In my previous post on designing a tablet reader interface I discussed personas and goal analysis (audience and purpose). There is one more area for analysis before you start creating the user interface, or even the basic wireframes (architectural drawings): you need to consider the content.
What type and how much content will the tablet interface be presenting? It’s like an architect asking a couple, “Do you plan to just live with your cat? Or will you be expanding to include 12 children, 4 dogs, 6 cats, and an attached barn with 16 cows, a chicken coop, and stables for the horses?”
You have to know what you are designing for. After all, the tablet reader is a machine for delivering content: what will that content be?
A design that will accommodate 20 articles a day is different from one that enables readers to navigate tens of thousands. Generally, a design project that involves considerable content requires you to create a content inventory and analyze the metadata (data that describes that content).
For example, news stories include a lot of information besides the usual byline; all of these elements are considered metadata: the news topic (section), headline, teaser text, reporter, related photos assets, related video assets, photo and/or video credit, publish date, last updated, location, and keyword tags, to name a few.
The metadata is important because it not only drives how the content can be organized, it also drives the user interface methods (such as navigation and search) and it guides the underlying database structures and software code that ultimately serves up the content.
Even within the news industry, organizations may deliver considerably different types of content. Consider these examples:
CNN focuses primarily on breaking news, and being a cable television outlet, it needs to deliver a lot of video in addition to text and images. CNN covers a wide range of topics, and a tremendous number of stories. Because it is so focused on breaking news, the CNN tablet app needs to offer live news coverage. CNN readers/viewers are also interested in CNN’s own TV personalities (“the talent”), like Anderson Cooper, almost as much as the stories themselves.
Like CNN, the regional newspaper (or a wholly digital service like DNAinfo.com or Patch.com) may also focus primarily on breaking news, and a fairly large quantity of daily news. However, it also serves the community in other ways, with local events calendars, High School sports coverage, and local notices (births, deaths, engagements, legal notices, and so forth).
Unlike national news, local news serves as a record of the history of the community: the businesses, individuals, and community organizations that make up its fabric. As a result, it is important to offer a large searchable archive of stories to enable readers to find and bookmark older articles about themselves and their neighbors.
NPR is primarily a radio news outlet. It doesn’t produce as many stories per day as a national newspaper, and not all of its reports are breaking news; there is often thoughtful investigative journalism, reports on trending issues like climate change and science, and virtually timeless pieces on art and music.
Many of the listeners have heard about a story from word-of-mouth or from radio, so it’s important that its tablet app include features that will support keyword search. On the web and in tablet form, NPR delivers text and images. Naturally, this radio-based network also needs to deliver the original podcast version of each story.
As you can see, a single tablet reader app design would not likely work well for all three types of news content. The design needs to consider quantity, breadth, depth, metadata, types of media, and the types of content (besides the main articles) that will be managed and delivered in the app.
OK, now that you’ve thought about your audience, purpose, and content, you’re finally ready to start designing your app.
Next Up: Tablet User Experience Design