Categories
Portfolio

EN.nl

EN.nl news website
 

EN.nl

What is you start a news website from scratch and try to leverage technology the furthest we can. This is the question that got us started with EN.nl. We build a completely autonomous news website. A news service that learned readers behavior and adapted to the individual reader.

The year long journey brought learned us a lot about find a balance between editor’s and automation. The rise of personalisation. What people say they want and what they actually click. And how to build a strong technical news infrastructure that’s versatile and flexible. As a product owner I was responsible for the innovation project. The EN.nl project was a project of de Volkskrant Innovation department. The technology, research and learnings from EN.nl benefitted multiple sites and projects within de Volkskrant, resulting in an optimzed workflow and readers behavior.

Role(s)

Design Research, Product Design, Product Owner, Interaction Design, Visual Design

Data

2009 – 2010

Company

EN (Volkskrant), www.en.nl (site is offline, available through archive.org)

EN.nl had the first iPhone optimized news website in the Netherlands
 
EN.nl NRC Handelsblad newspaper clipping
 

Screen recoding

Categories
Portfolio

de Volkskrant

Redesign Volkskrant.nl
 

De Volkskrant

Over the past decade the news industry is in a major transition. It has to reïnvent the business model and distribution model. At the same time, we consume more news then ever before. It’s a growth market that has to reinvent itself. This is what really attracted me to the media industry. De Volkskrant is a leading Dutch newspaper.

At the Volkskant I worked as Senior Interaction Designer and Product Owner for 5 years on a range of projects focussed on web, mobile and innovation. I did two redesigns of the major News website Volkskrant.nl. I build the first video player and worked on video distribution to mobile and smart TV’s. I worked on satellite websites around travel and opinion. I explored new distribution models of news resulting in the first API. I worked on mobile and widgets.

Roles(s)

Design Research, Product Design, Product Owner, Interaction Design, Visual Design

Data

2005 – 2010

Company

Volkskrant, www.volkskrant.nl

Volkskrant iPhone app
 
Categories
Interface design Mobile Projects

Content as Software

I recently worked on a large mobile project for the Volkskrant. The project contained mobile websites and numerous applications for different devices, including iPhone apps (iTunes link).

The Volkskrant on iPhone

Content as Software
I learned about the term content as software from Gerd Leonard. Not only does it sound very interesting, it’s also a very exiting development that follows from a series of events. A move from RSS, followed by widgets, API’s and standardization in platforms.

These new platforms like Adobe Air or the iPhone development platform make developing applications easier and accessible to a new and broader groups of developers.

On the other side software is being replaced by the – todays very powerful – browsers. Google is working hard to replace Microsoft Office functionality with Google Docs, and adding even more (web) functionality like working remotely together on documents.

A computer without internet connection is half the fun, or to most people useless. The computer as a communication device needs the web as much as it needs power. Todays software needs the web.

Should a media company make software?
Content as Software. Should media companies deliver content as software? We decided to with the Volkskrant iPhone application because we think an application gives a better user experience and is more effective on the iPhone platform compared to a mobile website. The New York Times released a desktop application based on Adobe Air. The content in the application isn’t unique, the presentation is.

A great advantage of distributing software for publishers is that it gives control to some extend. For example the Times Reader has free and subscription only articles in the same application. The “free” user experience is good, but they will try to persuade you to become a subscriber.

So, should a media company make software?
I don’t know. Just because we now can as easily develop software as we can develop websites doesn’t mean we should. From a pure logic perspective it doesn’t add much value to the content. It’s still the same content. From an emotional perspective it does add extra value to the experience, it’s a nice package. And that’s something you shouldn’t underestimate. An application is also more persistent, it’s always there on your startup screen, desktop or in your dock.

The best thing with content as software is to just try it. Like you would try with a website. Release soon and often. Todays software is like the web.

The Volkskrant on iPhone
Screenshots of the Volkskrant iPhone news application

Times Reader
Screenshot of Times Reader Desktop application

Categories
Featured Interface design Usability

The underestimated value of marching backwards into the future

For an interaction designer not using the potential of a medium is horrible. There is this new medium with new a paradigm, new possibilities and you are using it the same way as the old medium. Let’s call it a transition period. McLuhan called it marching backwards into the future.

The value of the transition
For a designer there is nothing to gain in the transition period. It’s pretty frustrating to design the same old things on a new platform. We love using the new challenges a new medium gives us. And early adopters love designs and applications made for new media too.

And despite this there is incredible value in the transition. All thanks to the mental model. People are used in using something. And especially with digital media they have a mental model that tells them where they can find whatever they want. This is important when there is a new medium. They don’t understand the new medium, yet. But they do know how to navigate through your information as long it is structured the way it was on the old medium. And a large group of users will like it. See it as a beacon.

Examples

From paper to web
The newspaper where I work has this online image (pdf) based version. That looks exactly like the printed version, only online. From a web design perspective the interaction design is horrible. But it works for most users, since they have the mental model of the paper version. They know where to find what they are looking for. And this makes it easy to produce, and valuable for a large group of customers.

From television to web to iPhone
Dutch teletext is a very popular news service on television. TheY transported it to the web into an interface that doesn’t really make sense for the medium. And it was also transported to widgets and the iPhone. Creating a large group of very satisfied users.

From web to iPhone
The popular Dutch newswebsite Nu.nl is transporting the news website to the mobile sphere. Their readers except a similar experience on the iPhone as on the website.

From books to the Kindle
The Amazon Kindle and other eReader-devices are bringing the experience of reading books to the digital world. With a strong focus on recreating the same reading experience on this new device. In first instance they are neglecting (in communicating) the possibilities of these new devices that range from using hypernarrative structures, non-linear storytelling to importing the friends from your social network as characters in a book.

Why transporting the mental model to a new medium?
You slowly convert the mass from one medium to the other. It is often cheap to do and you will create a very popular service. It also gives you extra time and freedom to make something that is tailored to the medium. You earn some extra money and you are still connected with your users on the new medium.

Just some thoughts
How long can you stretch this? And would it for example make sense to convert the newspaper (paper version) to a pdf and make it viewable on your iPhone? Most readers will have the mental model of the paper version in mind and reading and browsing pdf-files on the iPhone gives a pretty good user experience.

Does it also work the other way around? For example the news website Nu.nl started on the web, can they transport the mental model used on the website to paper as well?

Do you have examples of successful companies that transported their content from one medium to another without altering the interface or way it works too much?