Late last year, we conducted a survey project designed to help inform the creation of NPR's mobile products. The idea behind the project was to see if, by asking about the importance of different mobile user goals, we could learn how listeners want to interact with NPR on mobile devices.
We did this by asking survey respondents, regardless of whether or not they were mobile web users at the time, to rank how important various goals would be to them while interacting with NPR on a mobile device. By performing a factor analysis on those results, we were able to see which goals were related to one another from the users' point of view.
We hypothesized that certain goals would be related to one another (we had guessed that four groups would emerge: "News Reading" goals, "Active Listening" goals, "Passive Listening" goals and "Distracted Listening" goals), but the results challenged those assumptions. We ended up having to reclassify how those goals were related. Coincidentally, four groups emerged from the factor analysis. We classified them as "News Checking" goals, "Time Shifting and Sharing" goals, "Pocket Radio Listening" goals and "Customized Listening" goals.
These groupings of user goals were interesting, but they did not reflect different groups of users, just different types of usage. So we conducted a cluster analysis to see how users might group together based on their responses. Doing so, we made the unremarkable— but nonetheless important— discovery that there are, effectively, two types of NPR mobile users: those who want to be able to do everything (they consider all four of the above groupings important) and those who give a collective shrug to the whole concept of interacting with NPR on a mobile device.
A sexy finding? Not really. But one worth taking to heart. It tells us that any app, site or other wingding we make for a mobile device needs to be Swiss Army knife-like in its functionalities.
The third and final step we took in this project was to identify how important different types of user goals would be to different types of NPR.org users. We asked the survey respondents to self-identify as one of four user personas that we had derived from previous research and then parsed the survey results by those questions. Doing so revealed what anyone could intuit: that, despite the fact that the cluster analysis revealed that we need to support many types of NPR listening experiences on mobile devices, users may have very different needs from NPR mobile products depending on how NPR fits into their lives.
It's incumbent upon us, though, to provide mobile users with something flexible enough to meet all of those needs.
Matt Gallivan is Sr. Research Analyst for Digital Media in NPR's Audience Insight & Research group.