To cater for the general public, news channels serve up stories in a way that the general public can easily digest and understand. At the time of working with Channel 4 there was an opportunity to allow people to go much deeper, to discover the news and opinion 'behind the news'. There was an opportunity for Channel 4 to hold up a lens to the details, and offer deeper information, stories and opinion to those that may have already 'heard' the news that day.
The Clearleft team had worked with Channel 4 News before, but this was the biggest challenge yet. We needed to find tiny ways to make big changes to a vast eco-system of content production. Not only did the new website need to adapt to many devices and screen sizes, it needed to adapt to the fast-paced way the news itself gets produced.
Channel 4 and ITN work together to deliver the news, which means there are lots of people involved at each stage. They have an enormous responsibility to the public but their online strategy didn't reflect the many ways in which news is captured and consumed.
Change in behaviour.
Channel 4 news team now know that their viewers are connecting directly with the personalities who deliver the news. We've also learned that journalists, including John Snow, felt empowered by being able to offer a 'live from the news room' feed.
Rise in mobile traffic.
From the off, the analytics showed a marked increase in mobile traffic. The new designs meant that content was accessible on every device.
A big first and a trend-setter.
This was the first fully responsive news site in the UK, and a leader in the trend of asking newsroom journalists to tweet, blog and share insights from the floor of the newsroom.
The Full Story
So how do you work together to understand your users?
The Clearleft team kicked off with a collaborative workshop in our Brighton studio to dig deeper into the needs and expectations of the news audience. Channel 4 News took us through their audience archetypes, which was a great starting point for us.
For good design to work, everyone involved needs to be in agreement on the priorities of the project. By getting everyone in a room together, there was a great sense of collaboration and co-creation between Clearleft, Channel 4, and ITN.
By getting everyone together we also learned that some users want bite size news and other people want in-depth reporting on newsworthy topics. So how do you provide for these varying needs?
How do you cater for different user needs on such a large range of devices?
During the process, we plotted out the rhythm of the news — where it begins, and how it can grow and change over time. The website needed to be flexible enough to accommodate ephemeral flashes of news, but also the type of slow-burning stories that simmer for weeks or months.
For in-depth reporting on newsworthy topics from around the world we devised a section on the website ‘Fact Check’ to highlight the long-form news.
We designed a ‘live from the news room’ feed to slake the thirst for snackable content ‘updates’ (This turned out to be very empowering for the journalists too).
One of the ways we reached collective agreement on prioritisation was by demo-ing designs with real devices. When the content needs to fit in the palm of your hand, you really need to test it and figure out what matters most.
Throughout the process, we checked our assumptions. Even if we only had a quickly-made prototype, we made sure to test it.