Solving the Political Divide

Photo by Metin Ozer

“There will come a day, when all the lies will collapse under their own weight, and the truth will again triumph.”

— Joseph Goebbels

Being an informed citizen who takes time out of their day to contemplate all new political issues, including but not limited to: candidates and props isn’t the status quo. Most of us have busy lives with 40+ hour work weeks, family relations, friendships, and general life maintenance that we all have to keep up. At the end of the day, the exhaust fumes leave no energy to seek out the truth in the divided political landscape that America has become.

Political Polarization, 1994
Political Polarization, 2017

Looking for an easy escape at the end of the day we default to social media. In the echo chamber of beliefs and ideologies, our own hyper-curated environment will doom us to follow in the footsteps of what we consume. Our friends define for us what to think and if we don’t chase down other sources for truth then those who want to divide us have already won (source). This environment has become even more toxic compared to traditional media.

Identity politics get shoved onto every issue. Try adding an opposing, yet thoughtful, comment on a politically-charged post. There won’t be friends who seek to engage you in thought-provoking discussion, but a thought mob to reform your faltering mind (source: The College Fix). Is this the type of landscape that produces informed citizens? A dangerous precedent has been set. If people desire to be open-minded and generate a greater political understanding there needs to be an accessible and informative resource that is not time-consuming and does not succumb to the echo chamber of political rhetoric.

This sphere would enjoy an easy and accessible app which displays political issue and states opinions from different points on the political spectrum through graphics, videos, and pictures that link to further information and resources.

PEST Analysis

A good first step when considering the development of any new product is something called a PEST analysis —or Political Economic Socio-cultural and Technological analysis. This provides a general idea of the product environment and outlines any factors that would impede or improve the chances of the product’s success.

Political

There are no seen political regulatory factors that would impede the app. Both the current parties would benefit from an increase in topic discussions as well as voter participation.

Economic

People are spending money on apps. Freemium apps are growing in popularity and could solidify a solid user base which doesn’t only include people who have the means to get the app. A freemium app allows all users access to many perspectives.

Sociological

The political divide is expanding (source: Neal, Z. P. 2020). Some people feel left out not wanting to pick a side; they only want the truth or to gather their own opinion. People, especially young people, desire inclusivity with current issues, including political issues.

Technological

There is distrust conventional for media (source: Washington Times). People are dependent on their phones to give them news and update them about the political sphere.

Competitive Analysis

There are applications such as AllSides and The Bipartisan Press that seek to inform citizens of current issues and events in the political sphere. Meanwhile, there is a lack of both accessible and informative outlets that the average citizen can use to develop their own opinion without still having to read many articles from different sources. My goal is to fill this gap with a user-focused application that delivers many points-of-view with a quick read and easy to understand infographics sourced from APIs of existing media.

competitive analysis of political media
Competitive analysis of competing news apps

User Connection

Connecting with potential users is a crucial step when formulating a product idea. This process consists of conducting user interviews to gauge if there is a market for the product. During an interview, it is less about having predefined questions, but rather, conversing with the potential user to understand what they like and dislike about similar products, as well as testing the propositions of the need for the product. The potential users I chose have ages that span from early-20’s to late-70’s. They have a range of occupations, from demanding and time-sucking, to retired. The group of interviewees represented a diverse array of opinions and experiences as they relate to the product idea — this is crucial to ensure the final product has all potential users in mind.

The data from the interviewees reveal that a high percentage desire accurate information about current and political events. The main avenue through which they get their news is via apps. However, most respondents understood and recognized bias in their sources. To combat the bias, respondents who had a less demanding schedule sought out news from many sources. In contrast, those with less time expressed a desire to seek out many news sources, yet lacked the energy to do so. The inconvenience of seeking out many news sources with a broad scope of opinions and views confirms the need for a product that can portray many sides.

Across all interviewees, everyone reported high importance in needing to trust the news sources. The maturer respondents preferred more robust and extensive articles, while the younger respondents showed a preference for skimming articles. This diversity presents an opportunity for a user-interface with a thoughtful and concise synopsis of any given report while also maintaining the longer article with linked sources. A user setting could additionally set display preference to short, medium, or long articles.

There seemed to be an even split between interviewees who wanted free news and interviewees willing to pay for quality news. This data supports a freemium app structure.

The data points support the need for a multi-perspective news app. Certain collected information shows the need for features that make the app more adaptable, such as settings for article-length preference as well as a detailed view on sources and even a history of perspectives that have come from a given source. The key, though, is that all this information is accessible, in one place, without the need for the user to cross-reference an issue across many outlets or sources. To begin to bridge the political divide, there must be a news source that brings many perspectives to users without requiring them to hunt for alternative viewpoints. Additionally, this platform cannot exclude anyone base on finances. The price model must be such that anyone can access the most fundamental and important features without needing to pay for them. Providing users the option to pay for more features, for example, more in-depth histories for given news sources or advanced perspective analysis not only keeps the free “base” of the app from being overblown with features not every user may want, but gives the app a financial platform on which to succeed. These features would encourage and enable the user to empathize with and greater understand these different perspectives, to humanize those with differing ideologies. This breach of the user’s current “echo chamber” may provide the user the ability to see those with differing opinions not as mortal enemies unfit to inhabit the same country, but as, other human beings with different experiences and viewpoints. In speaking to potential users, there is now a clear vision for the future of news in America.

The Solution

The app aids misinformed users, understand current events, and how people from different political backgrounds react to these events. The solution conjugates many news articles with political perspectives for a given issue. Additionally, a full history of the commentators’ perspectives is available to allow users to gain a deeper understanding of where certain views may stem from. For readers with not much time, each article has a synopsis while also maintaining the full article with linked sources. Those who choose to subscribe to the premium version will gain helpful infographics and charts to help give context to perspectives and allows for deeper analysis. Furthermore, premium subscribers will have access to an AI chatbot who will help them to navigate the news. These features all provide the user with a unique experience due to “un-personalization”, not tailoring content to the user’s preferences.

User Journeys

User journeys are a tool product developers use to outline how users will find and interact with the app.

Too Busy for News User Journey

I want to be more informed about the news and politics but I don’t have enough time with my busy schedule. Isn’t all news biased in some way? How am I supposed to figure out the truth when I have a job, kids/family to attend to, and trying to do extra studying/working on the side? Then, someone told me about this new app. I signed up with only an email and password. Next, I saw an array of articles. Each news article had a short synopsis along with perspectives on the issue from different sides of the political spectrum. I gained access to the history of each commentator’s perspective along with an analysis of why this is their perspective and how it came to be. Now, I am informed. Even when I spend only a couple of minutes using the app.

Experienced News Reader User Journey

I have several different news outlets that I go to for current events and politics. It’s a pain to have multiple subscriptions and read about the same event three or four times. I found this new app. I signed up for it for free. For every news article, there is perspective and analysis that would’ve taken me much longer to source from five different articles. I subscribed to the premium version and got many more in-depth details including helpful charts and infographics to explain the causes and effects of given issues and the perspectives behind them. Going to only one place to get all my news in an unbiased fashion has helped my energy levels as well as my budget.

Wireframe

Wireframes are a sketch of how the app will look. It is the crudest design explanation without the need for specialized software. Developers use wireframes to flesh out their ideas before prototyping or building. The following wireframe outlines a user’s journeys. It showcases how users will navigate through the app.

Wireframe of proposed app
Wireframe of proposed app

A New Dawn

Tomorrow, America will wake up as the sun rises, joined again by a united force driving innovation forward. Disagreements and division will drift away in exchange for community and communication. This joined country is possible by media which does not tear us apart but instead attempts to show the truth and perspectives from all differing opinions.

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