My job at the Washington Post is an unusual one —to build the most immersive and impactful storytelling experiences out there. I approach each story with curiosity and aim to create digital experiences that are insightful, meaningful and delightful. Create your own presidential debate is a great example of that.
For this project, we collaborated with the video team to create an immersive look at where Clinton and Trump stood on the issues, using videos clips of the candidates themselves. The user interface and interactivity was simple and intuitive, aided by the user testing we did early in the development process. The success of the presentation came out in the numbers: 100% of people watched the intro video and 82% made an initial topic choice. On average, each unique visitor started 4.8 videos and completed 2.7.
Trump and Clinton “on the issues” stories are a commodity in a presidential election year, so I wanted to differentiate the project with presentation. Using video clips was one element of distinction and hearing answers directly from the candidates aided the integrity and trustworthiness of the piece. On the other hand, video was a challenge because it can be difficult to get readers to watch one video — let alone multiple.
To keep people moving through the presentation, I struck a balance between an active experience where the reader chooses a path and a passive experience where the presentation guides the reader without much interaction. I also included visual signs of progress to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something as you watch each video. And I used a magic wand icon instead of a menu icon to add a bit of delight and intrigue, and to give the feeling you are controlling the debate.
User testing is a must for my work, especially given its experimental nature. When readers click on a link on Facebook or Twitter or even the Washington Post homepage, they are conditioned to think an article will follow. This means a big part of our job is easing readers into our work and convincing them to hang around. On this project, user testing helped me create an intuitive interface and improve the messaging and language around the project, including the text on the initial selection panel and the alert between questions.