NewsPicks is Japan's most popular financial news app and the sister app of Quartz. It is a unique way to read the news, as each article features comments from industry experts.

NewsPicks Academia is the most premium tier subscription that NewsPicks offers. Academia members can attend events, take online courses and access exclusive content.

In this project, I conducted a heuristic analysis on the registration flow to identify user pain points and came up with ways to improve the process.


design process
Design Process

1. Understanding

I started the project by mapping the current registration flow, in order to determine entry points and the number of steps required for completion.

I created four flows in total - one for registering on the website without an account, one for upgrading on the website with a free account, and then repeated these on the mobile app.

The website registration flow is shown below.

registration flow
Website Registration Flow

Completing the flows made it clear that there were not enough entry points for the registration process. Most pages directed users back to the home page to sign up instead of allowing them to move directly into registration.

I wanted to take a closer look at the screens of the current process, so I conducted a usability review.

Usability Review

The usability review uncovered other issues, including inconsistency in wording, a lack of information about the service for which the users are signing up for, and a mix of different UIs.

I also discovered that when users signed up via the Android app, they were not alerted of the price of a subscription until the final step in the process.

After reviewing the flows, it became clear that the sign up process was complicated and impersonal, despite the fact that the user is signing up for a premium service.

2. Research

Next, I wanted to get an idea of why people were signing up for the service in the first place, as I believed that this information could be used to make the registration process more appealing for users.

In collaboration with the event and community teams, I conducted user interviews for current premium users attending a special event, and then worked with marketing to create a survey that was sent to all premium members.

Academia Event

Thanks to the cooperation of the event and community team members, we were able to interview around 20 different people about why they signed up to the premium service, and how they are using the service.

The survey was also successful, receiving around 500 responses.

The research made clear that learning and self-improvement were key motivations for users to sign up. It also made clear that users are interested in the community aspect of the service, looking forward to interacting with like minded members.

3. Ideation

After the research, I was able to clearly define questions for ideation. They were;

1. How might we simplify the registration/upgrade process?
2. How might we reframe registration/upgrade to make it more enticing for users?

I then led a brainstorming session with UI designers and engineers, where we agreed to focus on the community and learning aspects of the service.

We came up with a solution that involved reframing "registration/upgrade" to "joining an exclusive community", and reducing the number of steps in the process.

In the old registration flow, users had to receive an email telling them how to sign up. I turned the email into an invitation with a motivational letter from the head of content.

The aim was to increase the exclusivity and community aspects to encourage users to join.

Mock up of new flow

4. Evaluation

User testing conducted with the new solution showed very positive results, with users commenting on how it felt personal and exciting to receive an invitation from the head of content.


It has been enjoyable to work on a product like NewsPicks Academia that has the potential for great social impact. Interacting directly with users was very insightful, as their feedback was integral in designing a solution.

I am looking forward to continuing with this project and further improving the user experience.


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