Check out the Latest Articles:
Comments Off on Users, Humans and Eyeballs: Designing for News Readers

There is something endlessly frustrating when a news site launches a redesign that is a barely changed rehash of a large media companies older design.

Few, if any, media companies are backing up their design with user experience science. If the final sites are any indication, we have paid little attention to decades of significant study into UX and reader patterns. We shouldn’t be imitating them.

Instead, we try to determine design based on imaginary user stories and A/B testing. The problem is that when we treat humans as users, we forget to account for designing in a way that matches how real people read. When we A/B test there is the potential to find better designs that still aren’t good.

The first value every site design should solve for is readability. The people who come to news sites are there to read. Yet bad design patterns that challenge readability don’t just abound, they multiply.

The last few years have seen an explosion of low-contrast text, despite it being obviously harder to read.

Lines with too many characters also continue to plague websites, making them difficult to scan and forgetting the basic column-width lessons we learned laying out print newspapers.

The undifferentiated grid is another example of a common design pattern, which experienced growing popularity due to ease of scalability for responsive designs. A series of identical boxes makes no sense when compared to how our audience actually looks at the page.

This isn’t to say complexity is impossible, in fact we should consider it required.

  • Abandon the “clean” design and build sites that respect our readers interest in finding the news.
  • We can dig into scanpath theory and find opportunities to present visual complexity to inform the reader.
  • It is to our financial advantage to do so, driving additional engagement and page depth.

Studies exist to tell us how our audiences interact with pages in a general sense, we tend to ignore it. Understanding how our readers eyeballs work in the general sense means building designs informed not by trends or other news orgs, but by science. Much of that science is publicly available, waiting for us to use.

We can also start borrowing scientific methodologies to better understand our individual audiences and, in the process, connect with them. Eyetracking hardware is dropping in price, and is well within the range many news organizations should consider a purchase.

User studies are another way to take basic UX techniques and use them to improve your site and connect with readers. Reach out to the community and invite them to test draft redesigns or tweaks. Designers and developers should be observing and asking questions.

News organizations can give their audience the opportunity to interact with the people who make the site and learn what their preferences are directly. At the same time, your readership can begin to feel like they have a stake in how in building the site.

A nice after-effect? Making readers feel valued by your organization.

The first step is to use real data, the big kind that comes for complex scientific studies and the small kind that comes from talking design with our readers.

With better tools and connections into the community we can start driving better choices to impact how we build the news. The news media can start looking at atomic, delayed, or personalized news with the confidence that we can build whole new workflows for reportage that create better engagement with our audience.

This piece is for Carnival of Journalism.

Image via.

Collections of Additional Sources

Source: Users, Humans and Eyeballs: Designing for News Readers

Comments Off on The Best Star Wars Nonrequired Reading of 2015

You’ve seen Star Wars (very possibly more than once) and you want to join in the critical conversation, or at least see what people are going on about. Here’s a list of the best writing on the web about the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.

What follows is a list of the best articles I’ve read about the new Star Wars film, please suggest more in the comments and I may edit in additions if people point them out. This isn’t everything I’ve read, but you can find that list online too. All links here are from a central site where I’ve archived the pieces, but they will forward you to the original piece.

From here on out, there will be spoilers.


Our Star Wars Holiday Special – The New Inquiry

The New Inquiry’s Aaron Bady takes the inclination to hyper-analyze Star Wars and the very idea of its originality and puts both under the microscope. That makes it the best candidate for perspective to start with before you dive deep into the critics.

Rey is not a role model for little girls (major spoilers ahead) Mike Adamick

Mike Adamick takes on and breaks down what makes Rey different from the endless boy heroes, a trend significantly boosted by the original Star Wars series. This unmissable piece discusses the significant positive impact of Rey as the hero of the new film.

The “Star Wars” fandom menace: The glaring emotional blind spots that power “The Force Awakens” –

Lili Loofbourow at Salon takes on the problems of scale implicit in the plot of The Force Awakens. If you’re at all interested in the ethics and impact of Star Wars on the modern media mind, Loofbourow breaks down the tragedy of Star Wars biggest flaw, how The Force Awakens gets away with it and what it means.

How Rey and ‘The Force Awakens’ could change ‘Star Wars’ forever – The Washington Post

What to do when you’re not the hero any more

Both The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg and Laurie Penny for the New Statesman take on how Rey offers a direct challenge to the traditional Hero’s Journey narrative archetype, with Penny sketching it out on the larger cultural stage and Rosenberg diving deep into the mechanics of change in The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Merch’s Sexism Problem: #WheresRey Highlights Dearth in Female Toys – The Daily Beast

Jen Yamato documents the continuing trends in franchising and how they’ve led up to the dearth of Rey toys on the shelves. Throughout, Yamato tracks the rise and possible success of the #WheresRey social media campaign and takes care to illustrate why having more Rey action figures for sale is important.

Dear “Star Wars” fans: I’m super sorry I ruined the whole thing for everybody –

Andrew O’Hehir, also of Salon, challenges the idea that any film franchise–much less one as large as Star Wars–requires its fans to jump to its defense.

The Myopic Web: shrinking the filter bubble with Dropcat

Every person you follow or block, every app you use, you’re making a trade-off, the hope that this new stream of information will give you exactly what you need in exchange for closing yourself off a little more from the rest of the world. There have been a lot of things written about “the filter […]

Going to work at

Big news! Starting next week I’ll be working with as a Full Stack Developer. Salon has always been a website to watch and they are doing great things working with journalism, the mobile web and WordPress. When I interviewed with them, it was clear that they’ve also got plenty of awesome projects still to come. I’m […]

If you came to this post from my Facebook you’ve been participating in a little not-so-scientific experiment on my behalf. For most of the month of January almost all of my Facebook shares have passed through a new site I set up with WordPress and PressForward. On I archive a copy of everything I’ve read […]

My 12 rules for talking with others on the internet

The hardest part of doing better on the internet (at least for me, and in my experience for many others) is following these rules. I don’t always get there, but I’m always trying.