The following article tells the story of an experiment, an invented app for which we have realized the concept, UX and UI design, story, and motion. Enjoy!
“Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”
Imagine… sharing all the world. It sounds beautifully utopic, at first. But can you actually imagine the amount of content we share globally every day? John Lennon’s dream has become an overwhelming reality.
In a world where 70 million blog posts are published every month, and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s safe to assume that most published material won’t be relevant in a matter of weeks. This means we often end up spending more time researching content than enjoying it.
At work alone, 2 hours a day are spent looking for the right information. The web is oversaturated with so many different forms of media, it sprawls beyond the boundaries of a single app. Books on Amazon come by default in a paper, e-book, and audio form, and we can listen to articles on Curio, Noa, and Narro, or through Alexa´s Article´s Reader Skill.
But why do we, mere end-users, need to devote so much time to searching? Why not simply get what we want, at any time, without even asking?
When we take on a project here at New Monday, we always start with “Imagine.” We ask ourselves questions like, “what would happen in two years from now, if money or tech weren’t concerns?” With this mindset, nothing impedes our imaginative capacity. First, we create a story, sketch out ideas, and let the best win. Then we digitize a prototype and let After Effects infuse life into it.
Here’s how this idea started: Imagine if A.I. personalized publishing. Imagine if we had all our media in one place, selected by a friend who knows our taste better than ourselves. Imagine if Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” applied to all kinds of content. It would be comforting yet surprising, personalized yet effortless.
A WORD about the DESIGN
As a team, we had to set some rules and priorities. Almost immediately we agreed that there is one law to rule them all, which we have freely borrowed from our fellow countryman Albert:
Imagination is more important than the tech stack.
In short, if our dream could only be technically realized in the distant future, we’d try it first and worry later. This “app” was born as a prototype, an experiment. Prototypes are there to fail, and we see failure as the beginning. UX-wise, we have focused on simple gestures. We’re confident that most of it could be accomplished simply with vocal commands, which would lead to an absence of UI.
Here’s our concept for the interaction design:
- Anticipatory design
If the range of alternatives is known and limited, then the user can receive without asking.
- Invisible UI
If we can anticipate, then we can guide. This was one of the hardest challenges since there is the option to drop the UI entirely, as the O.S. of Spike Jonze’s Her. We have decided otherwise to make the ideas visible.
We’ll get to more about UX choices later in the article.
GETTING THE CONTENT — A.I.
What is our relationship with the information we allow into our private sphere? It can be both a curse and a blessing depending on its content, origin, and quantity. Spotify’s Discover Weekly “knows us” by mashing our behavior with that of similar people within the platform. People like me enjoy things like this. And magically you find Nina Simone next to Grimes.
Despite the joy such applications can produce, many of us have an ambiguous relationship with the algorithm. Yes, we like to have new content tailored to our taste at our fingertips. But what if I want my taste to evolve? What if I don’t want the same content as similar people? The algorithm ignores this highly existential dilemma in a world that promises the freedom to be whoever you want to be. Suddenly, we realize that we are not as unique as we thought we were. And the algorithm isn’t helping. To “trick” it, you need time: time to research, try other platforms, and enter friends’ and strangers’ playlists.
We want to be free. Free to choose how to spend our time, how to see the world, and how to define who we are within it. Imagine if platforms respected these needs and fears, allowed us to zoom in and out, and let us be both settlers and explorers — whenever it feels right.
RELATED CONTENT: “DIVE IN”
Now, imagine you are in the mood to read, so you enter this new app that presents you with all kinds of media from many sources, collected especially for you by A.I.. This is not another endless list that sends your head spinning. In this app, you enter and you actually find…peace. Your screen is uncluttered and friendly.
One organizational trick is clustering, which almost all platforms already do. In Gmail, emails are grouped into conversations. News articles can be sorted by topic, and Netflix and Spotify categorize by genre and vibe. So why are our screens still so overloaded?
Imagine if browsing through media were as simple as Tinder. Images, videos, audio, and articles from different sources are grouped per topic — but you see them one by one, swiping through them in a Tinder-like fashion. Like browsing through the pages of a magazine or the hangers of a clothing rack, you stop where it feels right. Isn’t this our natural way of making intuitive decisions?
Speaking of natural — why not bring our digital conversing behavior closer to our analog one? Normally, at the end of an article, you would find suggested articles, all on the same topic. But this is not how humans converse. In a dialogue, we react to specific pieces of information under an umbrella topic. Imagine a dinner party conversation:
- Khalil starts: “Being vegan saves CO2 and is the only way to save our planet.”
- Sarah disagrees: “But if everyone ate tofu, that would be even worse for the environment.”
- Aya agrees: “The world’s population will never be entirely vegan, but tofu does help save land and cut down on CO2 emissions, even if it might not be the best food available.”
Here the umbrella topic is veganism, and the trigger is statistics. Our usual reading behavior would trap us in an echo chamber of one of these opinions. With “DIVE IN”, we highlight key sentences within an article and connect them to complementary (or opposite) information from different sources, to deepen and diversify knowledge about a specific topic. The user has the option to be all of the people in the conversation at once — if they want to.
The full picture
Let’s say you found an interesting article and want to know more about the topic. How do you proceed? Do you click on the suggested articles or start Googling? There is a high risk that you would get distracted in the process. Maybe an ad pops up, or you come across ten other interesting articles, or your friend texts you, etc. The vicious cycle has begun. At the end of the day, you’ll likely feel burned out. We believe that the feeling of being overwhelmed by media is harmful not only on an individual level — but also on a global level. It creates anxiety, simplifies worldviews, and promotes the consumption of fake news. To stay positive and motivated to learn, people have to feel that they are in control.
We know how important it is to reduce negative stimuli and to see all sides of the truth. The full picture. We know that everything, from users to content, has to be viewed within a context to be fully grasped.
Imagine a tool that helps you understand. Imagine it motivates you to dive into a topic you like, and not only deepen but broaden your knowledge. With a simple pinch, you can zoom out and view the original content next to related articles. Simply zoom into something new, and enter a new one from there. You don’t always have to see the full picture — but when you want to, it should be easy to get.
ROOMS “happiness is only real when shared”
At New Monday, we hold a special place in our hearts for people. The ones we want in our inner circle. Of course, there is no substitute for hanging out in real life. But, external circumstances and the ever-quickening pace of life doesn’t always allow for face-to-face encounters. And yet, after a long day, there is nothing sweeter than passive content consumption with your loved ones, like “Netflix and chill,” or listening to a podcast together. So far, nothing has been invented that makes this possible when you are not in the same room as your friends. Now more than ever, we are feeling its consequences. This stay-at-home pandemic (note to the reader, we are animating the video during the lockdown) is screaming for an evolution of the video chat experience. While apps like Houseparty (and since last week Airtime) are trying to steer video chats into a more natural flow, participants are still required to communicate and plan, and often that’s not what we want to be doing. We just want to not feel alone.
Of all the efforts to create a “new normal,” we believe that the gaming scene has gotten the closest so far. While you and I have wasted many an evening struggling to decide whether to be social or stay at home, gamers have been combining both worlds for years now. The gaming industry creates social spaces that individuals access from the comfort of their own homes. Games don’t demand interaction — gamers are free to chat if they wish, or silently hangout. The essence of the communal space is about sharing an experience together.
This is where we went — all together now, one last time:
Imagine this was possible beyond the world of gaming and within our app. A.I. would help create the perfect plan for your passive yet social evening! Raise your hand if you would like to watch something with your friends, that no one has seen yet, AND that you can mathematically guarantee everyone will like? Once it’s playing, you can talk, send messages, trade reactions — or simply be quiet. But you take comfort knowing your friends are there, and after the credits roll, it’s like you’re leaving the cinema together: sharing a giggle, confusion about the ending, or some inspirational reflections.
We at New Monday were born and raised in the Media & Publishing industry. We firmly believe that content IS a social connector, and, in the not-too-distant future, our content consumption will be fluid and intuitive. You will be able to “ask” for a [new] book, that you will surely [+95%] love. It will accompany you on your upcoming trip and last 12 days [according to your reading habits]. While visiting some temples, you can listen to it read in the voice of John Legend.
We might just have to wait a little bit longer.
We had tremendous fun putting “Imagine” together. In the meantime, you can find us continuing to experiment. If you have a great idea, drop us a line, and we’ll bring it to life together.
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Thank you for reading!