"Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly." - Arnold Edinborough

User EngagementUsually when you browse the internet you get your information and you’re on your way. Sometimes a website isn’t properly constructed and prevents you from getting your information easily, this causes you to become annoyed. Rarely you find something that is so awesome you just have to admire it and the thoughts that have gone into it. Today I found one of those things.

There are a lot of difficult aspects of starting and running a site. You have to consider how to drive traffic, how to rank on search engines, how to convert traffic to paying customers of participating users, and today I saw an ingenious example of how to engage users and encourage participation.

The image on the right is taken from a news post on the NBC Dallas site, it shows the general reader feedback and allows readers to submit their own feedback. The unique aspect is of course how they group the feedback. It’s not a generic 1 to 10 rating, it’s not a “let your voice be heard” sentence, it’s a colourful, graphic and quantified display. I cannot stress enough how awesome this is executed. What they manage to do is immediately quantify the response to an article which encourage users to add their voice.

This is an excellent opportunity to convert a drive-by reader into a repeat reader and perhaps even a community user. When you See the “I AM:” option it’s so easy to voice your opinion in a way that makes sense and feel like you’re contributing. If you’re just rating on a 1-10 scale you’re just giving an arbitrary number with no semantic meaning. Submitting a comment is obviously a way to make your voice be heard from often one that requires effort and thus not something you’ll do often. This style gently leads users from one-time reader to engaged user.

A further benefit of the immediate quantification of the public opinion is that you can start doing stuff like they do at the top of their article. Basically they take their data and use it to make it more interesting. “Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner” is interesting but “Locals are furious as armed agent slips past DFW body scanner” is emotionally charged and far more likely to generate a click.

News Suggestion

So the concept is awesome, the design is well done and right at eye level. But is there anything we can do to improve it? Well let’s take a look at what happens when we decide to give them our feedback.

We see that our choice is highlighted and we’re given the option of spreading our opinion to Twitter or Facebook. This is okay for getting our message out there, but studies have shown that most twitter messages aren’t actually read any people other than the author. Most of the marketing you get out there is just screamed into a void of boundless other marketing.

The other option is to encourage users to leave a comment and explain their reaction to theĀ  news. This allows us to get an email address and give users the option to sign up for notification upon a reply. That way we create a return reader who will become familiar with the site and more likely to return in the future.

In general I feel like there’s too much of a focus on social media. This is a site which puts a lot of emphasis on being a local news site, they even have a section called Around Town. Contrast that to their lack of community stuff, there’s nothing beyond comments, I couldn’t even find an RSS feed.

I’m pretty sure they’d see a higher user retention and ultimately a higher traffic amount if they encouraged users to subscribe to a news feed and encouraged them to engage with other usersĀ  instead of asking users to promote them on social media sites.

  • Joshua

    Posted: March 3, 2011

    I really like this. As you said, it makes you, as the reader, much more engaged. I think they should use several more options as the ones that are there don't appropriately represent the emotions of reader.

    They should require you to use a login, if they don't already. That way they can track users. An OpenID solution would work best and leave the users with a sense that they can leave their opinions quickly and freely. Then they should ask the user to like their site and receive news on their news feed. If they don't already, they should create an Android/iOS app that will allow them to give their emotions about stories. Reply

  • Joshua Dickerson

    Posted: July 10, 2011

    I just noticed this on the Huffington Post website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/09/feds-rule-marijuana-has-no-accepted-medicinal-use_n_893894.html?ref=fb&src=sp

    Notice under the picture. Reply

    • fjordvald

      Posted: July 11, 2011

      That's horribly hidden away, even after you said notice under the picture I still didn't notice for a while. Kinda badly designed site overall. Reply

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