Sep 13, 2015 · 5 min read

Newsie — a social media based news aggregator.

The Challenge

From the knowledge we learned throughout our first week in class, I was given 3 days to create an interactive prototype of a mobile news aggregator application. My assumptions going into the project were that most people probably didn’t use news aggregators, as I personally do not. Instead, I assumed that most people went directly to their favorite news resources and checked those regularly. I soon realized/remembered however, that I am not the user.

The Approach

Setting all assumptions aside, I proceeded in conducting 4 user interviews to find out more about how users obtained their news, how often they read

Snippet from my interview notes.

the news, and which apps they were currently using. I questioned them on their expectations and their likes and dislikes in their current process. I also asked them what their ideal news aggregator app would be like, describing how it would function and be organized.

From here, I began to pull out the main takeaways from each of my interviews, note them on post-its, and begin my affinity mapping.

The picture to the left was taken after I had conducted 3 out of my 4 interviews and was actually the last time that I conducted my affinity mapping, even though I interviewed one more user. This was a mistake on my part because I could have easily missed another key trend in my research.

Key Findings

As seen above, there were several trends I noticed from my user interviews. However, one overarching trend struck me: from my small pool of participants, I found that 50% were active news readers, while the other 50% were passive news readers.

Active News Readers: currently use a news aggregator and actively seek new topics/resources

Passive News Readers: heavily rely on social media for most news consumption and push notifications on “breaking news”

Even still, both types of news consumers sought:

  • news from multiple but also, credible resources
  • tailored article suggestions to their personal interests
  • larger trending headlines
  • a simple and intuitive way to browse content without clutter

The Vision

Initial sketches of Newsie

Newsie — A news aggregator mobile app that suggests trending articles based on what your social networks (via Facebook and/or Twitter) are reading. Newsie will also allow all users to select his/her favorite news resources and personal interests to provide a more tailored selection of articles. In browsing the trending articles from existing social networks, Newsie also allows the passive news consumer to easily explore new media and topics from people of similar interests and backgrounds (aka, your friends). As for the active news consumer, Newsie allows this user to search for new resources and issues per their own curiosity, or also through browsing trending media both globally and locally.

The Design + Prototype

For the design of Newsie I wanted to keep the app simple, focusing on the key desired functions outlined above. I wanted to avoid an overwhelming landing page with too many options, and give it a streamlined user experience.

The below walk-through is a would-be common experience a user might encounter on a daily basis with Newsie. The user is already signed up with the app and wants to see what her friends are currently reading, by scrolling through the unending list of article suggestions selected from “Friends”, ultimately deciding to read an article on design.

Walk-through as a daily user of Newsie

User Tests + Learnings

The same scenario as above was given to 3 user testers to ensure that the experience was to be as streamlined as hoped, with the assistance of UX prototyping app, POP (Newsie). Here are my learnings:

  • “What if I’m reading something weird and I don’t want people to see?” — when brainstorming ideas, keep legal restrictions in mind. Further research will need to be conducted on user privacy restrictions from Twitter and Facebook. This can be updated by changing the app’s functionality to “most shared” as opposed to “most read”, or by eliminating the header in the article listing of who has read what.
  • “How do you go back?” — when prototyping, be consistent with the core contents of application layout and format. As I sketched out each page, I forgot to maintain the hamburger menu at the top-left corner.
  • “How do I start? Do I click into the search bar?” — in design, sometimes too simple can = not functional. The landing page was confusing to my user testers who were all unfamiliar with the app. They were all immediately drawn to the search bar, which was front-and-center, when they should have clicked the hamburger menu bar. I would like to test two new iterations: 1-search bar moved up to the top, to the right of the menu bar; 2-direct links placed on the landing page to the main browsing categories.
  • “I was confused about which images tied to which articles.” — create a more visually-defined separation between articles in the article list to avoid confusion. This would be more easily distinguished in a higher fidelity prototype where detailed graphics play a bigger role.

Next Steps + Takeaways

  • Test for more scenarios using lo-fi prototypes — user testing in this round may have been too specific
  • Create a template to follow for every page to avoid inconsistencies in designing sketches
  • There is much more than just design that goes into creating what seems like a simple app — many slight details can make a big difference

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…dwell in possibility /

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