Relevant News application

UXDI Project 1 Retrospective: Putting the user first

Introduction: Going in blind

When tasked with creating a mobile news related application my first thoughts were to start thinking about all the fanciful possibilities that I would like to see come to market. I imagined creating applications that would be of interest to me personally or something derived from a targeted area i.e. environment or political specific applications. This is a difficult mind-set to detach yourself from and one of the first lessons I’d be learning on my UX journey — you’re not designing for yourself, your designing and providing a solution/need for the users.

I first set about trying to understand why my partner decided to select the news topic in the first place. His reasoning, was recently his interest in the topic had been piqued by all the global political unrest, with news being sensationalised and media inaccuracies sweeping the social spheres. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this but what I wanted to ascertain was whether the ‘Fake News’ tag was a true concern for the majority of people or just something that’s now automatically associated with the word news.

Below is the process and findings that led to the creation of the Relevant News application.

User Research: The art of the interview

Understanding the target market and discovering what the user wants through research was a fascinating and complex experience. There is definitely an art to the process and I clearly still have much to learn.

I soon realised the importance of preparation as you’ll only get the right answers from asking the right questions, (and without the luxury of going back for second and third attempts). Knowing what it is that you want to get out of the exchange and directing the conversation impartially and without bias is a skill in itself. I realised that I went into the interviews with preconceptions and that my hypothesis was not validated by the first round of interviews.

Conducting a second round of questioning to test and further validate the initial findings as well as taking the interview process outside of the classroom environment for further insight and comparison was a crucial experiment and helped to reaffirm the research.

A key takeaway for me was the recording of the interviews. This was an invaluable resource, as you tend to miss out on a lot of personal nuances in the dialogue when scrabbling to take down notes and also helps to gather additional insights later on when compiling notes for the affinity mapping.

The Art of the interview — still so much to learn
Topic mapping and Key interview take aways

Information Synthesis:

We set about to gather qualitative research to determine a problem that could then prompt a solution. While mining the data and mapping it out to co-ordinate specific similarities and correlating that data lead to the following insights:

  • Users only want relevant and accurate content in their newsfeeds
  • Users don’t want advertisements — this falls into the relevant content category but also due to time and screen display nuisance issues
  • Users know what their content preferences are and this is not always related in their feed
  • Users want to easily compare articles against relevant sources for authenticity and news accuracy
  • Facebook newsfeed is the preferred platform for news (among the users that I interviewed) and that users are prepared to stick with it regardless of the issues mentioned above

An interesting discovery that led to the Relevant News solution was that users prefer to read their news off of the Facebook newsfeed as opposed to opening up separate news applications. Why? mainly because the social sphere makes them feel more connected because of the interactions with friends and global community.

“This is going to sound weird, but social media news feels more alive, more open and makes me feel connected.”

This led me to believe that another news app or RSS feed simply was not the right solution and that Relevant News should integrate the users Facebook feed while offering customisable features to give them more control with relevant content and without the advertisements.

Post It analysis
Digitised affinity map- including additional note details made correlating the data easier

The app solution….

While users are not completely satisfied with Facebooks newsfeed they were unwilling to entertain the use of an alternative application. So, if the user isn’t willing to use an alternative what options does that present to help to resolve their current usage issues. The easy answer is for Facebook to provide the solutions to their main painpoints but that realistically is not going to happen. The alternative is what I’ve proposed….

Giving the users what they want, a separate standalone application which pulls in the individuals current Facebook news feed content (news related articles only) but offers news source, topic filters and to help further refine the content, with an article rating function. Removing all advertising and including an article comparison feature.

Flow and Wireframing:

Once the problems had been isolated and I had an idea of how I’d like to resolve them, the flow and wireframing development was reasonably straightforward. Not being a user of Facebook myself, presented a working knowledge obstacle and I had to do a fair bit of playing around to figure out the workings and understand why this was everyone’s preferred platform (which I’m still not convinced about).

Relevant News application workflow
Initial sketch workings and Flow diagrams
Wireframing
Relevant News application

Conclusion: Fail forward

I didn’t feel that another news or RSS feed application was a solution and by indication that wasn’t what the users would have wanted either. Relevant News gives the users what they effectively wanted and are familair with, addressing the key issues that they were facing with simple customisable features and in that regard I feel it was successful. There are however issues of integration which I never had the time and therefore the understanding to investigate.

Working prototype : Relevant News

Hindsight is a wonderful thing:

I had compiled my findings and body of work for the presentation in a manner that was not meant to really sell the application but more describe the content and findings and this was a mistake that will have to be addressed in the following presentations. My presentation timing was ridiculous and learning to be more succinct and concise in my delivery while compiling better directed slides is something to rectify. Student feedback back, backs this point up and was very valid and well received.

I feel time management is going to be crucial moving forward and applying the teachings from the days lecture directly to the project is critical in ensuring the lesson sticks. I also feel that picking up new software’s will be a challenge due to the time constraints of having to deliver while learning on the go and wanting to produce a high standard of work to illustrate competency in using the industry standard programs while meeting deadlines.

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