Oct
2009

Their Needs

The idea behind my website is a more localized version of Wikinews, or the iReporter from CNN. I am looking to create a user generated media site, in the style of Criagslist, meaning the user can click on their state, and their town, and upload their news story.

While doing the research on what the user needs for this site, I came across something Hearst Argyle has started called, “ulocal.” Hearst has rolled out a big commercial campaign for the stations both online and on-air to promote ulocal. I have seen a number of commercials for it in the last week. Basically this is very close to the idea I have been playing with. Most of the Hearst TV stations now have a ulocal link on the top of their pages. For the purpose of this research I am going to focus on WMUR in New Hampshire and their ulocal site.

WMUR is a perfect example of how this service can work well. They are the only network TV affiliate news station in New Hampshire. The entire state get a hodgepodge of news over their airwaves. In addition to getting WMUR, some can see Boston stations, some can see Maine stations, while others only get WMUR. So ulocal is a great outlet for the viewer/user to log on and share their news stories that perhaps WMUR can’t get to or can’t deem important enough for their broadcast. The goal being, everyone in the state is coming to this website for their local news, so ulocal is an option for someone to share their story and other folks in the state might actually see it. It’s also a great resource for WMUR to find stories and connect with the community.

I think it’s also important to acknowledge the technical restrictions in Northern New England. In Maine and New Hampshire we are slightly behind in some areas of technology. There are few areas where we get G3 service for cell phones and still to this day a good chunk of viewers still receive TV over the airwaves and not via cable or satellite. Since the digital transition, this has caused many viewers to loose their TV signal and loose what few stations they could get. Many people do still have dial up, but many also work off of DSL because the phone company will provide it. They may have the internet, but not TV.  That being said lets get down to business and figure out what these folks will be looking for in their website.

Their Needs:
Simple design. They layout should be simple and easy to navigate. My complaint on Wiki and iReport is I can’t find anything local. If there is something happening in my town, its complicated to navigate to that.

-Easy Use, not too complicated, easy layout. Anyone from a 16 year old to a 60-year old should understand how to use the site.

-Spell check.

-Mapping feature.

-Sharing feature, share with social media sites (Facebook, Twitter).

-Upload options, video, audio, still images.

-Browsing options, view other states news, or browse your area.

– Source confirmation, at the bottom of the page for each story, the user must make clear the source of the story.

-iPhone application, CNN just launch the iReporter iPhone app. The iReporters can now upload on the go.

-Commenting, I am still on the fence about this option. The user will want it, but it will be up to the community to police the site and report and/or block inappropriate comments.

If I were to launch the program today the following is how I see it working:
As the user logs on for the first time there should be either a map, list of states, or even simply a “Find Me” option. Something like enter a zip code and find my location. Once entered the user would be re-directed to a screen with multiple windows. In the upper left would be a “My Location” heading with a map of the zip code entered. On the right would be a section labeled; “Here’s whats happening in your area” or “Recent News In Your Area.”

The side of the page would list either other towns in that surrounding zip code or simply an option to browse other areas. Before the user can take the next step, of telling their story, they will need to log in and create an account.

The account is important because we want to weed out people who may abuse the system. Like any other website there will not be a perfect solution, but we need to do as much as we can. One on hand it would be too much to ask a user to upload their drivers license information, but email and phone number is not going too far. Once the user has established an account, they may move on to the next step.

Most importantly in the center of the screen would be “Upload Your Story.”

Here the user has a choice of a simple text story, video upload, or even an audio upload.

The next step would be to classify the story. Is it a personal story, breaking news, traffic, events notification, general news, sports and so on. Each one of these categories will have a description in order to better explain to the user best where their story belongs. Also the idea is to not give too many options. I don’t want to confuse the viewer so they get frustrated and go away, never using the site.

Once they have classified their story, then they can move on to uploading it. Similar to a WordPress blog, they can write the text here or copy and paste it from another program. They could also upload an image, video or audio. Just like Youtube, there will be an agreement each time they upload confirming that they have the right to upload this video, audio or image.

Next up will be the confirming of the story. This will have two parts. All stories will need a source. If the story is categorized as a “Personal Story” then no source is needed, but this should be made clear at the bottom of the stories page. If the story is “Breaking News,” the user will need to explain how it’s breaking news. Sports will need to explain the person attended the event.

Finally all stories are considered pending until the user logs into their email and confirms via a link that will be emailed to them. Something like, “Are you sure you want to post this and is all of the information you are posting true?”

Once confirmed, then the story is live, and the user may share it on social media sites. These details are again, in a perfect world how I would see the site working. I am certain there are things I have not covered or have missed. So comment away and please be constructive.