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Problem

Why news theme is a topical issue today

Now, in the first half of the 21st century, the role of information in our life is decisive — the more skills and knowledge a person has, the more they are valued and respected in our society. The world has entered the information age, the age of e-economic activities, online communities and organizations without boundaries.

Modern technologies allow us to produce and share information in a matter of minutes. In particular, this applies to the news that spreads within a few minutes after this or that event has happened.

It is important to understand that the news is a very powerful and important information source. In this case, its power can have a tremendous impact on society. News is a direct tool of influence on public consciousness. The goal of the news is to provide to the society objective information about a particular event or action.

In reality, news is often just retelling of events, passed through the prism of an author’s own subjective judgment, beliefs and attitudes. Authorship of the news inevitably leads to inconsistencies in the coverage of the same events.

Moreover, the author often deliberately covers the events from his beneficial point of view, which he thereby can use to manipulate public opinion.

Today, there are a lot of news media and many of them are dependent on the government, radicalized, or critical, and so on. The problem of “point of view”, while reporting the news, is very significant.

It has become very difficult to understand the flow of information. To figure out the truth, to form your own opinion about this or that, is a tremendous challenge for the modern man.

These facts cause the need to create tools that allow the reader to easily handle the news information, analyze it, to screen out unnecessary biases and form their own opinion.

What are the main news sources today

Communication tools, and hence the news, changed with the development of technology. In ancient times, the only source of information was a joint trip to church on Sunday, where the congregation, apart from praying, discussed what had happened that week. News was transmitted exclusively by word of mouth.

Later the printing presses, photography, radio, television, and Internet were invented. The transmission of information became faster and information became accessible. Now, almost everyone has unlimited access to the information from his shirt pocket.

Traditional sources of information today are newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. With the popularization of the Internet, the creation and sharing news information to the community has become accessible to almost everyone. With the help of blogs and social networks, the information from the horse’s mouth falls on the user’s screen. Internet is an additional platform for almost all print magazines.

Pew Research Center study shows how the dynamics of the use of the Internet as a source of news has changed. As of 2013, the Internet holds a strong second position after television.

Main source for News in United States – 50% of the public now cites the internet as a main source for national and international news, still below television, but far above newspapers and radio.

From the results of studies of the same Pew Research Center shows that on average about 19% of the readers using social media as a news source. In some age groups this figure reaches 34%.

Social media has grown as a source for news – 19% of Americans say they saw news or news headlines on Facebook or another social networking site in 2012.

Advantages and disadvantages of online news sources today

Today there is an increasing trend of providing news on the Internet. Most big newspaper, television, and radio companies have also set up sites on the Internet to provide news in addition to what is available through their media.

Understandably, this is because of the many advantages of supplying news over the Internet. The major advantages of the Internet-news are:

  • News on the Internet can be updated round the clock so that readers can have the most up-to-date news any time of the day or night.
  • The type of news and the way it is presented can be customised to the needs and preference of individual readers.
  • Reader can be alerted through e-mail, cell phones or other devices about availability of any new news of their interest.
  • Reader can conveniently refer to additional information related to a news item using suitable links to other pages on the same site and to other sites.
  • Readers can easily forward interesting news items to others.
  • The news can be presented in a rich formats, which in addition to multi-colour printing, can have videos.
  • Once a news item is put on the Internet, it becomes instantly available for use round the globe without additional variable costs.
  • News provider can get detailed data on popularity of news items. This information can help in better choice of information put on the site.
  • The lead time required between occurrence of an event and news making on it available on the Internet has reduced considerably. Some items of news like stock market prices are now available almost in real-time.

Nevertheless, online sources have a number of disadvantages. Such as following:

  • With the involvement of social media in the transfer of news, information on the internet has become less reliable and professional. In most cases, personal opinions are expressed and can distort the actual story.
  • Online sources are not always convenient to read.
  • Newspaper can be carried and read at any location of the world. There is no precondition of availability of Internet connectivity.

Google News approach. Hypothesises.

Considering that the news is usually not fully objective information, most people tend to trust or do not trust certain sources. For example, the reader can trust The New York Times, and not trust The Washington Post. They may be interested in these or other news categories and not interested in the rest. They may be interested in a category, which is not already a default category. These problems are solved by the world renowned, and definitely innovative service, Google News (news.google.com).

On Google News you may adjust the filters regarding sources to obtain news on the same topic from different sources, allowing you to compare and evaluate information from different points of view. Google News can also be set up for certain categories of news, it also allows you to create your own specific category.

But there are some user needs, which are not being met by any given service yet. These are the hypotheses, which I would like to highlight:

  1. It often happens that the user does not immediately start to follow a particular event, but tries to find out what happened days or weeks later. In order to get a complete picture of what is happening, he will have to spend a lot of time searching for information.
  2. This user is very interested in a particular topic and wants to collect information on it, which is the most relevant to his points of view.
  3. The user wants to discuss read news social networks.
  4. The user trusts some journalists or bloggers and wants to quickly get their point of view on any subject, instead of certain publications (magazines).
  5. The user wants to be able to quickly compare the news, not only from a variety of sources, but also from different, maybe conflicting, sides or even countries.

These hypotheses were tested in the next phase of Research.

Research

Like most of the services from Google, Google News is a great tool to work with while searching for news, which offers unique opportunities. Google developed a unique algorithm, which allows reading the news on the same topic from different sources.

“Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests.
On Google News we offer links to several articles on every story, so you can first decide what subject interests you and then select which publishers’ accounts of each story you’d like to read.
Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online.“
http://news.google.de/intl/en_us/about_google_news.html

Google News was announced in 2002 and since then has changed only slightly. For 12 years the concept of Usability stepped forward and the user becomes more demanding of usability and appearance.

To determine the direction of the redesign of Google News, I have analyzed the current site and researched the needs of the target audience.

Analysis of news.google.com

First of all, news.google.com was carefully analyzed in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current design.

Analysis of news.google.com

Advantages

Visual:

  • Clear navigation elements
  • Easy to use and adjustable list view
  • Easy to navigate related sources
  • Adjustable widgets

Usability:

  • Minimum steps to the goal
  • Easy to navigate between related sources.
  • Well structured Realtime coverage

Disadvantages

Visual:

  • Design does not meet current standards
  • Design is not adapted for all screen sizes

Usability:

  • Home offers too many opportunities and distracts from the main call-to-action
  • It is not always clear what a certain module on the homepage means.
  • Some content is duplicated blocks on the same page
  • Settings and tools are scattered randomly on the page, and they are hard to find.
  • Very complex process of adding your own categories

User Cases

Understanding the target audience is very important thing for any website. The target audience of Google News is very big. I Identified 4 big archetypes, which I called:

  1. Strangers (rarely interested in news, not always know up to date information about what happens in the world)
  2. Interested (people, who are interested in news, usually know about most important events and incidents. They are also looking for specific news)
  3. Active (social active users, which have their own opinion and their own point of view)
  4. Bloggers and Journalists (users, who discover the situation seriously, collect information, different points of view, compare them and write about it)

In order to test the ideas and hypotheses, I took 4 fictional characters from the task audience of Google News and analysed what needs they are willing to meet on the site, which functions could be useful. I wrote out all the existing and new features Google News and sorted them according to the characters needs.

User Cases

Features and Fuctionality

Based on the analysis of the results and User Cases, I had a brainstorming session to figure out which new functions, which renewed old functions, and which visual approach, could satisfy users needs. After the brainstorming session, the most important points were selected and sorted by two categories: Functional and Visual.

Functional:

  • Simplify adding of custom categories
  • Simplify choosing of news sources
  • New function: create your own Coverages, Timeline
  • Let articles be shown on Google News, without redirection to the source website
  • Add more additional information to article from Wikipedia, Google Maps and Google+
  • Integration of Google+ Profiles

Visual:

  • Create a new modern Look and Feel
  • Reduce and simplify the Start Page
  • Create full responsive experience

User Scenarios

To be sure, that the choices of functionality cover the needs of the target audience, I have created a couple of user scenarios, based on user case personas.

User scenarios

UX and Design Principles

Sitemap

Since the user needs and what is needed for the successful redesign of Google News were realized, it’s time to create a site map. The main goal is to simplify the site map, as much as possible, and minimize the number of steps the user needs to do to complete the task.

Sitemap

Sketches and Wireframes

Since I defined the goals and instruments of the redesign of Google News and the sitemap, it is time to define the framework of the new website. I have created hundreds of pages with scribbles to determine the right page content and design layout.

Home page – news view
Article page
Coverages
Coverage Cover and overview

The new Google Material Design

While I have been working on wireframes, mood board and was looking for a new Google News look and feel, Google has presented its new “Google Material Design Principles”. These principles define the visual language for all coming Google products. Although, it leaves a lot of place for designers creativity.

These Principles are brand new and were not tested or implemented somewhere in Google products at that time. Some of the ideas of Material Design were used in Google News new design, although it has it’s own style.

Mood Board, Typography, Grid

While creating wireframes, I’ve been collecting the mood board, which was split as usual into two parts: Functional and Visual.

Functional mood board contains everything that could inspire me to find the better, more creative and is easier to use for implementing ideas, as I’ve mentioned before. The Visual mood board helps me to define the look and feel of the coming design. I create mood boards and wireframes usually at the same time. This helps, not only to create the best user experience, but also to have an idea of how it could be designed.

As the main typography, I have chosen the norm for Google, Roboto font, which perfectly represents the simplicity of the Google brand. I decided to use Roboto for all purposes, except for the article text, which should contrast with titles and additional texts on the page. For articles, I have chosen PT Serif, which is available in most alphabets.

Grid is based on 12 columns and 8px baselines, which is also very typical for all new Google designs and is optimal for most interfaces.

12 Columns Grid, 8 px Baselines

4. Final design

After a long preparation period, I’ve focused on design. It took about 5 weeks to create designs for each page, settings, and each interactive element separately. The design is fully responsive and represents a well-thought-out UX.

Full case study is here.


George Kvasnikov is a senior interface and graphic designer from Russia, currently living in Berlin. Working as freelance UX/UI and graphic designer. With a lot of passion to nice user experience, colours, typography and pixel-perfectionism.