Skimming the News

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The Challenge:
Design a digital product addressing the experience of reading news on digital devices.
The Outcome:
Skimming, a digital news product that allows readers to skim content to sift out relevant and important information to read in depth.
"We put our lives on hold in the expectation of receiving yet another does of critical information about all the most significant achievements, catastrophes, crimes, epidemics and romantic complications to have befallen mankind anywhere around the planet since we last had a look." Alain de Botton

Is reading the news time well spent? We are constantly in a hurry, on the move from one place to another. This hurried behavior is present in digital life too. We constantly flick between various social media platforms and an endless ping of notifications keeps us from paying proper attention

As news readers, we have an almost unlimited amount of information to consume. The scale of the information presented to us differs depending on where and how we encounter it.

Throughout the day we are presented with information on Twitter, Facebook, Slack, email, text messages, Instagram, push notifications and Internet browsing.
We make choices when presented with content at various scales. It is easy to scroll through a Twitter feed, taking in small bite sized pieces of information. With a quick glance you get an overview over what is happening (depending on who you follow). 

Clicking on a link to a news article requires more effort. Where are you and what are you doing while clicking on the link? In a meeting? On the subway? In line at Starbucks? In the bathroom...? 

Because of our lack of both attention and time, someone designed the app Pocket. What percentage of articles saved to Pocket do readers go back and read? 10%? 15%? 20%? Readers do not need another save-it-for-later app. What readers need is a better way to determine what is worth saving for later and what they can skim through on the subway or in line at Starbucks or on the toilet. 

Our reading habits are changing due to the unlimited amount of information calling out for out attention. Reading the news, an activity once reserved for printed matter and typically a deliberate process, transforms into a non-linear character online.
We tend to move at a faster pace, scrolling through content as we click from news article to news article. Such behavior encourages word spotting, skimming and selective reading as our eyes move rapidly over the text. As a result, everything becomes a blur when we scroll. 

Rather than attempting to slow an online reader down, what would happen if we designed for skimming and word spotting, to aid the hurried reader on their way? How does scroll speed affect the way we design for reader? Does the article become less and less verbose as we scroll faster? How can we code articles for scale and speed?
Through multiple rounds of iteration based on reader feedback I designed a simple feature using JavaScript to enhance the skimming experience while scrolling. This feature works across digital devices of various scales, from smartphone to desktop.
By enhancing and enabling skimming of articles, readers have better control over the amount of information they process every day. By skimming the article for a quick overview, readers can make more informed decisions as to whether this is information they already know, want a bite sized update on or to save the article for more thorough reading later. 

Visit the link below to try this skimming experience on your phone, tablet or laptop.
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