.com is AOL's flagship site. It's the hub for news, entertainment, sports, finance, lifestyle, and more.
AOL properties and advertising reach 87% of adults 50+, 86% of millennials, 79% of men, and 79% women online. (Public stats)
The AOL.com homepage attracts more than 906 M page views each month. (Public stats)
AOL.com has 12.2 M daily unique visitors and 26.8 M monthly unique visitors. (Public stats)
The earliest AOL users have been using AOL.com for information and entertainment for nearly 20 years.
AOL.com is the core business of AOL. It has a long history, a huge user base, and a large, dedicated team working on it. I believe, in this environment, collaboration and execution are the key.
Bonanza is the biggest redesign of AOL.com in six years. I joined the team in the middle of the transition. We rolled out the new design to 1% of the population and closely monitored three things:
We employed agile methods and kept tweaking until, eventually, Bonanza performed better than the classic AOL.com. In the beginning of 2016, we migrated all of our users to the new experience successfully.
A huge project like Bonanza has a lot of loose ends, such as the inconsistency between old and new designs, pages, and missing functions. While dealing with details is fun, I pursued these highly impactful goals:
I worked with designers and developers to add modules like Up Next to AOL.com. I tracked performance and led iterations.
I proposed a redesign of the tags, tag pages and archive pages. The clicks on tags tripled and the archive page visibly improved content circulation.
I kept Agile & Data Driven
I discovered that user sessions were shorter than those of the classic AOL.com.
I compared the new site with the classic site and competitors such as The New York Times, CNN, Quartz, and Mic.
I found that a popular feature was missing - Up Next. It encouraged users to keep reading the next article.
I confirmed with my manager about adding the module. He agreed, and we gave it priority.
I worked with designers to explore designs, and we finally made a decision together.
I gathered the product requirements and design assets, submitted a JIRA ticket, and gave the Scrum Master a heads up.
I joined the Scrum meetings, provided further info to programmers, tested the deliverable, and ensured its quality.
I tracked the performance of the module. If it didn't work well enough, we would keep iterating.
We implemented one of the designs quickly and I assigned a tracking ID to this module. According to Omniture, the clicks shot up dramatically but fell down over time. We tested some other options and fine-tuned the animation. The feature evolved several times. The current design and behavior are shown below:
Data helped me find the room for improvement, and then I would build something fast and put it to the test. Finally, I would review the metrics and iterate.
I was result oriented
Tons of content was created and aggregated by AOL. However, it was disorganized and difficult to access.
Many articles didn't show tags. Some did, but the black tags could hardly gain any attention.
Competitors like Facebook were adding emotions to their products.
A more eye-catching tag design.
Sentimental tags like cute, sexy, and funny give users another way to explore the content.
The tag design naturally led to the archive page and search function.
After rounds of design, development, and test, the current tag design was perfect.
Whether it’s sexy, cute or funny, viewers can easily browse more articles that arouse the same feeling. Furthermore, a series of sentimental newsletters are on the way – AOL users can subscribe to daily cuteness or get inbox full of funny videos.
The tag system has been a great contributor to content circulation. It makes exponentially more content accessible without really creating more.
When viewers click on a tag, naturally, they’ll be taken to a tag page – a page full of articles that contain the same tag. A tag page is a hub for a certain topic. If it’s the topic that interests the viewers, they can dive in and indulge themselves.
Like a tag page, an archive page is also a collection of articles, but by date and keyword. It can be a time machine that takes viewers back to the night their favorite team won Super Bowl. It can also be a great tool for research if viewers would like to read all about the Zika virus.
After launching, the tag pages and archive pages gained about 1.2% of the total AOL.com traffic steadily. It’s a success because:
I led the creation of tags, tag pages and archive pages single-handedly. I took the initiative and owned the products. The experience equipped me with all the skills I need as an entry-level product manager.
I combined primary and secondary research, watched trends, located pain points, and uncovered needs.
I also gathered and analyzed user feedback and translated complaints and wishes into real features.
Being proficient in design tools, I was able to make mockups and prototypes on my own.
Guerrilla testing was my personal favorite. I also worked with the research team to conduct more formal tests.
I held meetings to present solutions and test results to stakeholders and push projects forward.
I aligned the product vision with company vision and goals, and managed the roadmap.
I created detailed documentations in Confluence. If anyone had any questions, I was the go-to person.
I created and prioritized tickets and managed product backlog. I worked closely with the Scrum Master.
I participated in daily standup meetings, helped to clear the blockers and tracked the progress.
I managed tracking IDs and monitored CTRs, page views, DAU, MAU, and other metrics.
Google Doc + Google Slides
Sketch + Adobe Photoshop
Lucidchart + Marvel + InVision
Scrum + Kanban
Confluence + JIRA
Omniture + AOL in-house Data Analytics Tool + comScore
I honed my presentation and storytelling skills.
I went an extra mile to do things right and get things done.
I learned the basics of data analysis and used them to help improve products.
I learned how to balance business goals and user experience and when to make trade-offs.
I became a better communicator when collaborating across disciplines.