Inside the Guardian's digital product testing lab

Accenture Technology Labs Staff
Sam Shead

Sam Shead

Sam Shead joined Techworld as a reporter in July 2013. He studied Geography with Science Communication at Royal Holloway University before completing a postgraduate diploma in journalism at Cardiff University. Areas that he covers for Techworld include startups, entrepreneurship, wearables, mobile and telecoms.

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The Guardian is on a mission to be the most tech-savvy news organisation in the world after announcing its "digital first" strategy in January 2011.

In order to achieve this, the newspaper is constantly thinking about how it can improve its mobile and tablet applications, which have so far been downloaded by over a million people. 

Part of the Guardian's application development process involves putting the apps in the hands of the user. This is done by releasing beta versions of the app for people to use in their daily lives. It is also done by watching and hearing how people engage with the app within a designated space at the Guardian's office in King's Cross. 

This designated space is the Guardian's UX Studio, which was opened last year. 

Techworld was invited to see the UX Studio this week as the Guardian unveiled a revamped version of its mobile and tablet apps. 

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Trialling new technologies

Over 100 people were invited to the UX Studio to try the new Guardian app ahead of its release today. While they were in the studio, employees at the Guardian closely monitored how they engaged with the app. The app was also released as a beta product to 10,000 users who were able to use it in their own time.

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We're watching you

The UX Studio is home to a one-way mirror that allows Guardian employees to watch people try their digital products without their knowing. One-way mirrors are also used in interrogation rooms and reality TV shows.

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Extra cameras

A number of other cameras are scattered throughout the room, such as the webcams seen on top of these PCs, so that Guardian employees around the rest of the building can live-stream users as they engage with their products.

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Leading the way

Product manager Tom Grinsted demoed the Guardian's latest iPad app to Techworld through a widescreen TV. He said that the new app is one of the first products to emerge out of the UX Studio, adding that it is more varied, with closer attention to detail, than the mobile apps offered by its rivals.

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Home comforts

Large red sofas make users feel like they are at home as they test the app.

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Multiple devices

The app is available to download for free across all Android and iOS phones and tablets running Android 4 and iOS 7. It has been designed over the last year by a team of over 20 people, with former Google chief engineer Shannon Maher being heavily involved in the software development efforts, after he joined the the Guardian in February.

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