How Smart Research and Accurate Data Can Improve User Experience

With more than 50,000 students on campus and a department targeting the study of media and civility, the University of Texas at Austin is rich with resources. In turn, Tuesday’s session showed how data in the hands of trained researchers can drive change.

Researcher Dr. Natalie Stroud, Director of the Engaging News Project, kicked off our hour meeting with results from her team’s continued study of media use – all documented on their easy to navigate website –

Engaging News ProjectTo learn all she covered, and in more detail with graphs and charts, access all the good research online. Then know Dr. Stroud and team seek input and possible partners in the continuation and validation of their work.

Current areas of study include:

  • How a newspaper’s comment section is perceived
  • Improving civil discourse
  • New approaches to comment moderation
  • How website design matters on engagement
  • Solution headlines
  • And more

Facebook use for comments was also asked. As a result, It was good to learn that Dr. Stroud plans to present before Facebook next month and Nancy Lane and the LMA Facebook task force continues to do the same. A united front to shared research and practical information on how Facebook is perceived and used in news and use of comments will certainly improve user experience and the role our media companies play. A good thing. A few nuggets – civility is across the board broken down by small, medium and large media. Smaller sites are considered more civil. Facebook comments have less engagement.

Engaging News ProjectHere is a summary of other findings:

  • Have journalists get involved in the comment section.
  • Use “respect” instead of “like”.
  • Use quizzes instead of polls.
  • Consider new comment section designs.
  • Use contemporary homepage layouts.
  • Don’t use question-based headlines.
  • Consider solutions journalism.
  • Think about making push notifications available.

Overall, it was highly encouraging to see where academia and media meet to apply respected research to implementation. Good to read the study found on the Program’s website, and then reach out to Dr. Stroud with input or ideas for possible inclusion in their current or next study. We all benefit.