Enhancing Your News Experience

User experience (UX) is particularly important for news platforms, so it’s crucial to understand how audiences absorb information and prefer to receive it. 24.com’s UX Design team is constantly working to best serve users across the Media24 brands.

How often have you become frustrated by a confusing interface or an overdone experience that slows everything else down?

Your user experience plays a huge role in how you engage with services, and this applies to news platforms as well. They operate in a fluid and competitive space where keeping readers' attention can make or break their success. The 24.com UX Design team is tasked with creating the best possible UX across Media24 and its flagship apps and web.

So, when News24 prepared to create a new games section for its subscribers, Roxanne Williams, 24.com's Head of User Experience Design, and her team went to coffee shops and asked patrons to test the section’s design. This guerilla method is one of several ways they test the UX of products across different Media24 brands.

"We have a small but very strong team,” says Williams. “We work on all products, brands, platforms and devices. It's one thing creating one user experience. But it's quite another to do so across an evolving range of products."

Building a UX culture

Good UX doesn't happen spontaneously. It should be an early and intentional part of creating a product or service. But it's not a “UX First!” ultimatum. Collaboration sits at the heart of creating winning user experiences, and UX designers work closely with other teams.

"The beauty of being a part of the UX Design team is that we literally touch most teams," says Williams. "We have to be mindful of factors like how our ideas could impact performance or maintenance."

For the 24.com team, UX design has three primary groups:

  1. The user.
  2. The business and its requirements.
  3. The technology.

Business requirements initiate most UX journeys, representing near- or long-term goals. The UX Design team takes this objective and holds brainstorming sessions with systems architects, engineers, and product teams. “We need to understand the business need, so we unpack that with the product team,” says Williams. “Sometimes we have negotiations with the technology teams because we must consider our systems and their performance.

Equipped to deliver great experiences

24.com's design decisions focus on multiple products – new components or features could be repurposed on multiple platforms and brands. 24.com uses an in-house design system for design layouts, templates, and components – not just for consistency but also to generate multiple design versions and test different ideas.

"If you have multiple products, in order to really create efficiency and scalability, you need a design system in place. Any big brand – Apple, Google, IBM, all the big, big players – has a design system because there are so many things to consider."

The design system’s flexibility helps the relatively small UX Design team create sustainable designs, and keep their eye on new trends and ideas – although not every trend is worth chasing. And no UX is ever truly finished, so the team continues to work iteratively on launched services, using agile processes to keep them focused yet flexible.

"We spend a great deal of time looking at best practices and industry trends. We can prototype something upfront before we build anything and do usability testing. That saves a lot of trouble down the road because all good ideas are just assumptions until you test them. You don’t want to fix those when everything is already developed. That's very expensive."

Good UX relies on three pillars:

  1. Understanding the business requirements by working closely with product teams.
  2. Bringing technology developers and architects in early to see what will work best.
  3. Testing ideas with users to ensure what you’re thinking is what they want.

News24 and its sister brands continue to be South Africa’s biggest news source. The work done by Williams and her UX Design team deserves a good slice of the credit.

"Good design means good business. That’s a key thing to consider that is sometimes overlooked. The return on investment of good design is always strong. But good design is not just about nice icons and menus. It's a collaborative effort, and it’s great to do this at 24.com in an organisation that takes UX seriously."