The City Podcast


The Challenge

Design a web-based podcast experience for users to listen to The City podcast, explore related materials, and ultimately drive them to subscribe.


The City tells true stories of how power works in urban America. Season 1 begins in Chicago, 1990. After years of disinvestment, highways are rebuilt, old buildings demolished, new parks and skyscrapers erected. But all that rubble has to go somewhere, and its destination isn’t a landfill or a recycling center. It’s a pair of vacant lots in a black, working-class neighborhood called North Lawndale.

Understanding the Challenge

By the time I was brought in, a lot of work had been done on the look and feel for the marketing of the podcast. The marketing campaign was directed by Stephanie Chung and the lead designer was Naya-Cheyenne Diaz. It was a powerful and moving campaign juxtaposing portraits of strong black Chicagoans with the crumbling infrastructure they were confronted with.

My job was to develop the UX for the website in a way that carried this campaign through. I knew that the website was going to have all of the episodes available for people to listen to, but our primary goal was to get people to subscribe via their preferred podcast channel. We ultimately viewed the site as a trial run where people could listen to episodes and learn more about the podcast before they committed.

In addition to the episodes, the website was going to provide related materials, an AR experience, and general information about the team. My job was to work with the product team to make information architecture and user experience recommendations.

Because this was a new podcast, our senior leadership had a keen interest in its success and they had reasonably high expectations.

  • Get 20,000+ subscriptions in podcast apps

  • Drive 100,000 unique visits to website

  • Provide a platform for users to engage with unique materials and experiences and listen to the podcast


UX Goal 1:

Provide an easy listening experience

We knew that most people listened to podcasts at work or while they were commuting. While we understood that most people listened to podcasts through apps there was still a significant population that listened to podcasts through a desktop or mobile web experience.



Make subscribing easy

In addition to providing the site as a primary platform for some users, we knew that it was merely a funnel for others. We wanted to make sure that it was easy for people to subscribe to their preferred podcast platform. This was not only an important UX consideration but it was a key performance indicator for the stakeholders.



User Research

We worked closely with the Research and Strategy team to identify our target users and understand the benefits they sought in a digital experience like this.

That research revealed these key audience insights:

  • Most podcast listeners are between the ages of 25-45

  • They are generally well educated, with at least some college education, and are comfortable with technology.

  • People tend to listen to podcasts on their mobile devices, but there is still a significant number of people who listen on their desktop device.

  • Interestingly, podcasts are still a relatively unknown medium with a small but dedicated following. Only about 60% of people are even aware of the term podcast, with only about 40% of people actively listening. But those who do listen to podcasts, listen to them a lot.

Because most people who listen to podcasts are younger and more comfortable with technology we knew we had to create a mobile first experience.



Competitive Analysis

My next step was to see what other podcasts were doing. The City team had a few podcast websites that they were already looking at, and were fond of, that they sent over. I performed some additional research on top of that to see how other sites prioritized their content, directed users throughout the site, and what they offered in terms of additional content. Through this research I developed a matrix of what I thought users expected, and what would add value to their experience.



In order to get buy-in from the stakeholders and to gauge any development issues with the product team I built out a prototype in Sketch. Click the image below to view the prototype.


Once the prototype and the designs were approved by the stakeholders the product team began development.

The site was launched with a trailer episode and the first two episodes. Each episode had related materials and drove users to subscribe at various points on the site.

Episodes were then launched on the site to correlate with their launch in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitchr, and Google Play.


The site had over 190,000 unique visitors, most of which were driven by the digital marketing campaign. A little over 20,000 visitors arrived via organic search. Overall, the podcast garnered about 1,200,000 downloads, and almost 25,000 subscribers via Apple Podcasts — whom we had a partnership to help promote the podcast.

As for how people interacted with the site, it was much in line with how we assumed they would behave. 63% of all clicks were to engage with the episodes, mirroring our belief that users would want to preview the podcast. 12% of all clicks were to subscribe, which was the second most performed action after listening to an episode.

Because of our partnership with Apple Podcasts most of our marketing drove people to their podcast player, so the site ended up playing a secondary role in consumption of the content. Our goals for the second season are: 1) Redesign the site to focus on related content and materials, 2) Enhance our listening experience, and 3) convert more subscriptions.