ChallengeHalf: “Spasht”- Clear & Simple Local News

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My solution to #challengehalf is “Spasht”, which means “clear” in Hindi. The name, as well as the accompanying logo (which is a pair of glasses) draw upon themes of seeing or understanding something clearly.

My first step in designing Spasht was to create a SWOT analysis for a potential mobile news app targeted at the illiterate rural population across India. The SWOT analysis influenced some of the key design elements of Spasht:

I decided that a partnership with Facebook was crucial due to the popularity of Facebook (2/3 of mobile users in India use Facebook) and its strengths as compared to WhatsApp:

  • Facebook provides a richer experience, plus it offers a stronger networking service (source)
  • Facebook already features news in the Newsfeed, but since illiterate Indians can’t read traditional news, Facebook has an incentive to support alternative news sources such as Spasht.
  • Facebook is already interested in connecting the world to the Internet through its internet.org initiative.
  • Facebook has incentive to compete with Whatsapp to become the #1 social networking/messaging app in India, one of the largest emerging markets for mobile and app use.

The partnership will provide Facebook and Spasht with the following benefits:

  • App discovery: Facebook and Spasht will provide incentives for retailers to preload FB and Spasht on their phones. This solves the problem of 25% of mobile users not being able to download apps due to lack of Internet connection or other issues, and also allows both companies to compete with Whatsapp.
  • Content sharing: Spasht will be featured prominently on Facebook, which will further engage the illiterate population who use Facebook while increasing Spasht’s brand recognition among those who already use Facebook. Meanwhile, Spasht will encourage users to share articles with their network via FB, thereby increasing the social nature of Spasht, and thus, user engagement.
  • Market dominance over Whatsapp: The combined power of FB and Spasht will give users an even richer experience than Whatsapp currently does

Another constraint I had to design around was the lack of consistent access to the Internet. In addition, in cases of government censorship, Internet access could be shut off entirely. My solution was to offer an option for users to be able to access content that does not require Internet to update.

Last but not least, since most mobile phone users in India use their mobile devices for messaging, photos, music, and games (source), I decided to include a gaming component to the app. This was also inspired by the “quizzes” feature in Buzzfeed, which is an interesting way to keep users engaged. Ideally, the games would relate to the news in some way.

After the SWOT analysis, I Googled news in India, and decided to build my graphics around two stories:

  • A prominent story in the nytimes about a derailed train (source)
  • A story in the Times of India about a celebrity being stalked by a mystery woman (this was the 2nd most featured video story on the homepage!) – Much like on Buzzfeed, featuring pop culture news on Spasht could serve to engage users. I decided to build my storyboard around this. (source)

I came up with the following Homepage design and storyboards. You’ll see that the homepage features a simple scrollable view where users can choose from various graphical news stories. At the bottom are the following navigational menu buttons (from left to right):

  • A no-wifi content page
  • A filter feature for the type of news users want to see (politics, health, education, sports, etc.)
  • Link to Facebook that allows users to share content via FB
  • Games
  • A search option

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