Context is everything

Guiding principles for UX-led publishing

Published: 12 Oct 2021
Author: Ronan Murphy

The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother.” say Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, founders of UX research firm Nielsen Norman Group. “Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.”

How many of us can truly say we’ve met the ‘exact needs’ of our customers with our products, services, or websites? Nielsen Norman provide a guiding star for us to aim for – after all, publishers rely on happy readers that return regularly, spend a long time on site, and share content.

Designing sites to encourage these behaviours is one thing, but can that goal reconcile with the other imperative, the need to generate revenue from these readers? Do our revenue generating models interrupt the user, break their flow, and create the very ‘fuss and bother’ that UX demands we avoid?

Not necessarily.

At video intelligence, we believe in internet experiences that just make sense. And by that I mean, experiences that ‘meet user needs’, help them achieve their goals – whether that’s discovering about a topic, catching up on the latest news or sports results, or just good old fashioned entertainment.

And we believe video does just that. Quite simply, people love video. When mixed with text, video can provide a fantastic user experience: simple, elegant, and a joy to use.

To achieve this, we must be delivering quality, relevant content. For instance, short form films that dig down deeper into the topic of a page, football highlights on a match report, beautiful location films on a travel site, interviews and background information on a news-site. Those are experiences that make sense. They’re experiences that add to the user’s intent.

When it comes to thinking user-first, we have to be talking about quality content. That is, factual, high production value, timely, well edited, content. And it’s got to be delivered in the right context – so it should be relevant to the page content at a quite specific level.

At vi we’ve worked for five years refining our contextual matching engine to do this. And we’ve worked long and hard to build the largest selection of (contextually matched) video content in the world – because more content to choose from means better contextual matching.

When it comes to monetisation, we should remember that users expect advertising. They understand that its what funds printed media, and digital media alike. The difference to-date has been that in printed media, advertising is targeted based on the publication’s content. Watches are advertised in Port, Cars in Top Gear Magazine, and supermarkets in national newspapers. With a contextual solution, video advertising can do the same; it can deliver ads that are based on the topic of the video content.

So video is the friend of both revenue and content teams. Pre-roll video content commands a high CPM, and when it’s contextually targeted, meets user needs. The content it’s served against (as a pre-roll, for example) attracts viewers, and retains them.

In a survey we ran on sports video consumption, 46% of football fans wanted a mix of video and text (compared to 20% for text only, and 23% for video only). In research we conducted with Lumen, we found people stayed 33% longer on pages where contextually matched video content was present (as opposed to a random video). That seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised what you find on some publisher pages.

So there’s a real evidence base to show that mixing video with text is doing a service to users. Naturally, we think using an automated contextual matching solution is the best way to do that. In fact, if you want to scale it, it’s the only way.

But that’s just the start of the story, there are many considerations to putting video on your page, which hopefully we’ll get into during today’s Publishing Tech Talk discussions on User Experience, like aesthetics, functionality, device, audio settings, and of course monetisation options. Let’s keep the goal of meeting the exact needs of the customer in mind, and constantly ask ourselves if our sites are both simple and elegant, and users genuinely find them a joy to use.