PROJECT OVERVIEW

Plural.AI is an interactive news aggregation app that makes it easy for millennials to stay informed on all sides of politically contentious issues while building empathy for different viewpoints.

        My Role

        My Role

        My Role

  • Product Design
  • Research & Strategy
  • Wireframing
  • Prototyping
  • Interaction Design
  • Product Design
  • Research & Strategy
  • Wireframing
  • Prototyping
  • Interaction Design

       Project Scope

        Project Scope

  • 10 weeks
  • Solo Project

       Platform

        Platform

  • iOS
  • Responsive Web

       Tools

        Tools

  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • ProtoPie

MY DESIGN PROCESS

Design Process

THE PROBLEM

The digital political landscape is dividing us

The digital political landscape is dividing us

In today’s world of digital connectivity, millennials are increasingly getting their news and forming opinions on important topics from sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram. These platforms operate on algorithms that are designed to push viral, shareable content that you want to see – favouring sensational partisan content over neutral stories.

This leads to polarized online echo chambers that are the breeding grounds for deep partisanship and political animosity.

LITERATURE REVIEW

LITERATURE REVIEW

One Site Graph

The Digital Political Landscape

In today’s world of digital connectivity, a whopping 62% of adults get their news from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Likes and shares are becoming the voices of voters, creating a new type of digital democracy.

“62% of adults get their news from social media”

(Pew Research Center, 2016)

“62% of adults get their news from social media”

(Pew Research Center, 2016)


Amplifying Polarizing Voices

According to the Pew Research Center, the general public is uniformly distributed across the spectrum of political beliefs. However, those who are the most politically engaged tend to fall on the extreme ends. In the age of social media, these voices are amplified on digital platforms, resulting in the illusion of a deeply divided community.

Polarizing Voices Graph

“Users tend to promote their favourite narratives and resist information that doesn’t conform to their beliefs”

(Study: “Echo Chambers on Facebook”)

“Users tend to promote their favourite narratives and resist information that doesn’t conform to their beliefs”

(Study: “Echo Chambers on Facebook”)

Digital Echo Chambers

Digital Echo Chambers

In a study called “Echo Chambers on Facebook,” social scientists found quantitative evidence of how users tend to promote their favorite narratives, form polarized groups and resist information that doesn’t conform to their beliefs. Alarmingly, when deliberately false information was introduced into these echo chambers, it was absorbed and viewed as credible as long as it conformed with the primary narrative.

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

Newsfeed algorithms – the modern gatekeepers of political literacy

Newsfeed algorithms – the modern gatekeepers of political literacy

News Aggregators

When benchmarking against existing solutions, I focused my research on news aggregation applications that are commonly used amongst millennials. Most of these platforms cover a wide variety of content and are not focused on political news. More interestingly, most existing solutions actively curate the news based on what the app's algorithm expects the user to like and agree with. This means that users are much more likely to be shown information that further confirms their point of view.

USER INTERVIEWS

Understanding ideological empathy blocks and the way millennials consume news

Understanding ideological empathy blocks and the way millennials consume news

In my research, I conducted 6 in-person interviews with millennial citizens in their 20s and 30s to examine how they navigate the digital political landscape in their personal lives. I wanted to uncover insights to questions such as:

  • How are millennials consuming political news? What patterns can I find in their behaviours?
  • What are the barriers they face in empathizing with others who hold different political views?

All of the users I interviewed owned a smartphone, and spent at least 5 hours a week using social media. To keep the results as unbiased as possible, I recruited people from across the political spectrum. Half of the users have voted for a left-leaning party at least once, while the other half has voted for a right-leaning party at least once.

RESEARCH INSIGHTS

Reframing the problem

Reframing the problem

I synthesized my first-hand research data and created broad, high-level themes from the insights I gathered. The major themes were:

Inconvenience

Inconvenience

People want to stay up to date with politics, but it’s not a priority and they end up only consuming news while multitasking

Literacy

Lack of Political Literacy

People are not well informed on the political parties they end up voting for, and tend to only read one source of news before forming an opinion on an issue

Gap

Informational Empathy Gap

People don’t feel comfortable sharing their political views with others with opposing views because they don’t have equal knowledge on each other’s perspectives and are scared of being misinterpreted

DESIGN CHALLENGE

How might we make it easy for millennials to learn about current policies and empathize with others who have different political views?

How might we make it easy for millennials to learn about current policies and empathize with others who have different political views?

How might we make it easy for millennials to learn about current policies and empathize with others who have different political views?

USER PERSONA

Empathizing with the user

Empathizing with the user

Empathizing with the user

I created a primary and secondary persona to represent and personify user groups who have similar behaviours. This gave me a clear picture of different users’ expectations and how they would potentially use a product solution.

I created a primary and secondary persona to represent and personify user groups who have similar behaviours. This gave me a clear picture of different users’ expectations and how they would potentially use a product solution.

EXPERIENCE MAPPING

Identifying real life opportunities for design disruption

Identifying real life opportunities for design disruption

Putting myself in the shoes of the primary persona, I developed a real life scenario that a user would currently go through when choosing a political candidate to vote for. By boiling the user’s political journey down to a single key moment, I was able to gain clarity and identify opportunity gaps for design interventions that would make a measurable real life impact.

Experience Mapping

USER STORIES & PRIORITIZATION

Translating design opportunities into product solutions

Translating design opportunities into product solutions

From empathizing with the user through a key moment in her political journey, I constructed a collection of user stories voiced from Cathy’s perspective. The goal is to translate her pain points into solutions that are feasible as potential product features. I grouped similar user stories into the following themed epics:

Prioritization Graph
  1. Neutral News Consumption (Must Have)
    "As a casual political spectator, I want to consume news and policies in a neutral and easily digestible form so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by too much biased information."
  2. Exposure to Different Views (Must Have)
    "As a casual political spectator, I want to easily read different sides of an issue before forming an opinion so that I can better empathize with others who have different views."
  3. Political Data Tracking (Should Have)
    "As a casual political spectator, I want to interact with articles and input my opinion so that I can track where I stand on different issues by simply reading the news."
  4. Candidate Matching (Nice to Have)
    "As a casual political spectator, I want to see which candidates my views most closely align with so that I can make an accurate judgement on who to vote for."

I prioritized the epics based on how close they are to the core product experience solving the design challenge. For the scope of this project, I decided to only focus on prototyping and testing the “must-haves”, with some additional “should-have” features if time allows.

TASK FLOW MAPPING

Visualizing the typical user journey

Visualizing the typical user journey

After narrowing down the scope of the user journey to 3 key tasks, I began to stitch together a preliminary flow to begin exploring how each step relates to others.

Task Flow

IDEATION SKETCHES

Initial interface design exploration

Initial interface design exploration

Sketches

WIREFRAMING

Prototyping in low fidelity

Prototyping in low fidelity

Based on the main features and task flow, I began to create initial low fidelity wireframes to prototype and test in rapid iterations. The goal was to test out different design components quickly and receive ongoing user feedback early.

Low Fidelity Wireframes

USABILITY TESTING

Evaluating design decisions by putting assumptions to the test

Evaluating design decisions by putting assumptions to the test

I conducted 2 rounds of usability testing, with 5 new participants per round. I asked users how they might go about reading a topic from a neutral, left-leaning, or right leaning perspective, and gauged their expectations around the app’s design and features.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Iterate, iterate, iterate

From the qualitative feedback I received, I pinpointed the key usability problems with my user flow and came up with design solutions to test and validate. Here’s how I incorporated user feedback to arrive at my final results:

FINAL SOLUTION PROTOTYPE

Introducing Plural.ai

Introducing Plural.AI

Introducing Plural.ai

Onboarding & Personalization

The intuitive onboarding process introduces the user to the core functionalities of the app, highlighting interactive features with a guided tour. Users can choose issues that they want to follow for a personalized experience right from the start.

Hi Fi Onboarding

The Political Slider

The political slider allows readers to easily read all sides of a story by simply dragging the unique control on the bottom of any page to curate articles with different viewpoints.

The political slider allows readers to easily read all sides of a story by simply dragging the unique control on the bottom of any page to curate articles with different viewpoints.

Reading Article

Deep Dive on the Issues

Users can explore specific topics in greater detail and read all the latest articles and perspectives surrounding a particular issue. The political slider allows readers to quickly surface articles written from different viewpoints to gain a bigger picture of the topic.

Users can explore specific topics in greater detail and read all the latest articles and perspectives surrounding a particular issue. The political slider allows readers to quickly surface articles written from different viewpoints to gain a bigger picture of the topic.

Political Slider

Interacting with Articles

At the end of every article, the user can input how much they agree or disagree with the content. This allows the app to track where the user stands on different issues. In future iterations, the app can also use this data to suggest candidates that would best represent the user’s values.

At the end of every article, the user can input how much they agree or disagree with the content. This allows the app to track where the user stands on different issues. In future iterations, the app can also use this data to suggest candidates that would best represent the user’s values.

Topics Slider

CONCLUSION

Reflections and further exploration

Reflections and further exploration

Throughout this project, I had the valuable experience of conducting in-person interviews with users about a topic that many of them are very emotionally invested in, but reserved when it comes to sharing their thoughts with others. This really challenged me to ask deep, probing questions to break down walls and elicit honest reactions on the way people actually feel. By putting the interviewee at ease and asking open-ended questions, I was able to collect massive amounts of raw data and quotes to draw valuable insights from.

Considerations for Edge Cases

As the political slider moves along the scale, the contents of the home page gradually fade in and out, creating a gradient effect. However, as the reader drags the slider from one state to another, the text opacity ends up layering on top of each other in certain areas, resulting in illegible headlines. For further exploration, I can experiment with different text transitions other than shifting opacity, or consider creating “sticky” positions on the scale for self-correction so that users will never land on undesirable states.

Designing for Experienced Users

For the scope of the project, I designed the solution with only the primary persona in mind–a casual political spectator. However, in the case of an experienced political enthusiast, there are many areas to explore for future design iterations. Some features to add might include: 

  • A breakdown of the user’s personal political “DNA” showing where they stand on each individual topic
  • Sources and journals accessible with each topic and article to dive deeper into the research
  • A visualization of how the candidate they’ve voted into office has performed based on the user’s values

Selected Work

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