Why All Media Outlets Need to Start Thinking About UX Design

“In spite of massive technological innovations, the role of journalism serving people hasn’t changed.”

Media is everywhere and everything

We’re in the era of infinite media, says blogger and strategist Steve Grey. At a time when anyone can create and disseminate information freely, how do we design products that keep audiences paying for their news?

It’s a question nearly all media organizations face as emerging communications technologies continue to challenge traditional reading experiences. And, we know UX or experience design can help answer it. These ways of thinking help provide a more holistic view on how individuals engage with and digest content in the real world.

Going digital first — or not?

Some newspapers, such as La Presse, are scrapping their print publications all together. La Presse released its free La Presse + tablet app — supported solely by advertisements — in 2013. While the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail likely won’t relinquish print any time soon, they have both launched revitalized tablet apps this year.

Yet, according to a 2014 study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 70% of smartphone users have downloaded a news application but only one-third engages with these apps on a daily basis. This begs the question: who even uses news apps?

Consider UX design

As UX designers, we tend to think of people first. We ask: how will our audience interact with a product in a specific context and why? For many publishers, it’s technology that drives innovation. But, as CBC’s executive producer, Spencer Walsh, told us at DesignMeets… NewsMedia, it’s imperative to consider a reader’s needs when creating new media applications and platforms.

How will our audience interact with a product in a specific context and why?

To do this, many organizations are boldly staking claims in this new landscape by reaffirming their identities. Take the BBC, for instance. In its Future of News report, the U.K.’s biggest broadcaster explores the purpose of public service journalism on the internet, or rather in the infinite media age. Its duty to keep its audience informed is more relevant now than ever. Just as our panel at DesignMeets explained, in spite of massive technological innovations, the role of journalism serving people hasn’t changed.

Thinking like a UX designer

The infamous New York Times Innovation Report, made public after it leaked online in March 2014, highlights the staunch habits of legacy media. “The vast majority of our content is still published late in the evening, but our digital traffic is busiest early in the morning,” it says. “We aim for ambitious stories for Sunday because it is our largest print readership, but weekends are slowest online.”

Many readers (users) now access their news through more than one channel, depending on their context

Organizations now know they can’t expect the same print practices to work in the online space. Rather, they need to start thinking like UX designers by adapting to these new contexts of use. That’s how they’ll learn to understand what their “users” are doing — it’s important to distinguish between a reader in the print world and user in the digital sphere.

While it’s still impossible to crack the enigma of how to make money online, it’s crucial for news organizations to learn from their audiences, all the while putting out good journalism and continuing to give people the information they need.

Originally published at www.pivotdesigngroup.com.

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