A subscription offering for app exlusive features


BuzzFeed+ is an enhanced experience launched for iOS users for a monthly subscription. I worked with the Apps team to define strategy and design the product.


  • User feedback via app reviews and a diary study indicated frustration with seeing too many ads
  • Ad-revenue was decreasing due to the pandemic
  • An opportunity to solve both a user and business problem

Timeline: 4 weeks (Apr - May 2020)


To create an improved, app-exclusive experience that users would find valuable enough to pay for.

Risks & Constraints

  • A custom payment solution would be complicated so we used Apple Pay which handles most of the payment experience
  • Asking people to spend more at a time of worldwide economic difficulties

Design approach

The team and I first defined the product offering. Then, looked at subscriptions across similar apps to understand what the baseline experience should be. The design phase involved multiple iterations of exploring and refining. Iterations were informed by feedback from the team, cross-product designers and legal.

buzzfeed plus project design process

Definition & Strategy

From a product perspective, we wanted to answer:

  • Is the ad-free experience alone valuable enough to pay for?
  • What else could we do to increase the value of our offering?
  • How much would the subscription cost and how do we determine that?

buzzfeed plus product definition

Along with ad-free, we chose to add other feasible offerings that would feel BuzzFeed-y and also offer utility. This would avoid feeling transactional - "pay X dollars to remove ads" and enable us to provide users more value over time.

For design, we thought about how might we:

  1. Create awareness for this feature?
  2. Make it easy to control subscription features?
  3. Help users find and manage their subscription?

Competitive Audit

To better answer these questions, and understand subscription experiences, I looked at the subscription experience across six similar iOS apps.

buzzfeed plus competitive audit - apps

Here are some common themes and takeaways.

buzzfeed plus competitive audit takeaways


With the product defined, questions answered, and a better understanding of subscriptions, I put together a flow to demonstrate what our offering could behave like. Then, by focusing on key areas, I aimed to quickly generate multiple design concepts.

User flow

Defining the user flow helped everyone visualize what the experience would look like and reveal scenarios to consider early on.

buzzfeed+ user flow

We decided to

  • Show a one-time 'splash' to educate users on the new offering
  • Prominently display the offering in settings (should users change their mind)
  • enable users to control subscription features from settings

The user flow revealed key areas that required the most focus. They included the subscription splash (before & after states) and management.

Design explorations

I explored various concepts, trying to refine layout, copy, and visual design at each iteration.

Subscription splash

buzzfeed+ explorations - subscription splash

Communicating benefits

One concern was that the copy on its own was not successful in communicating the features. I agreed, and believed that somehow 'showing' users would be more effective. So I explored ways to do that with more visuals and fewer words.

buzzfeed+ explorations - benefit illustrations

After a wide range of explorations and feedback from stakeholders, I had a strong sense of direction.


In this phase, I started refining visual design and tightening copy.

  • Gradient is a familiar pattern used decoratively across the app and site
  • Cards help contain each feature and not including a shadow avoids feeling like a tap target
  • I also worked with engineering to add confetti to 'celebrate' a user's subscription

buzzfeed plus refine mocks

High-fidelity prototype


We evaluated results one month after launch. Data indicated that 0.1% of users who saw the subscription splash, made a purchase. We knew that users would be less likely to pay when we haven't demonstrated value. So we followed up with a 7-day free trial and re-prompted subscription. This time, we saw 74% of users subscribed!

Week over week, 85% of users kept their subscription. We inferred that users who wanted to try this experience felt it was valuable enough to continue using it.

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