Yesterday five of the Interhacktives took part in Build The News: a two day competition run by The Times and Sunday Times to digitally innovate the way stories are presented.
We were up against 10 other teams to create a product that would enhance user experience and benefit the business. Competition was tough.
We decided to think about how desktop, mobile and tablet media could be used to emulate the way in which families and friends share print articles around the breakfast table on a Sunday morning.
Sitting around a circular wooden table at 10am, eating croissants and drinking coffee, it felt like the perfect time to pass around an interesting article from the Sunday Times magazine. That’s what inspired us to develop a recommendations and annotations system for The Times and Sunday Times digital subscribers.
HOW IT WOULD WORK
Within an upgraded Sunday subscription, a user would be able to create circles of individuals they would want to share articles with. These could be, for example, “family”, “colleagues” or “close friends”. A user could create as many circles as they wanted, and each circle could have any number of people in it.
On each article in The Sunday Times, there would be an option to “recommend”. This is like “share”, but it is meant to be more personal, and would be directed at specific circles or individuals, rather than everyone that a user is connected with on a social media platform.
As well as being able to recommend the article, the user would be able to incorporate annotations intended just for the individual or group of individuals receiving the recommendation, such as “mum and dad, I thought you would find this paragraph really interesting”.
Each annotation would be a maximum of 400 characters, to avoid reading them becoming a chore.
Once the user had added all the annotations they wanted, they would click “save and recommend”, generating a unique URL making the annotations visible only to the recipients.
A search tool, similar to that on Facebook, would allow the user to find their intended circles or individuals by typing in the name of the circle/individual.
In terms of how the recipients would be notified of the recommendation/annotations, there would be three possible options:
– “Notify via email”: the recipient(s) would receive an email notification at the address associated with their Times and Sunday Times subscription.
– “Notify via Facebook”: the recipient(s) would receive an Facebook notification. This would only be possible if the recipient(s) have Facebook accounts associated with their Times and Sunday Times subscription.
– “Notify via Twitter”: this is for those who want their annotations to be more open to the general public. They would tweet the link at specific individual(s), but the openness of Twitter means that anyone could click on the link if they see the tweet.
The conversation would then continue if the recipient(s) decided to add their own annotations to the article. In the same way as the original recommender, they would be able to click anywhere on the article to add an annotation. Pressing “save annotation” would generate a new unique code and all those involved in the conversation would receive an automatic notification.
Laura, the Interhacktives’ designer, created a series of wireframes to show the user experience, and we presented these to the group:
Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we learnt a lot. You can you find out what happened step-by-step at our Tumblr, here.