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Designing Interventions: Twitter Moments

Print / Digital / Research

Social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, deliver digital news to readers in visually deceptive ways.

The format of article previews all look the same. They don’t care to distinguish if some content came from a parody or fake news organization. To them, it’s just another article to show on the feed that will garner likes and shares.

The two article previews shown below illustrate this dilemma. Glance down at them for a second. Do they look legitimate? Both consist of a large hero image, eye-catching headline and caption used to draw in people’s attention. So what exactly is different about them? The left article is produced by The Onion, a satirical news organization. The other one is from a trusted news outlet, The New York Times

The visual design of the preview on these platforms makes all articles look legitimate when they very well might not be. People assume they’ll receive a full-length article after clicking through the preview. These platforms are playing off of the way people read traditional newspapers. Twitter Moments is the epitome of this paradigm.

From the research my teammates and I conducted during this five week project on digital news, we found that the majority of social media platforms fail to meet this expectation. People have trouble identifying the difference between a fictitious and factual news report because the design of the preview commands the same level of trust and authority.

Team: Noah Johnson, Jessie Headrick / Duration: 5 Weeks
Contributions: Competitive Analysis, Ideation, Mockups, Prototypes, Video Editing

 
Quote from a recent NY Times article (October 2017) highlighting the problem in the design of digital news previews.

Quote from a recent NY Times article (October 2017) highlighting the problem in the design of digital news previews.

When Twitter Moments first launched, Twitter described it as the "go-to place for casual news at a glance".

They format their previews in the same way that Facebook does, as if it's attached to a full-length news article. What's shocking is that they don't even deliver a paragraph of content after the preview. They simply show related tweets selected by an algorithm. It's not at all moderated by a real person! There also isn't always a source attached to the piece of news. Twitter Moments essentially compiles its "articles" by crowdsourcing content from users on the platform.

Disappointed by this feature, we thought up a design intervention for how we could restructure the layout and design of the previews to better showcase casual news. Coming up with the designs and final prototype of this intervention was one of my main responsibilities in this group project. The main problem with Twitter Moments, as noted before, is that the design of the preview doesn't communicate that its a destination for casual news. First time users are not prepared to find tweets hiding behind the preview.

 

Showing our redesign of Twitter Moments in the way that they present information in their news card previews.

In our proposed redesign of Twitter Moments, the updated UI draws inspiration from the styling of tabloid news.

People can browse the news more visually and get a sense for what's trending. More importantly, these news cards now show most of the original tweet and actual source of the information directly in the preview. People can see where the news came from, if it was from a verified account (with the blue check mark), number of likes attached to the tweet, timestamp and as much of the tweet that fits in the preview.

When a person actually clicks on a moment, they are first shown the rest of the original tweet that was in the preview. They're able to reply to the moment, retweet it, scan through related comments that others have left or follow the tweet's author. 

This design allows people to learn more about the credibility of the featured tweet and see how others perceive it. A goal we had was to make it easier for people on Twitter to connect with each other and converse about the current events going on.

 
Now, when people click into a Moment, they're provided a wealth of information. They can connect with the author, other users and see related news.

Now, when people click into a Moment, they're provided a wealth of information. They can connect with the author, other users and see related news.

We produced a narrated video to summarize the research and conclusions gathered over the course of this project.

We designed a data visualization to present our findings in a digestible way. In the video, we show how Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter Moments compare to The New York Times in their ability to provide people with trustworthy, full-length news articles after the preview. We made sure to also tie in redesign for Twitter Moments. Check out the video we produced below:

 

We chose to represent the four platforms we researched as distinctly sized globes. Each globe consists of an outer layer and inner core.

The outer layer is meant to represent the expectation that a person might have of what the article will be like based on the information shown in the preview by that specific platform. We went through each platform and examined the way that they formatted their previews. We counted up the elements provided (ex: headline, caption, image, source, date, etc) and compared those numbers against each other and also to what we might find in a traditional newspaper article preview. 

Facebook, for example, decorates their article previews in an elegant way. The headlines even appear in a serif typeface. We don't see that typeface being used anywhere else on the platform. They have done this very intentionally. The design sets high expectations even though the article might completely be clickbait material. Reddit, on the other hand, does not boast stylized previews. The emphasis is placed on the headline and source. The design is very stripped down and to the point. 

The inner core represents the quality of information delivered by each platform. How well did the platform do in meeting the expectations generated by the preview? The size of the inner globe depends on two key factors in particular. We took into consideration the amount of content provided in addition to the validity of the source. Of all the globes, Twitter Moments disappoints the most in its news delivery. The New York Times outperformed the others in actually meeting expectations. They are an accredited platform providing full-length articles with supporting media written by verified reporters.