Exploring user needs in news: shifting from writing for users to creating experiences for users
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This thesis examines the role of user needs in online media, focusing on the specific needs of online news, as well as interface customization based on user needs. Readers of online news have a different way of interacting with news than those who read news from newspapers or watch it on their television. These users thus find themselves faced with different needs than those consuming news from other media. As such, this thesis focuses on exploring which user needs are present in the context of online news consumption in the Netherlands. There have been a number of studies on user needs in news in the context of writing for these needs. Dmitry Shishkin is one of the pioneers of leading these studies. As such this thesis will look into the theories he brings forth and will build upon them. This study will explore how user needs can be used in the context of dutch news outlets, as well as further explore how designing for specific user needs can impact the user experience of users. We aim to answer two questions: How well do Shishkin’s six user needs fit to identify the user needs during an online session within a large dutch media corporation’s news application? And secondly, How does adapting the visual presentation of digital media products based on a specific user need change the user experience with the application? To do this we use evidence from user data from a large dutch media company, namely DPG media(De persgroep), diary studies, and interviews. This study shows how specific user needs vary from company to company, and how specific user needs can be too granular for designing for needs. The first research question revealed that Shishkin was mostly correct. However, there are parts of his study that do not fit into each company. We also found that there is a specific user need for scanning headlines. As such, we focused on this user need for the second research question. These results revealed that users generally respond positively to prototypes that focus on improving specific needs. However, when looking at specific prototypes there were still many people who would prefer a standard version. As such have also stated that they still prefer the choice of switching their user interface themselves, having the autonomy to customize their interface. After looking through the data and interviews, the results were consolidated into a set of guidelines for creating scannable interfaces. This thesis thus contributes to the field of HCI by improving upon the foundation that was created for news media presentation and interface adaptation. But it also proposes a set of guidelines for creating interfaces for specific user needs, as well as contributing to the broader HCI field by filling in the gaps in user interface adaptation.