Fable: a crowdsourced journalism product concept
This design concept was of a news product with crowdsourced news stories, intent on providing its users an expressive outlet tied to social and cultural significance. The concept might be best imagined as a Wikipedia-like information platform with Twitter-like content, presented in a Flipboard-like medium.
The core intent of this project was to imagine a collaborative news experience which gave the participants of cultures ownership of their own narrative, while striving towards journalistic ideals of accuracy, clarity, objectivity, relevancy, and reliability in the content of the stories through the democratic mechanisms of crowdsourcing.
I built this experience concept in the form of a mobile app.
I developed the direction for the form from 2 places: users’ mental models trained by other social information media like Wikipedia, Reddit, Instagram and Twitter from where I developed the form of the interaction design, and an attempt to leverage the experience of trust associated with traditional notions of news and journalism, from which I developed the information design and visual design direction.
The tone of the experience is sombre and primarily content-driven. It places the content, news stories, at the heart of the platform and does very little beyond that. The aesthetic of the platform as a whole derives from visual elements associated with the news stories such as serif fonts, justified typography, and sober shades of yellow and white with accents of blue.
The design principles around which I designed the experience involved firstly a commitment to prevent distortions between the user and the source of truth, and secondly a focus on creating a sense of identity with one’s broader community or cultural identity through the medium of news.
Project details
Nov 2020 – Feb 2021
Solo effort, subject to weekly rounds of peer-reviewed grading.
I completed this project as the capstone project for the online 8-month Interaction Design Specialisation offered by UCSD San Diego. It was largely a technical exercise bringing together techniques of research and product design.
Hypotheses-driven design / information design / MVP testing
This project proceeded through alternating steps of design and research across 3 phases.
Initial exploration
Starting out with an open-ended brief of Redesign people’s experience of time, the first step was a 7-day diary study of 7 different participants in an attempt to understand problems in their experience of passing time during covid lockdowns.
User research
The first research phase of this project was centered on taking forward the design concept that emerged from the previous phase and understanding firstly the different kinds of user behaviour to expect on the platform, and secondly identify the core design problems to solve.
Designing the core experience
The first design step of this process synthesised the research insights from the previous step by putting together a simulation of the core functionalities and running a MVP test over a few weeks to observe how different users might experience and contribute to the platform.
Mental model research
After having validated and further refined the core concept of the experience, I researched different existing platforms to identify design patterns and interactive models to leverage in the design of the platform.
Product design
Finally, with all of the insight I had gathered regarding the design patterns to leverage and the design problems to solve for, I designed the user experience of the product for all the functionalities.
The ultimate product concept had a variety of objectives: at the level of the individual user, at the level of the community that the product would form, and at the level of the cultures that the product was trying to represent. My focus throughout the project was on exploring techniques of information design and design testing to consolidate the product experience towards these key objectives.
Initial exploration
Problems in everyday experience of passing time
Research phase I
How might a user experience this product?
Design phase I
Core experience
Research phase II
What mental models would this experience engage?
Design phase II
My objectives through the course of this project were 3-fold; to explore techniques of research and experimentation involved in constructing experiences, to apply theoretical constructs of information design towards product design, and, later, to explore this idea of news holding the place of mythology in the modern day. Since I had a lot of control in deciding the process and procedures of the project, I ended up going pretty far with all 3 of these objectives and exploring formal aspects of product design pretty comprehensively.
Looking back, the most obvious flaw in this project appears to be its lack of categorisation of different kinds of content to expect on the platform. In categorising different kinds of user behaviour, I failed to capture the nuances of different kinds of subjects and the different kinds of content involved with each kind of subject.
This would have proved to be a fatal short-sight of the design if the concept had been shipped to market; the experience would prove to be heavily unsuited for certain kinds of content and might even have been the cause of violences of different sorts in more sensitive areas. If I had to go again, I would probably spend more time thinking about the content of the platform itself this time round.
That said, through its exploration of community-driven journalism in relation to digital information platforms, this project helped me develop a more nuanced perspective towards information products like Wikipedia, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media, with a bigger spotlight on what purposes they exist to serve and how they fracture and construct narratives of who we are and the world that we live in. This perspective is something that I find myself resonating with to this day.
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