Rapid Prototyping of News Aggregator App

I will describe how I solved my first project as part of the UXDI Course at GA in Singapore. My project’s objective was a rapid (3 day) prototyping of a News Aggregator App.

The design process involved four fundamental steps:

  1. Research
  2. Sketching & Flow
  3. Prototyping & Testing
  4. Integration of feedback & scoping for future development

Research

Research was conducted predominately through a series of user interviews with three other course participants. My questionnaire evolved around four core principles:

  • Pains, i.e. “Which difficulties do you find when looking for news?”
  • Pleasures, i.e. “What make the experience of reading news fun and pleasant?”
  • Context, i.e. “Where and where to you check news?”
  • Actions, i.e. “Which actions do you carry on for reading news?”

The questionnaire was structured such that general questions were followed by more specific questions in order to extract the essence of certain issues and define sets of problems, e.g.

“How often do you look for news?” leads to “Which actions do you carry on for that?” and “Could you give me an example of situation when you had ”this” negative experience?”

Then, the interview results were categorized, color coded and simple stickers were used to structure the feedback and raised concerns.


Affinity maps

As a result, I was able to synthesize the information and transfer it to an affinity map in order to identify common trends, behaviours and issues. Some of the common trends and themes encountered were:
mobile apps are used to access news content frequently during the day,
font re-sizing and scrolling issues with many news apps,
many articles too long for mobile consumption.

Thereby, I was able to identify my project´s target group and formulate a problem statement.

Target group:

“Users who use their mobile devices to read and watch news throughout the day on a regular basis.“

Problem statement:

“Target group finds it difficult and uncomfortable to read, scroll and click through long lists of articles while eating.“

Having defined the target audience and isolated their problem, I started developing a design solution.

My design solution can be summarized as:

“A news aggregator video (and text to speech) app allowing hands-free, targeted news delivery on mobile devices and, hence, enabling users to eat while watching the news“

Sketching and Flow

I used common techniques on paper (aka sketching, flow diagrams and storyboard), in order to develop functionality. No computer aids were permitted at that point.

Flow diagram and first sketches
Storyboard

Personally, I found that storyboard allowed for a very good visualization of the problem and the mechanics of user behavior.

Prototyping and Testing

With the help of my sketches and the contextual background from the story board, I was able to develop my first real UXDI prototype. Usability with low fidelity was the clear focus in my considerations of prototype design, functionality and flow.

Some illustrations of my prototype

Key design considerations were continuously benchmarked against the following scenario, “Target user is eating but would like to read the news on a mobile device. However, his hands are occupied and, hence, he cannot use his mobile device as normal.“

The prototype is developed to allow for testing of an improved news reading experience in the basic scenario. The testing involved these specific tasks:

  1. launch of the prototype of my news aggregator app,
  2. search for content,
  3. play at least two news items.
Prototype v1, Prototype v2, Menu

Feedback from testing was collected and analyzed. Subsequently, some suggestions and functionality enhancement were incorporated into the prototype (v.2). For example, testers suggested to incorporate the news category to Menu button on the top left instead of displaying a separate button.

As a next step, the enhanced, dynamic prototype(v.3), was set up in POP and used for an additional round of testing.

Further development

Integration of feedback & scoping for future development

Test results for my dynamic prototype suggest additional improvements, namely:

  • auto full-screen mode
  • auto-play next new video

Generally, the video watching experience is greatly improved in full-screen mode. Selecting a full-screen mode manually is difficult while eating and ideally avoided in this specific scenario.

Similarly, moving from one news item to the next can be greatly optimized and human interaction removed through auto-playing the next video.

Review

Researching and defining a problem under the general headline of a News Aggregator app was very interesting. The similarities between users’ behaviour was intriguing and very surprising even though the number and type of test subjects would of course needed to be increased significantly to get a more robust understanding of the problem.

Developing a design solution, literally from scratch, was highly rewarding, especially when the dynamic prototyping allowed for a more rapid product evolution cycles and testing of ideas for first time in my career.

I would recommend to incorporate the suggested improvements depicted in section 4 and then increase the number of testers in order to allow a more in depth verification of the applicability of the my solution.

Still, I believe that my design proposal could greatly improve the news delivery experience and should be easily implementable given that more and more news content is available through videos or can be read out through text to speech offerings.

The project has taught me to approach research, design and testing in a structured manner. Furthermore, learning on how to develop and use a dynamic prototype via POP was very helpful.

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