A journey building a breaking news and location based alerts reader on mobile app and instant messengers.
People prefer to choose news that applies to their interest and own lives nowadays. Some may read news from multiple places, but no matter which news source we pick, we cannot gather and read all news articles in one place. RSS reader does a similar job, you can read all RSS feeds or news sources you subscribed to in one software. However, the news may be irrelevant to your interests.
The users we are talking about, and targeting have a precise topic to track, such as stocks, weather warnings, current affairs, traffic incidents or research topics. This information matter to them. Therefore, the platform, in whatever form, should notify users once it gets the news.
First Trial: Mobile App
With seeking everyday application as the starting point, the app feeds news like traffic updates, weather warnings, and breaking news according to the user’s daily commuting and living area. Therefore, the app asks for location details to push notification on MTR delays or poor weather at the right time. Other than that, users can enter and subscribe to a topic or pick from the most subscribed ones if they don’t have one in their mind.
The subscription wizard educates users on subscribing to topics, including boolean searching, which may look too advanced to onboard users. As mentioned, fill in their geographic information to push location-based news.
On the main screen, considering reading habits and usage, it provides two groupings. Users can read the latest news or locate an unread article from the topic list.
The app, unfortunately, did not pass the app store review, which led us to re-think the actual usage and platform that worked best for users. General news apps catch the fancy of readers with extra features and content. However, our target users would not need these, but a straightforward platform to receive instant updates like instant messenger.
Our Answer: IM Bot
Instead of transferring features from the app, we first launched the Telegram bot with the minimum features to verify the concept internally. We took out any complex features like boolean away to keep the experience focused. The experience also works differently. An IM bot is all about the conversation.
Building a Conversational UI for Hong Kong Locals
The language difference between Mainland China and Hong Kong is not only the characters. In Mainland China, the frequent use of “dear” (亲), for example, tries to narrow the distance with readers, making you feel like chitchat with a mutual friend. However, it sounds pretentious, awkward to Hong Kong people, as they expect a more neutral tone from a bot, so dialects, voice and tone play a substantial role in conversational UI.
Cantonese has many function words (虛詞) and particles (助語詞) to express feelings, but it also makes the sentence sound clumsy and garrulous. Wise use of words, keeping it clear will help the user decide.
App Landing Page
To publicize and promote, I have designed and developed a one-page landing site for people to learn more about UNews and download the Telegram bot.