News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Design

January 21, 2011

Got accessibility? Mobile-friendly sites also help disabled users

One in four Americans live with a disability that interferes with activities of daily living. These people can benefit significantly from easy access to news, information, communication, services, community, and resources—all of which are widely available online. But 2% US adults report having a disability or illness that makes it harder or impossible for them to use the internet. This can further impair their quality of life and even their health.

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Americans living with disability and their technology profile, describes this problem in more detail. There are some ways to make digital media more widely accessible—including some options that news organizations could (and should) implement…

Some highlights from this report:

“54% of adults living with a disability use the internet, compared with 81% of adults who report none of the disabilities listed in the survey.”

“Statistically speaking, disability is associated with being older, less educated, and living in a lower-income household. By contrast, internet use is statistically associated with being younger, college-educated, and living in a higher-income household. Thus, it is not surprising that people living with disability report lower rates of internet access than other adults. However, when all of these demographic factors are controlled, living with a disability in and of itself is negatively correlated with someone’s likelihood to have internet access.”

“People living with disability, once they are online, are also less likely than other internet users to have high-speed access or wireless access.”

Earlier Pew research also found that people with wireless (mobile) internet access are “more likely than other internet users to post their own health experiences online or to access the health information created by other people in online forums and discussion groups.”

Pew supports extending enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act to include web sites operated by “certain entities.” Through Jan. 24, the US Dept. of Justice is taking public comments on its proposed new ADA accessibility requirements for web sites.

Specifically, the new rules would “revise the regulations implementing titles II and III of the ADA to establish specific requirements for state and local governments and public accommodations to make their web sites accessible to individuals with disabilities.”

In an informational sense, a news organization could conceivably be considered a “public accommodation.”

But even if news orgs don’t specifically fall under these new rules, there’s one easy way to start to make your digital presence far more accessible: Create a mobile-friendly version of your site, and make it simple and obvious to access from the top of every page on your site.

The W3C consortium outlined how making a site mobile friendly also enhances accessibility. “Most Mobile Web specialists don’t know about design issues for people with disabilities. Likewise, most Web accessibility specialists don’t know Mobile Web design best practices. Web sites can more efficiently meet both goals when developers understand the significant overlap between making a Web site accessible for a mobile device and for people with disabilities.”

For more resources, see Web Content Accessibility and Mobile Web: Making a Web Site Accessible Both for People with Disabilities and for Mobile Devices

May 31, 2011

Building an iPad app? Research tells how to make it user friendly

Many news organizations have built, or are building, iPad apps to deliver their content—but sometimes these aren’t as user-friendly as they should be. A new report from the Nielsen Norman Group explains where apps and web sites are going wrong for iPad users, and how to fix these problems…

The latest report is a followup to a report that came out soon after the iPad was now introduced. In that time, both users and developers have gained considerable iPad experience. But there some common app and site design errors persist.

The report contains detailed examples, many from popular news sites and apps. Navigation was a problem for several sites. Here are a few excerpts about what NNG had to say about the iPad experience offered by some major news brands:

“Whenever users did not have a direct link to the table of contents (in apps such as The Daily or Esquire), they complained—they were annoyed to have to flip through the magazine or through the page viewer in order to find the page containing the table of contents.”

...“The problem with USA Today is twofold:

  1. the logo looks flat (and not touchable)
  2. the label on the logo has no connection with the current task (finding the news sections).


USA Today’s iPad navigation problem spanned the first full year of its app’s life: “As we were writing this report, USA Today came out with an update: an explicit button with the label ‘Sections’ has been placed above the logo in the new version. We haven’t tested this new design, but it can’t help being better than the old one which doesn’t work—as we’ve known for a full year since the data from our first study.”

Don’t forget the back button: “A lot of newspaper apps do not use back buttons. The Telegraph is one of the few newspapers that uses a back button and has a navigation bar on every page, enabling users to move between different sections without going back to a news-listing page.”

About the popular Newsy app: ”[It] uses a carousel to display news videos; users need to swipe through the videos, one at a time. [Although this is simple for users to understand, and it] may seem exciting in the beginning, swiping through a lot of videos gets tiring quickly, especially because there is not a lot of content to be read about each of them (so the users end up swiping almost continuously).”

The report also noted that some news apps (such as BBC and Wired) offer different information or navigation depending on whether the tablet is held in landscape or portrait position. This inconsistency can confuse or frustrate readers. NNG’s advice:

“When content is not available in one orientation, tell users that they may find extra information when they turn the tablet. This is exactly what The Daily does: when one of their interactive features was only available in portrait mode, they had an icon in landscape to suggest users to switch orientations. Also, The Daily does not shy away from telling users how they are supposed to interact with their feature.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 24, 2012

NPR releases free Project Argo WordPress tools for topical news sites

When a news topic gets popular, it might make sense to give it some special online treatment. NPR recently published its Project Argo toolkit for creating topic-focused websites using the popular free open source content management system WordPress.

Matt Thompson, Editorial Product Manager for Project Argo, explained how news organizations and others can use these tools…

Project Argo is a collection of sites, each produced by a full-time journalist-blogger (or, in some cases, a blended teams of full- and part-time journalists). Examples include Ecotrope (Oregon Public Broadcasting), Mind/Shift (KQED) and DCentric (WAMU). Each site focuses on reporting and aggregating news about a single topic of ongoing interest in the host station’s city.

Stations feed their work into NPR’s application programming interface (API), through which all Project Argo reporter-editors can easily access each other’s work. This allows them to “inform, enrich and add context as they produce their stories.” Project Argo is funded by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

According to Thompson, NPR hopes this collection of open source tools and best practices will be useful to anyone seeking tools, themes, lessons learned, or inspiration for:

  • Niche websites
  • Blogs
  • WordPress sites
  • Web reporting projects

...Or any combination of those types of projects.

Thompson explained the three main types of tools offered:

1. Code and plugins. Over the past year NPR developed several WordPress plugins to make blogging easier for Argo journalist-bloggers. These include:

  • Jiffy Post, which “allows people to quickly post links with a super-simple—almost Tumblrish—workflow.”
  • Slideshow, “a low-footprint, flexible photo gallery plugin that extends the functionality of the native WordPress gallery functionality.”
  • Audio player, “Built with HTML5 so it’s compatible with your iPad and your MacBook Air.”
  • Media credit, which provides extra options for metadata and rights management for images.

NPR also is working on two more Project Argo plugins: link roundup and a plugin to make it easier to embed DocumentCloud documents in WordPress.

2. Themes. Thompson said that NPR web designer Wes Lindamood developed a series of “gorgeous, robustly-featured themes for the Argo sites—with fresh typography, sophisticated content promotion, myriad formatting options, etc. For the open-source release, he prepared a highly extensible foundation theme and three child themes to demonstrate some of the different ways that foundation could be modified. All four of those themes are freely available for folks to use and customize.”

3. Lessons and documentation. “Even for folks who aren’t using WordPress, or aren’t developing a niche site, we’ve tried to share a lot of what we learned over the course of the Argo pilot. We’ve compiled pretty much everything we wrote or presented into the open source site, and bundled up our overall lessons into four wrap-up posts on the Argo blog.”

But wait, there’s more! Thompson noted that people in public media who are interested in creating an Argo-style site but who don’t want to take on the overhead of supporting it, “NPR Digital Services will be offering to host, support and train member stations to develop these sites. That training is coming in Spring 2012.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.