The Global News Dashboard is the prototype of a news aggregation widget that is being developed by the Office of Digital and Design Innovation (ODDI) for the Global News Network. The primary goal of the Global News Network is to promote the sharing, collaborative production, and distribution (within and beyond USIB and its affiliates) of high-quality original content. Pending the final approval of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Global News Dashboard will be placed on all USIB network websites and will showcase the original content—news, information, special projects, and a variety of multimedia products—produced by the Voice of America (VOA), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN).
With the imaginative direction of ODDI’s Manager of Design Steven Fuchs, IT Specialist Heim Park is prototyping designs for the dashboard. “It was a real design and conceptual challenge,” said Fuchs, “Heim came up with a tidy, thrifty, and elegant design solution.”
One of Ms. Park’s wireframe sketches of the potential GNN website.
One of Ms. Park’s wireframe sketches for desktop, tablet, and mobile user experiences.
The purpose of the news aggregator is to showcase, in English, some of the best original content produced by the newsrooms and language services of the five USIB networks. Content will be filterable by ‘Region’, ‘Latest News’, and ‘Editors’ Choice’ as well as by entity and medium (text, audio, video, photography). Visitors to any network website will have access to the aggregator through a widget located on the website’s homepage. They will immediately be able to see how other USIB network are covering the events of the day, whether an election in Egypt or a protest in Moscow. The Dashboard will also direct visitors to special projects such as the human trafficking video series produced by Radio Free Asia.
As for the technical means by which the Dashboard will operate, information will consist of standard RSS feeds. An example of this can be seen on the left hand side of the Innovation-Series.com main page. These RSS feeds will run automatically, except for when the material entities’ want to feature content (which will likely be a check box in Pangea). The widget’s existing entities’ website will draw on existing technology within Pangea. There is also potential to develop external widgets to display on 3rd party websites, but that has yet to be discussed.
The most important—and difficult—element of the Dashboard will be in its ability to filter content. The concept shown below is modeled after how commercial websites use filtering technology to filter sizes or colors of items.
While filtering will make content much easier to find for the user who is physically visiting the webpage or mobile page, content within widgets is not indexed by search engines. So another major challenge of the Dashboard design is how to make it SEO friendly as well as user friendly.
Since Dashboard is meant for the general public, Ms. Heim said that she wanted to make the design “as easy as possible” to use. While there would still need to be a usability study done on her skinned example of the home page, the goal is to initially make the site easy to find through search engines, have bold type face for headers, use bright colors for filter options, and incorporate subtle contrasting of colors to highlight particular information.
While these visuals were put together within four days, normal project design work of this magnitude takes approximately two weeks to ensure that project managers and web development/design staff adequately understand how to incorporate necessary elements within budget and within a particular time frame.
The projected time frame from start to finish is still undetermined, but the Dashboard will play a role in helping BBG entities move forward in the digital age. Not only does the Dashboard have the potential to be a valuable filtering tool, but it will also become the central showcase for all that BBG does. The Dashboard will also be the second product designed from start to finish with desktop/tablet/mobile capabilities in mind. “I am really proud of the way it looks,” notes Fuchs, “I have some really good designers on my team.”
When asked what top three things ODDI want journalists and producers to know about the Dashboard, Fuchs listed:
- “It is not another, or competing, brand but rather a customizable aggregation tool for the showcasing of BBG material.”
- “Each entity gets analytic credit for every click they get through the tool.”
- “It is a great place to showcase the best material from your site.”
Fuchs also mentioned that research shows that many people come to BBG sites for the “American” view. With all of the BBG sites in one “basket,” GNN will certainly help to further facilitate that action. “It never hurts to have a number of ‘entry points’ into any site since there are so many competing news web sites,” Fuchs points out, “Also, any number of news aggregators scrape our sites for content, but we should work hard to promote ourselves too.”
While no final design or go ahead has been issued, the proposal for the Dashboard was presented at a BBG meeting of the broadcasting entities where it was favorably received. The next step is a presentation to the Board of Governors for full approval and funding.
(Thank you to Steven Fuchs, Heim Park, Randy Abramson, Robert Bole, and Jay Tolson for their contributions to this post.)
(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)
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