Justin Bale, Project Director, WillowTree
Matt Abraham, Product Owner, Silverchair
Rhiannon Wong, Senior Product Manager, McGraw Hill
Will Schweitzer: President, Silverchair (Moderator)
WS: Publishers have been interested in apps in the past; however, there seems to be renewed interest now. There has been a lot of discussions on the topic across the Silverchair community. For this initiative, how did the group consider the end user?
RW: These learners are busy. There is no time to search for information to help them learn and study. They want what works and they need access to it quickly. That is what we focused on for the app. In particular, for the MVP, WillowTree focused on three core needs they identified. So, one, efficiency. The ability to access, find, and manage content quickly via features like search, favoriting, access to recent searches and views, and getting to your stuff quickly from the dashboard.
Two, portability. So, the ability to access content anywhere on any device. On the web and then within the app we have a feature to view content offline.
And then third, engagement. Adding features to help learners learn and study more effectively. In particular, we have a feature called collections, where a learner can curate content and create different collections that may serve different purposes, depending on where they are at in their studies. And we will continue to enhance, and iterate, and add more features ahead of full launch.
WS: What kind of signals or data helped you all determine that now is the right time to develop an app for your end users?
RW: Our business has seen great success with AccessMedicine. But in terms of the ways in which learners are consuming content and the technology that is aiding in that, things have changed for the learner. And their environment has changed around them in terms of what technology can do for them to help them learn and study better.
The need for the top-quality content, of course, hasn't gone away, but with only the web component we felt we really were not meeting the end user fully with where they are at today with what their daily life looks like today and what their pain points are. There was a gap in terms of establishing a direct connection with them. This app brings together that rounding out of modalities in the portfolio, but it also starts to really put personalization at the forefront so that we can start to hone in on solving some of those core pain points and user needs.
WS: You mentioned the users’ pain points and how the environment has changed for them. What type of research did you and McGraw Hill do to uncover these takeaways? Do you have any advice for publishers thinking more about their end users?
RW: We actually did a full strategy research phase with WillowTree. We had some of their incredible researchers on board to look into the problems we were trying to solve from the business perspective and end users. We interviewed a lot of students, faculty, administration, and librarians to dig into to what we were trying to solve and land on the direction that we took the app in.
JB: Embedded within our implementation, we have had research involvement throughout to make sure that we are continuing to measure to get those insights. One of the bigger value-adds with the application is having known users instead of institutionally authorized users at their various institutions and places of learning. This way, we can understand more about personas and behaviors all the way down to the individual in lieu of broader trends, or through interviews with end users.
RW: The app is, in many ways, helping us get us set up to do the level up on user analytics.
WS: It is a good reminder that research really is a process. And we should not view it as a discrete event just to inform requirements for developing the app.
JB: In terms of advice, apart from going with WillowTree to partner with them, I'd emphasize strategy and research, and really looking, especially if it has been some time, where you really need to reassess what your end-user or your product goals are, investing in that time pays out in magnitudes. So, making sure that you are measuring your population, and knowing what they really need at the end of the day, putting that investment in is how you can stay ahead of your competition.