media start-up company
1 year (2017-18)
2 weeks (2020)
ux researcher &
Why do the Generation Z (+ millennials) often skip to read the news? More specifically, why are young readers, even those who wish to find out more about actual politics, profoundly discouraged to read political news? After research, we discovered that users often feel distressed by the rampant use of perplexing jargons in news. Also, long-term issues are hard to keep track if they miss a little piece of information, especially when there are multiple interrelated figures and issues to digest.
Meanit is a crowdsourced dictionary-based news platform for young adults mainly targeted for age 17-25. In Meanit, users communicate with each other and can freely add their definitions or any new vocabulary, describing their understanding of the word’s context in various formats like brief text within 200 characters and GIFs.
Meanit has three different design versions. First Beta 1&2 are from the start-up project, and recently I self redesigned Beta 3 based on the evaluation on Beta 2.
If you want to directly jump into the design walkthrough, click one.
The project encompasses the entire cycle of user research, design, prototyping and product release. Most of the major design decisions were based on the insights and feedback from formative research and multiple usability tests before the final implementation.
The formative research phase includes semi-structure interview (10 participants), survey (24 participants), and literature reviews. These are all aimed to understand our target audience (17 - 25) within the problem space we defined. After conducting research, I learned that the target user group has following major characteristics as news consumers.
They CARE about what's going on
The fact that they do not read articles does not mean they are indifferent. Surprisingly enough, our target users are avid to keep up with current issues ranging from politics, social issues to fashion. From the survey, more than 80% of the respondents answered that they are ‘deeply interested to know current issues’. However, the average number of the articles they read is comparatively low which is about 2-3/week. Also, more than 70% consume news through new media and social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This implies that users are exposed to numerous options available for them to choose through which they access the information other than legacy media. Also, they are more flexible with the definition of 'news' as they are more than open to a variety range of contents format from video, image, social posts, etc.
They want to VOICE OUT
According to the research (Kyunghee Kim et al) which proposes models of changes in motivation for news users over time, I found out that our target users embody the group who consume news through active participation as part of the content producer themselves. On the other hand, not much news media seem to serve their self-expressive motivation. Right now, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat (+ potentially TikTok), etc. are the main channels where young adults can execute their multi-faceted attributes as contents & news users.
Created interpretation notes based on the interview data and grouped them into categories which we derived insights from
Based on insights derived from the research, most of the problems diverge upon the three key pain-points below.
Also, I created three distinctive personas each representing different (but still highly relevant) pain points and needs. To me, as a designer, personas are helpful for multiple reasons; it is a great organizing tool to elaborate specific problems where I can spot more valuable design opportunities. Also, it helps me to relate myself to potential users. Additionally, persona functions as an anchor point that always guides me to make right design decision that solves the real problems.
Design process is largely based on iterative testing and user feedback as it had went through a major transformation from Beta 1 to Beta 2 (to be continued on the last phase). In this phase, I came up with several design ideas that align with our target users’ needs found in the research phase. After the general framework of the application and functions are determined, I moved to the next step for a rough screen layout with an information architecture.
Major design decisions are as followed:
For the very first thing of design process, I always make free rough design sketches that include the key design features. Then, ased on the rough sketches, I designed the first version of the web-app.
The home screen (Screen 01 - 'It' mode toggle is on) is provided with a blank text field with a welcoming title The Things You Were Curious When Reading News. At the bottom, the trending keywords (words that have received the most number of upvotes and recently created) are listed by date. When user switches the toggle to 'Mean' mode, the screen changes into the text fields where users are able to add and define words of their own choices (Screen 03). Search results display cards that contain definition, user ID, other embedded media, number of upvotes, and option to report just in case it includes inappropriate contents (Screen 04).
I conducted usability test in order to evaluate the first design draft. The feedback from the tests were later used as critical reference for the final design version Beta 2. The key purpose of the test is whether they are able to understand the application purpose and key features. After conducting Heuristic Evaluation within our team members, we recruited 12 people from the target user group age 17-25. The test method is based on think-aloud framework. The tasks given to the test participants include:
Sign-up & log-in
Search the assigned words
Create a post of any words of choice
Give upvote (or downvote) to any post that you like or dislike
Other questions we asked after the test include:
Do you understand the function of toggle (Mean & It mode)?
What are the overall feeling of the experience? Are you willing to reuse it?
After the tests, there were several important insights and feedback discovered. Overall, they most enjoyed the fact that they can create posts and communicate with others within the context of current issues. However, there were some critical elements that could be reconsidered for the final design version.
Downvote might discourage them from posting more actively
The presence of blank text field show clearly shows it core purpose, but it is overwhelming for users who do not know what they want
Users have their own interests in certain topics
The different mode (Meant & It) is not distinctively separate
Based on the insights from the tests, I came up with a new design. First,
I came up with rough sketches, then a wireflow. Then, I added UI design for the final Beta 2.
With the final design model, I also created an interactive prototype which is mainly for archiving and communicating with my own team before the implementation.
To validate the design model, I conducted another usability test. In order to get larger amount of feedback, I chose survey. The test collected data from total 24 college students (11 female 13 male) and high school students.
The survey was to measure whether Meanit is useful, usable, attractive, accessible, searchable, and credible. According to the results, attractiveness got the highest rating (average 3.8) including most of the rating scale above 3.5 out of 5. The lowest rating was the credibility (2.5 out of 5) . For future design update, it would be great to find a way to make the contents filtering system.
This project includes a holistic UX process. Being responsible for the entire process from formative research, design, prototyping, to even marketing, I learned a lot of important lessons to keep in mind as a designer.
Design within Constraints
The project had a lot of freedom; however, there were constraints to work with. We had limited resources; especially having only one engineer in the team limited the project scope and this affected a lot of design decisions as well. Since we could not build both iOS and Android, we decided to use Web-app so that the service can be accessible more group of users.
Role of UX Writing
I spend a great amount of time to decide the writings on button, feature, menu etc. Meanit requires a great amount of user engagement in a fun and entertaining way even though the contents can be a bit hard and even boring to engage with. Therefore, creating the 'right' atmosphere and tone was important, therefore the way Meanit speaks to its user profoundly mattered.
Importance of Usability Testing
Several features and overall layout have been transformed through usability testing. Having other people's (especially that of target user) perspective reminds me of the problem I am trying to solve and helps me to unveil the hidden gaps that I missed out during design decisions.
In 2020, I decided to redesign Meanit. The core question in this process is 'How to convert the current design into English-based experience and how would it change the design decision. Also, I applied some of the usability problems found in the evaluation.