Reading articles requires time users don’t have. As a consequence, the public is less informed about issues that have a profound effect on everyone.
With Seconds news content is presented in a bite-sized format.
To confirm the issue, we talked to editors of local news media sites. The focus was to find out about the reading habits of users and any potential issues media companies face on the web.
Reading habits were analyzed. In particular, the Knight Foundation and the Nielsen Norman Group provided essential insights into reading behavior and the effects of different article formats on usability.
We went a little wider with the research than initially expected. Each element of a standard web article has been questioned. For example, what’s the role and effect of using images and does having light text on dark background benefit the users when reading on devices?
Taking a look at the comments sections of media apps provided insights on how users feel about the most popular apps. Comments usually offer a lot of insights into the situations in which users use particular apps.
Based on discussions with potential users of the app, we visualized a typical day of the target user. That way the moments where Seconds could be used, were identified.
By talking to some of the local news editors, the issue of users not reading articles online has been confirmed. Research by the Nielsen Norman Group and Knight Foundation also provided useful insights into user behavior. One of the findings showed that the shorter the article, the higher the percentage of words the users read. We also looked at research studying the effects of skimming articles on comprehension and discovered it had an adverse effect.
The research phase confirmed the lack of time as one of the leading factors why people don’t read more and surprisingly the tendency for users to share content without even reading it. Also researched were legal aspects of the product especially in regards to copyright issues.
At first, we started to test summarizing tools as a possible answer for providing shorter articles. Two issues have been discovered during that testing. The first is that the tool summarizes the whole article and as such also includes the non-essential information. The second problem is the quality of the summary.
At the same time, we were testing summarizing tools we also started to look at the Apple Watch and the watchOS platform. Putting summaries on a smartwatch didn’t work. Even the shortest summary proved to have too much content for the watch.
That’s when a solution for a new format has been discovered. Instead of full sentences, a bite-sized text could be used to convey the essential information. That way the information provided needs less characters and words.
We compared the summarized format with the bite-sized one with random users. The bite-sized format proved to be viable for users that had preexisting knowledge on the article category. For example, users that follow tech news regularly had fewer problems with the bite-sized format.
There are two issues with the news apps for the smartwatch. The short line lengths and the requirement to hold the arm lifted for a longer duration don't provide a good user experience. The second issue is that to read the text scrolling is required. As a consequence, the reading experience on the watch requires both hands. That contradicts the smartwatch value as a device that provides information at a glance.
Some apps, for example, Instapaper, ditched the text altogether and only offer an audio experience on the watch. But this solution is not flexible and requires the user to be in a particular place and time to be able to listen to the news.
To allow the user to use Seconds with one hand only, we turned to a ticker. Technologically the Apple Watch from the second generation onwards enables to run apps at 60fps which proved to be essential to the experience. The ticker runs the latest news and doesn’t require the user to scroll or swipe. It’s not a perfect solution since users don’t read text word by word. But it proved to be the best alternative.
By using the crown on the Apple Watch, users can adjust the speed of the ticker.
To make the sharing process faster, we tested various UI alternatives. The user had first to select an option to set as default. After that, a swipe was needed to share the article. At the same time the user swiped to share, new content appeared allowing the user to share and move to the next content at the same time. Tests showed the alternative wasn’t user-friendly due to a learning curve. An issue was also the horizontal swipe movement required to share as it wasn’t natural.
The next iteration included all sharing options displayed at all time. We changed the news flow from horizontal to vertical to avoid the need to make a horizontal swipe to move to the new content. To share the users had to tap the appropriate icon and swipe up. At the same time, new content appeared from the bottom allowing the user to make two actions with one swipe.
During our prototype testing, we confirmed that users share to just a limited number of sites. One or two methods, for example, Twitter and iMessage, were used for the majority of the time. That made us go back to the solution that required the user to select a shared method as default.
To reduce the learning curve for new users, appropriate CTAs are used.
Building a habit
To make a product users will repeatedly use, is a challenge. For that reason, a time indication has been integrated. The user saves time to read articles in Seconds and that is displayed at the top of the screen. To calculate the time saved the average time needed to read through the lengthy article from the source is compared to the average time required to read the summarized content in Seconds.
On the left side, the total time saved for the content currently on the screen is displayed. On the right side, the total time saved in a month is indicated. That way the user get’s an instant display of the advantage by using Seconds.
A suggestion was also to include projections for the whole year, but we wanted to try out the feature first before iterating further.
We eliminated the titles and only show the content of the article. That way the decision process, whether to read or not, is simplified as the user goes straight to the core content.
Martel has been selected as the primary typeface with Martel Sans for time-saving indications. The typeface has a high x-height, open counters, and glyphs that are distinctive from each other. The goal was to select a legible typeface that is suited for body text use.
We tested a dark UI version, but users preferred the color scheme with blue and green hues.
With the NPS, feedback is gathered from existing users. It’s also used to measure any changes in satisfaction when introducing product updates.