Concept and Overview
The purpose of Debate Pool is to act as a political discussion forum and to facilitate debates between its users. It is similar to other politically centred websites in that most of the content that is generated through the website is intended to be user generated, created through discussions between users arguing about a particular topic. The innovation of Debate Pool is that it seeks to act as a hybrid of both a forum and a blog by combining authored content with the forum aspect of the site. This is primarily seen within the debate of the week characteristic of the site, in which an authored topic of discussion will be proposed to the users of the site, and then it will be up to the users to draw their own conclusions and debate their particular arguments against each other. This section is paired with a more blog styled Opinion Pieces section which is completely Debate Pool authored and also a more forum styled comment section in which users interact with each other and not with the author. The target audience of Debate Pool is politically motivated young adults that are enthusiastic and interested enough to participate in debates.
Visual Communication and Design
The main source of visual communication used in Debate Pool is that of photography and imagery. The banner of debate pool is a photograph taken within Adelaide University by a DSLR camera with a low aperture number featuring a row of pillars.
This image is not only aesthetically pleasing, but features sections of vibrant red within the pillars and uses a red hue over the entire image. This particular hue was chosen as (De Fiore, 1988) claims that “red, more than any other color, is linked to the concept of activity and passion.” This would hopefully appeal to Debate Pool’s target audience of politically motivated young adults as they would be drawn to passion. Political cartoons were also used as the featured image on many debates, as these were thought to connect to the politically motivated target audience and also the purpose of the debate based website itself.
Fowlie, Christian. “Euthanasia”. 2016. http://www.cristianfowlie.com/portfolio/euthanasia/.
Aboualfa, Samira. “Foreign Intervention In The Syrian Civil War Under The Scope Of International Law”. Medium. 2016. https://medium.com/@THE_CEO/foreign-intervention-in-the-syrian-civil-war-under-the-scope-of-international-law-b076d4f504
These particular cartoons were chosen as they similarly bend out from the middle on either side of the image and they both satisfy the design concept of parallelism. (Tufte, 1997) states that “multiple parallel images” is a “transparent, powerful, and widely used method of enforcing visual comparisons”, meaning that users will not only be able to appreciate the aesthetics of each cartoon on their own but they will also be able to easily compare the two. This imagery is then complimented with a black and white background, with the intention that the images will more easily grab a user’s eye and also that the website will have a more serious tone to it than other more colourful forum sites to encourage its original purpose of facilitating serious debate. This works because certain colours are associated by the human brain to particular moods, and a study by (Tsai and Chou, 2007) shows that black and white can be associated with a serious context.
User Interface Design
The intended audience for Debate Pool is young adults who more than likely browse their social media newsfeeds every day. “Repeated exposure to each type of situation builds a pattern in our minds of what to expect to see there. These perceptual patterns, which some researchers call frames, include the objects or events that are usually encountered in that situation” (Johnson, 2014). The layout of Debate Pool satisfies a perceptual pattern of a young adult’s general idea of a centralised news feed by stream lining posts from several different categories into the initial home feed. This is organised in such a way that the intended audience will feel more familiar when browsing Debate Pool. Debate Pool also features an easy to identify and navigate main menu bar, which will lock to the top or bottom of the user’s screen based on which direction they are scrolling such as to always be visible.
The images above display a menu interface that is structured such that the most important aspects of the website are at the front and easily accessible. The Home feed is the highest priority option, followed by the Debates tab as it is the main innovation of the site. The Opinion Pieces tab proceeds this as it is a sizeable yet not primarily important section of the website and is the About section. A design goal was to ensure that Debate Pool appears professional yet not too overcomplicated, and this is reflected in the very spatial structure of the website. The user is greeted to the page with a large banner, and there are unused spaces on the edges of the pages rather than suggestions or sidebars, yet every post is sizeable enough to easily grab the reader’s eye. This structure was created intentionally to try and maintain an uncluttered design.
User Experience Design across Digital Platforms
The alternative platforms that have been chosen are Twitter and Instagram, as they represent the two most applicable text and image based forms of media to Debate Pool. Accounts for both of these platforms are embedded as a widget into the Debate Pool website such that users can easily follow the brand. The Instagram account is primarily used to share and follow political cartoons as they are an ongoing theme on Debate Pool as previously shown. An example of this is contained within the following link:
The twitter account is a little more interesting however, as its purpose for Debate Pool is to interact directly with the site’s audience and also with other established political theorists that are often very responsive on the social media site. For example, the following link is a retweet made from the Debate Pool Twitter account to its followers containing a retweet that political activist @benshapiro made commenting about a tweet from @realDonaldTrump. It is for these kinds of interactions, along with direct interactions with the Debate Pool audience, that the Twitter account is used for.
By utilising these alternative platforms, Debate Pool intends to create a coherent user experience design across different online spaces. By supplying the user with many more different ways to interact with the Debate Pool and general politically motivated community, a sense of belonging to the Debate Pool community is formed. This sensation is known as Affiliation and will motivate the intended audience to become more involved in Debate Pool through use of other platforms. Affiliation is explained within the logic that “being part of a group (or believing we are part of it) makes us feel proud” (Marsh, 2015). This sense of pride is intended to motivate the Debate Pool audience into increased participation in debates.
The following image is a statistics page pulled from the Debate Pool WordPress site.
As can be seen, the website only attracted 6 total visitors and 33 views since being formed, and most of those views are probably collected from the author opening up the Debate Pool page to post in it. This shallow participation from users can probably be explained by the lack of content within the site and also the niche audience that Debate Pool is targeting. It may be the case that the class members of Digital Platforms are not politically motivated or interested in the concept of the page, as they are not the target demographic that Debate Pool intended to attract. The implication of this is that Debate Pool needs to be exposed to different audiences other than just the Digital Platforms class such that the intended participants can be found.
The next image is a Debate Pool Twitter Analytics page for the months of March, April and May.
As the Debate Pool Twitter page was set up with the intention of primarily retweeting and commenting on other people’s posts within the site, it is not surprising that there is no direct tweet activity in some of the months. However, there is some success within the tweet impressions that were collected between the months. This is probably as a result of somebody retweeting the Debate Pool account or a useful hashtag being used, as the account itself does not have that great of a following.
Future Directions and Development
The vision for Debate Pool going forwards is to improve some of its more simple features. For example, the comments section of each post is basic and could be divided into two columns such that one side agrees with the argument and the other side disagrees. Along with this, an added up vote function for comments would be exceptional such that users can more clearly see which side of the debate is winning. The direction of Debate Pool was always supposed to lead to more user generated content being created then authored, and to encourage this an improvement would be to separate debates into two different categories. One would facilitate debates in which Debate Pool suggests the topic of discussion (as is the system now) which would be renamed to “Debate of the Week”, and the other would allow users to pose their own debates and have other participants comment on their posts. This would push the direction of the website more towards becoming a user generated forum rather than mostly a blog, as it was always intended to be. This would encourage more audience participation within the site, which would be the greatest improvement to Debate Pool.
Drawing with Color and Imagination by Gaspar De Fiore (translated by Joachim Neugroschel), published by Watson-Guptill. 1988.
Johnson, Jeff. “Designing with the Mind in Mind Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines”. 2nd edition. pp. 3. 2014.
Marsh, Joe. “UX for Beginners”. pp. 40. 2015.
Tsai, Hung-Cheng, and Jyh-Rong Chou. “Automatic Design Support And Image Evaluation Of Two-Coloured Products Using Colour Association And Colour Harmony Scales And Genetic Algorithm”. Computer-Aided Design 39.9. pp. 818-828. 2007.
Visual Explainations by Edward Tufte. pp. 83. 1997.