News organizations today are depending more and more on social platforms. While this seems like an easy way to gain huge audiences, it requires content to be catered very precisely for each platform. After a while, all content on social media starts to look and feel the same; everyone copies everyone else’s tricks to optimize user attention. For example, on Facebook, videos autoplay with captions, because that’s what performs better on Facebook. On Twitter, tweets have an accompanying image, because that’s what works on Twitter.
Let’s take a moment to figure out what comes next. One thing that can set a traditional news organization apart in this brave new world of social platform power is the ability to make creative and original user experiences. In 2016, we might see organizations augmenting their social media material with more unique original content that can’t easily be replicated on social platforms. These organizations will be distinguishing themselves by giving audiences a reason to look beyond their social feeds.
Designers will play a big role in this process. Rather than seeing them as part of only the aesthetic side of web content, focused largely on creating one-size-fits all templates, organizations will utilize their skills more fully, moving towards ways of designing user experiences that play an active role in telling the story itself. We can already see this happening with new advances in data journalism, inviting the reader to find herself in the story through interacting with the data. We see college programs like the New School’s Journalism + Design, which brings the two together to create a new breed of designer-journalists. This year, we also saw some of the best user experiences on the web built by journalism teams like The New York Times, The Marshall Project, Bloomberg, FiveThirtyEight, and many others.
In 2016, design will be a tool for journalists to scope out a widened role in our new digital media landscape.