Rio 2016: Aggregation of Content and Technical Constraints

The fourth project of the User Experience Design Immersive Course at General Assembly offered vastly more freedom than previous projects. This project involved the creation of a project proposal, as determined by group members, and submission to creative directors for approval. More and more layers continue to be added to the UX process in the same two-week sprints. My team set off to answer these new challenges.

Proposal

One of the constraints for the proposal was that the idea could not build off an existing app. The group tossed around some ideas before coming to the shared interest of the upcoming Summer Olympics, Rio 2016. Rio 2016 already an app but it would only be informational with content such as schedules and standings. One problem that the group agreed on was that Olympic coverage seemed limited and didn’t offer the feel of actually being there.

The proposal was that the app would be able to aggregate user content such as Twitter statuses, Instagram photos, and Snapchat videos to give users at home a more real feel of the Olympics.

User Research

Once the proposal was approved, user research began with screeners and surveys.

Originally, the screener was “Do you watch sports?” but this seemed to screen out too many people even if they did watch the Olympics.

The screener was changed to “Have you watched sports before?” in order to generalize the data a bit more towards Olympics viewers. Survey questions included, “Have you ever been to a live sports event before?” and more media related questions including, “What sources do you use for sports news?”

Survey takers generally used their phones for sports-related news

Some survey takers were brought back for follow up interview questions. To get an understanding of what kind of content users wanted, questions asked included, “What is the best source for news online?” and “What do you think of news from sources such as social media?”

Interviewees were asked about live events, news preferences and the Olympics

With survey and interview data gathered, synthesis began to draw key takeaways. Some of the biggest takeaways were,

  • There’s an atmosphere at live events that you cannot get from coverage.
  • People’s opinions online from sources such as Twitter and Facebook were not always reliable.
  • Content from aggregators such as Buzzfeed is funny and interesting but not always real news.
  • Regular people’s photos and videos came closer to the feel of being at the Olympics than any other type of content

Originally, the problem statement revolved around specifically user-uploaded content. However, it became apparent through surveys and interviews that people also appreciated traditional news from sources such as NBC or ESPN. Because people valued different sources differently, it became more and more important for the content aggregator to cater to specific users’ needs.

User-uploaded content and traditional news sources for Rio 2016 had to be aggregated and sorted out for users, depending on their preferences for sources.

Interview and survey data were used to create personas to design the app around.

Both personas have a reason for wanting to consume both user content and traditional news.

Victoria is a viral news follower. While she does not have any particular favorite events or athletes, she wants to see inspirational stories from underdogs and the breakout of famous athletes. She also would like to see user uploaded photos and videos to get a feel of the fun atmosphere at Rio 2016.

Alex is a nationalist Olympics fan. He wants to see news related specifically to his favorite countries and sports. While he prefers traditional news for information on the standings, he wants to see user uploaded photos and videos from his fellow fans at the Olympics to get in on the competitive spirit.

Design

Because there was so much content to aggregate, the issue of how to sort the content came up. A fun idea to sort content by location came through in the form of an interactive map.

The first iteration of the map had way too much information.

The map would feature the four main locations of Rio 2016 and tapping those locations would lead to another map with the venues for each event. Tapping the venue icons would lead to a feed with only content related to that venue. Unfortunately, this feature confused users in usability testing because the map provided information overload.

The information on the map was scaled down considerably

In the next iteration, most of the extraneous information on the map was removed and grouped sport pictograms replaced the previous icons. Additionally, the bottom news carousel was creating confusion as users thought it was related to the map in some way. For this reason, it was replaced with live photos from the locations.

My News had a little bit of onboarding to customize feeds.

Another feature was created to allow users to have customized news feeds sorted by sports, countries, or athletes. This was made with the Alex persona in mind.

This iteration of the onboarding screen was made with the iOS HIG in mind.

Because onboarding was so dry to usability testing, suggestion buttons were added to attempt making the process more enjoyable to users.

The original layout for news feeds was supposed to emphasize photos

For news feeds such as the ones pertaining to specific sports or to specific venues, the first iteration of the layout was created to closely resemble other photo-heavy content aggregators. However, usability testers stated that this layout felt too newspaper-like and did not believe that user content could actually go into this layout.

This feed layout is supposed to feel more live than the previous layout.

The next iteration of the feed was more friendly towards user content and even more visual. Plus, a like system was added to help push trending stories toward the top of the feeds.

Technical Constraints

Mockups of the main features of the app were brought to a panel of experienced developers to ensure that all features were capable of being built. The main questions were,

  1. Can content from different sources such as NBC, ESPN, Instagram and Twitter be aggregated onto one app?
  2. Can content be sorted by location for our venues feature?
  3. How can the app determine what sources of content users prefer?

Luckily, all questions were answered.

  • Content from different sources can indeed be aggregated as long as it’s listed in the API. Our team checked APIs from Twitter and Instagram.
  • User content can be easily sorted by location through geotagging. Traditional news sources can be sorted by location through keywords such as names of sports and venues.
  • Machine learning can assist in sorting content for users. If users spent more time tapping and reading certain sources while ignoring other sources, the app could learn to provide more relevant information to the user.

Next Steps

Though much work was completed in this two-week sprint, more remains to be done for the future.

  • The interactive map needs to be fleshed out more. More interactive elements could be added and refined to make the experience more usable.
  • Allow users to directly upload content onto the app.
  • The liking system still needs to be tested and reworked.
  • Give users the ability to save stories and share their stories onto social networks.

If you would like to look at the prototype, you can find it here.

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