Many young adults in America don't know what's going on in the world because they feel they don't have time to keep track of global news.
An interactive global map that displays a curated list of top global news stories from the New York Times. People can see what's going on all over the world, and drill deeper for more information and context.
I was in a class called Interactive Systems Design and Technology. We had to build a web application with Python that used APIs to provide a useful service to people. It was election season, so we were all talking about world news. We realized that a lot of people, including us, didn't know about some really important events. We did some quick online research.
Why don't people read more news articles?
Young people consume a huge portion of their news through social media because it's more convenient and consumable. But given the choice, people generally prefer a single, trusted news source.
People often don't consume world news because of time constraints and other obligations
Multiple sources sited "being overwhelmed" or "not knowing enough about what's going on" as reasons why they didn't read articles from news sites
People obviously had trouble taking the first step in learning about global events. We played with how we could make world events more consumable.
To address the fear of helping people easily "catch up" with events they may feel out of touch with, a timeline of important global happenings or topics that organizes stories into a linear narrative
No wonder people feel overwhelmed. A feed of articles doesn't always show what concepts are most pressing or relevant. Maybe a "Topic Cloud" that uses news sources and social media to emphasize certain topics. We could make this more relevant to people by letting them customize the algorithm that highlights certain topics.
We are visual creatures. News sites might include locations of global events, but it can be hard to visualize where these events are playing out geographically. A map of news stories could provide this context without overwhelming people. (spoiler: we went with this idea)
We started by setting up the back-end, since that was the focus of the course. Because of the time constraints of the course, we iterated directly on the front-end code as we refined the interface.
To test each iteration, we conducted usability studies with students. We asked them to explore the application with the goal of understanding global current events. We wanted to know how useful the tool was in helping them explore and contextualize news meaningfully.
1. Since people prefer one trusted News Stories, we pulled from a curated list of top world stories from the New York Times
2. Let people see where news is playing out, which will help them actually remember it, and avoid bombarding them with information.
3. Give surface level information to help people decide if they are interested in reading more or not by showing a story's title when they hover over it on the map.
4. To focus users' attention on the stories on the map, hide the story list on the right, but give a quick route back to the global map ("World View")
5. Show an image and preview of the article from within the application so users can get the overall point of the story, which they can associate with the location.
Users said "The landing screen doesn't make it clear what I am supposed to do with the tool."
Some people were still initially overwhelmed by all the options initially visible on the map. A "Daily Briefing" of the top 5 news stories gives them a place to start.
Users said "The tool helps me see where stories are, but I still don't know much about the locations themselves or what's going on there." We could add a More about [topic or location] option that would pull from different sources to give context to a story
Users said "I'd like this to only see stories I care about." Customizing by topic would make the experience more personal.
We started designing this for a desktop interface. And that was fine. Users like computers, but they also like smartphones! We know from our research that a huge portion of people consume news by smartphone. We want to make our tool just as usable on a mobile device. We had several considerations when approaching this effort.
Maintain a consistent navigation structure and visual style across web and mobile interfaces.
Prioritize interactions with the map in the design, since that is the primary value we're offering our users
Clearly communicate the state of the tool at all times.
Let users customize what stories they see, and make applying these filters intuitive.
We created sketches and an interactive wireframe of our mobile interface. Because of time constraints, we're still working on implementing the mobile interface.
Explore how we could represent various states of the map and show helpful levels of information about stories while users explored the map.