Designing Meaningful Interactions – Writing Assignment

A Complaint Letter about The Top of the New York Times Mobile Homepage

I used to read the New York Times religiously. Then they changed their mobile homepage. And soon after I switched to The Washington Post. For example, the very top of today’s front page.

…WHERE IS THE NEWS?

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(Shout out to the new Duck Duck Go mobile browser app.)

All I see are three photos, a lot of white space, and the word “advertisement” where an ad should be loading.

(To save myself a longer rant, I won’t complain about two other things that bother me: the rest of the homepage, and their headlines.)

Just focusing on this top area, I see a few issues:

  • I see no actual news. Why is Trump on the website today? What is that accident? What’s happening to Janet Yellen? I feel like a toddler holding a picture book.
  • I don’t get where I want to go when I click on one of the images. I can click on Janet’s face, but I’m taken to a much longer debrief of the news today. Buried half way down is the story about Janet’s last meeting at the Federal Reserve. But I thought I had clicked on only Janet? Almost everywhere else on the internet, people are trained to see a “thumbnail” image as a unique link… But not here.
  • The news seems to be mostly about me. I see the words “Your” and “you”. But I came to the New York Times to read about the rest of the world, not to keep hearing about myself.
  • Half the news is advertising.  I’m fine seeing an ad at the top of a site. Some advertising as a necessity.  But I pay a subscription to read the news. I haven’t gotten any yet.

I know the Times must have good UX research to back up their decision to leave behind their old webpage architecture for this new one. They still use the traditional layout on the web, which is very dense with links, font sizes, and images.

I’d be curious to hear about how many people leave their new mobile homepage, though. And if those people are having the same experience!

Here’s my solution, which is based on the idea of a carousel of images that a user can flip through.

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An Ode to My Radio Alarm Clock

I love my little radio alarm clock. Having one means I get to wake up to music on the radio and spend zero time on my phone before bed. It may look plain and simple, but that’s the point. No glowing screens or pointless trips around the internet, and instead some nice Aimee Mann, Drake, Billy Joel, Beethoven, Caribbean or Irish music on the radio.

An object is beloved by someone for its value. What does it offer?  Is it purely functional or is it a luxury item? Does it say something about you? Does it require attention and care, or does it hum along in the background?

Features

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My clock is beloved by me because it enables me to do two major things I need in life: listen to the radio, and wake up on time.

As for the first “feature”, I am a big fan of the radio. I have it on all the time, especially public radio.  I like that can turn on the radio anywhere in the apartment. Public radio, commercial radio, talk radio, commuting hour radio, weekend radio – all good to me. For me, the radio gives the feeling of “live right now”, almost like a performance. Public radio especially can say a lot about a city, town or region.

As for the second “feature”, I wake up better to music than an actual alarm.  I’m less likely to snooze my alarm so that I can hear whatever’s on… therefore I actually wake up instead of go back to sleep! The alarm function also means I don’t need my phone for its alarm function. Before I kicked the phone out,  I noticed I felt pretty unsatisfied after reading the news (AGAIN) before sleeping. Once I swapped the clock for the phone, I found myself reading more books and magazines.

Interface

The interface itself is great as long as I use it every day. But if I take a vacation and come back, no matter how hard I try I will set the alarm incorrectly — and then won’t wake up. Based on this, the design could be improved.

I believe the lapse in my memory is due to the fact that while the interface is streamlined (there aren’t too many buttons), this leads buttons with two functionalities depending on whether you press quickly or hold them down. This tension between simplicity and usability is always there when designing.

Fabrication

As a final note, the touch and feel of the radio is very pleasing. Instead of hard plastic on the top, there is a soft rubber layer. This gives it a minute amount of spring to the touch. It also keeps the temperature of the object from getting too cold and unpleasant to touch, which somehow makes it easier in the morning!

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