The Oracle Data Cloud blog highlights the latest data-driven insights and trends in digital marketing and ad tech.

  • April 6, 2016

Designing for better audience discovery at AddThis

Insights for custom keyword-based audience

This week’s guest blog post is contributed by Jim Lane, Director of User Experience, Oracle Data Cloud. Lane leads design teams working on AddThis website tools and the Audience Discovery product. With 20 years of experience as an interaction designer and creative leader at startups as well as large companies such as Netscape, AOL, Revolution Health, and AddThis, Lane also founded and organizes the largest design-oriented meetup group in Northern Virginia called NoVA UX.

Big Data, Big Challenges

In May 2015, AddThis launched a new product called Audience Discovery. Our goal was to enable marketers to create, validate and activate custom audiences built from the online behaviors and interests of more than 2 billion unique users traversing 15 million global domains across mobile and desktop.

Transforming massive data into actionable audiences is a difficult data science task. And for designers, creating an intuitive audience discovery and media activation experience can be equally challenging.

Design Challenges

Interest-based behavioral data at scale is complex. Audience Discovery needed to distill this complexity into easy to understand insights that were meaningful, useful, and accurate.

We also needed to consider the expectations of different customer groups and use cases. Should Audience Discovery focus on researching audience segments, or simply activating specific audiences at scale?

We had limited access to potential customers during the early design process, so finding answers to these questions presented the team with an exciting problem to solve.

Strategies and Solutions

To tackle these challenges we applied the same design strategies that have helped AddThis lead in the website tools space, essentially “consumerizing” a B2B product experience:

· Keep it simple: Our goal is always to design for specific users with specific needs, as simply as possible. In Audience Discovery we introduced “Highlights” to provide both insight and actionability in the most intuitive way possible, and to kick off a narrative around whom best represents the constituents in a particular audience.

· Be data-informed: When we couldn’t interview actual users, we turned to support and sales team members who directly interfaced with customers to create multiple iterative feedback cycles. We also solicited feedback within the product using an interactive tool. We measured everything within the product, particularly performance, since we couldn’t optimize what we couldn’t measure.

· Seek out impactful opportunities: We wanted Audience Discovery to significantly disrupt how customers think about audience building and activation, but also easily integrate into existing workflows. We identified a key opportunity to provide never-before-seen transparency into audience modeling and activation, often an opaque business process. We also recently introduced custom model sizing, featuring real-time yield curves that can be used to balance scale and precision as needed for a particular campaign.

· Design for mobile and international usage: By designing for mobile browsers first, we ensured that essential parts of the experience would be device-agnostic. In some cases, we decided that more complex interactions wouldn’t be available or would be much simpler at smaller form factors, such as keyword-based audience building. Knowing that eventually we would need to contend with international data, we employed generous text fields and stacked form elements to better accommodate translation as well as mobile experiences.

Audience Activation from AddThis


Audience activation, including the audience yield curve

What’s next?

We will continue to update Audience Discovery to help everyday marketers make better decisions for their marketing strategies. As part of Oracle Data Cloud, we will be focused on expanding the audience-building process to provide marketers with access to more countries, more precision and more information – all balanced with elegance and ease-of-use.

Want more from AddThis? Don't miss, "How Culture & Creativity Drive Engineering at AddThis," "Hackathons at AddThis: Serious Playtime," and "How to Find the Audience of Your Dreams."

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