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3 Ways Online Publishers Can Give Their Site a User Experience Makeover

Originally posted on

To stay ahead of the competition, online publishers need to be committed to experimentation and constantly improving their UX.

Providing a great user experience is a key element in increasing user retention and creating lasting loyalty. The user experience must do more than keep people reading articles and watching videos that drive ad revenue; it must facilitate a rich exchange of ideas that keep people returning to the site.

By cultivating such communities, users broaden their horizons and gain deeper, and more well-rounded perspectives, often leaving them feeling much more positive about the site.

Therefore, to stay ahead of the competition, online publishers need to be committed to experimentation and constantly improving their UX. Here are some examples of innovative UX strategies publishers are trying, and how you can incorporate them into your optimization program.

Make Conversations Cool Again

Comments as we previously knew them are dead. It seems as though they almost exclusively attract the worst types of people on the Internet. From trollers to spammers and ranters and everything in between, it’s almost as if intelligent conversation has completely disappeared from comments sections these days, essentially destroying the types of communities that publishers should try and build.

But while many online publishers have used this as an excuse to shut down comments altogether, serving a dual purpose in the realm of user generated content and overall user experience.

More and more, publishers are noticing that if they change up their comments section, they can appeal to those interested in pursuing productive conversations and being a part of an online community.

For example, Entertainment Weekly (EW) has installed Spot.IM, which allows users to discuss content in real time. The tool, which is installed in their sidebar, also provides notifications and a news feed to create the ultimate social experience. Spot.IM has restructured the interface and by making comments more active and user-friendly, the site is able to attract better quality contributors and build a thriving online community.

Similarly, Quartz has employed an annotations section which allows users to discuss particular segments of information within each article. As a result of their providing an interactive user experience that most traditional news sources don’t come close to, the site has grown by 85 percent in 2015, following an even more successful 2014 where they grew by 160 percent.

Offer More Information in Video Format

We are a visual species. We love to see things for ourselves and the choices we make can be highly influenced by the visual cues around us. User Experience is an entire field based on the visuality of a site. Not only are the graphics that brands choose to utilize highly influential, but the addition of videos on a site further grabs the attentions of your users.

Adding videos to your brand’s site truly redefines the user experience. It can offer the ability to interact with the user and even serve as an extra platform for your UGC.

Beyond interaction, videos also provide your brand with the opportunity to educate more effectively, the user can watch a 30 second video rather than reading multiple paragraphs on your site. Webyclip does this well by strategically placing videos on any page of the user journey.

While each publisher has different requirements for their sites, there are many different options for videos: there’s a video as a background option, a video strategically placed on the page, even a video as a follow up to the text of the page.

Even offering a video center for your page can be highly informative to the user. Even social media giant Pinterest is incorporating videos into their visually focused site in order to maintain a longer retention time for the user. In fact, this is even translating into the marketing realm due to the UX. 82 percent of videos as a marketing tool have been successful.

Further, adding video tutorials can concisely and clearly provide users with an accessible way for you to present your brand’s products to users. Your brand gets to tell a story about who you are and what you offer while the user is able to absorb your message clearly and easily.

The Google Play and App Stores are great examples of this. Before downloading an app, users can watch a video summary/description of the app in question, thus helping the user decide if the app is worth downloading or not.

Let Users Give Back

User generated content is truly taking the marketing world by storm. Brands use it to give their fans the opportunity to get creative and become more involved with their brand by sharing their own pictures, videos, art and experiences with people around the world.

Online publishers are jumping on the UGC bandwagon in more ways than one. As we previously mentioned, revamping comments to encourage better conversations is a great way to elevate your UGC. However, UGC in publishing is not limited to comments.

Take Forbes for example. Forbes, one of the highest rated and most trusted news sources in the business category, is facing more competition from other publishers. To set themselves apart, they opened up a contributor network.

Through their contributor network, Forbes is able to acquire diverse content from various unique perspectives. As a reader, seeing the CEO of a well-respected company as an author rather than someone employed by the publication gives authority and uniqueness to the content.

Furthermore, since any qualified individual can contribute, the online publication is viewed as more democratic and authentic than many others within the category.

By incorporating this type of UGC into their strategy, Forbes’ readership has doubled between 2010 and 2012, solidifying their status as a leading online publication.

But having an exclusive contributor network is not the only way to develop great UGC. Buzzfeed has a community section that anyone can contribute to, which has helped it to be a favorite among individualistic Millennials.

Likewise, The Guardian launched GuardianWitness, which allows users to upload their own pictures and stories to contribute to the content on the site. Back in 2013 at the time of their launch, the site’s social and communities editor Joanna Geary had a lot to say about the role of users in producing content for this established news site.

According to Geary, "GuardianWitness will further reinforce our recognition that journalism is now a two-way conversation and will open up our site as we never have before. Not only will this make it even easier for our readers to get involved in our journalism and form both local and global communities of joint interest, it will also provide our journalists with a fantastic new tool, providing them with insights and views that we perhaps don't yet have access to."


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