A few months back, New Matilda was approached by the Velvet Onion Academy, a Sydney based private college which schools students on ‘user experience’ – a fancy way of saying ‘how to build a website that works effectively, and makes people want to come back again and again’.
Velvet Onion owner Charbel Zeaiter, and colleague Georgia Rowe, had a pretty irresistible offer for us – would New Matilda like to be the focus of a 12-week course for their students (ie. how would we like a dozen bright minds working pro bono on ways to re-design the New Matilda website to make it more user friendly).
Obviously, we were chuffed. So for the past two months, Angela Nicholson and I have been immersed in all things ‘user experience’ with the Velvet Onion crew. An important part of any re-design is the market research – what do existing websites users (in this case about New Matilda reads) like and what don’t they like? How do they consume their news? And what do they expect from any changes?
Last week, we put out the call for ‘guinea pigs’, and dozens of readers stuck their hands up.
On Saturday afternoon, nine Sydney-based readers took part in some intense research with students from the Velvet Onion Academy.
Here’s what we learned.
New Matilda is very much seen as an alternative source of news. Our readers expect to see different opinions, deeper analysis on the big issues, and investigative journalism. Basically, stuff our readers want alternative voices and information that they can’t get anywhere else.
Our readers don’t want us to rush out with breaking stories – they want us to explain to them the stories behind the major stories, in more detail and depth.
We also learned that our brand – the New Matilda brand – is based 100 per cent on trust. Our readers consume New Matilda because they expect we won’t behave the same way mainstream media do.
Stories that are most important to our readers include climate change and the environment, politics, Aboriginal affairs, workers' rights, asylum seekers and human rights. You also want hard-hitting investigative pieces which hold power to account, and in the words of one of our readers, which 'fill in the gaps'.
In regards to user experience, our readers like the simplicity of the New Matilda website, but they wouldn’t object to a few more bells and whistles, and they’d like some basic redesigns to make the site easier to use.
It's all going in the mix, and in the coming weeks and months, we'll have some exciting changes to unveil.
Having said that, New Matilda’s evolution is very much an ongoing process. And you can participate in it as well.
Please feel free to post your comments below, and to contact us directly here if you have more you want to add (and you don’t want to weigh into the hurley burley of our comments section – something that also came up during our research).
We’re genuinely interested in hearing the views of our readers – good or bad – and it will help inform the design future of this site.
Finally, a very sincere thanks to the good folk who gave up their afternoon to be grilled about all things news and New Matilda.
Jill, Yvette, Francis, Liz and Alex, Joy, the two Lindas and Catherine – your efforts were very much appreciated, and will help shape the new New Matilda as it unfolds.
Watch this space.
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