NewsView facilitates easy tracking of current events for first-time internet users with limited literacy levels, using images to convey main ideas and offering built-in visual vocabulary support for the text. The platform is icon-driven, allowing users to quickly navigate to topics of interest. It pairs global and national news with community storytelling: users can contribute locally relevant stories to the app and illustrate them using a simple drawing function (or photo uploads, as bandwidth permits). The homepage is split into two columns of different background colors, one representing “News” (the global/national content provided by the media company) and the other representing “View” (the source for perspectives from community members).
In the News section of the app/mobile website, stories are presented with illustrative visuals that convey the gist of what happened. A short written summary accompanies the visuals, adding a few extra details. The storyboard is in English, but the text within the app is simple and minimal, allowing it to be easily translated into multiple languages to suit users’ needs. The user can tap on key words within the text – indicated by their bolding and orange color – to view a visual representation of the definition of that word. For those who are semi-literate, this visual allows for greater understanding of the text as well as an opportunity to identify a new word or two.
The View feature serves several strategic purposes:
– News of the app spreads through word of mouth, as people who contribute want to share their contributions with friends.
– Early adopters of technology are the first to discover the app, and, given their relative fluency with technology, are likely to test out the storytelling feature. They will then have added motivation to reach out to others and encourage them to take advantage of this novel news source.
– Community organizations and schools can use the app to spread the word about upcoming events. Thus, members of the local community will get in the habit of checking the app in order to find out what’s going on in their area, encouraging repeated use.
To contribute a View, users select the category (e.g. schools, family, events) and add media: short, simple text (limited to 25 words); an audio recording; or images. The audio clip provides a way for contributors to share a more detailed story than the format otherwise allows, and audio recording is a common feature of phones, even those that do not have video capability. The recording should not be essential to understanding the basics of the story, as some users may not have the data allowance or bandwidth to access it.
For images, contributors may upload a small photo or use an in-app drawing function to sketch out a visual that represents the story. This format encourages creativity by contributors, allowing them multiple means to express themselves, and also gives app users multiple ways to access the story content.