Everyone should be able to participate in the conversation when it moves into the digital arena.
When the conversation in society moves from print to online media, how do we make sure that everyone has the possibility to participate?
That was the challenge 8 Sidor (8 Pages in english) hoped to overcome when they came to Ziggy looking for a highly accessible commenting tool for their current site.
Initially launched as a print publication in the mid-80s, the Swedish newspaper was one of the first to offer their content online; solely catering to people with cognitive or physical disabilities and those new to the Swedish language. However, when Ziggy began working with 8 Sidor, their site hadn´t been updated in several years. The design was unorganized, outdated and ill-suited for an audience with various levels of reading comprehension. Readers often complained about the lack of mobile support and the sophisticated writing style of their content.
Ziggy’s role would encompass design, requirements specification and technical implementation for proposed solutions. We started by helping 8 Sidor seek funding for the project, from the National Post and Telecom Agency, PTS. Once resources were secured we commenced our discovery phase by working closely with the editorial staff at 8 Sidor to craft a content strategy and gather insight from their readers. Findings from several in-depth user interviews and extensive field research sessions confirmed that a site overhaul was necessary to realize their vision. A series of ideation workshops followed where sketches for comment functionality and site design were vetted.
“The number of comments increased with several thousand percent”
After testing these sketches with users our design began to evolve into a fine tuned solution that was quite different from the existing site. Content was rewritten in the vernacular to accommodate a broader audience, unnecessary features were removed and design elements such as text and buttons were made bigger to improve usability.
Technically, we moved 8sidor.se to a new WordPress platform for it’s responsive capabilities. We also created simple apps for iOS and Android to enhance content consumption via native device capabilities.
An important part of the project was to release the comment field we created as open source, so that anyone could use it. We collectively agreed that if others were allowed to use our solution it would not only inspire innovation for accessible UI design but promote 8sidor’s mission; to help people communicate with others regardless of impairment. We coined it the “comment field for all.”
Thanks to the new comments field and the new website 8sidor has a completely new way to interact with their readers. The new feature has become a highly utilized communication method with postings increasing by several thousand percent.
“Most important for us is that so many of our readers now have begun to write comments, which helps us make 8 Sidor even better. We are writing more articles based on readers’ questions. Often we also learn something along the way,” says Malin Crona, editor in chief of 8 Sidor.
The Comment Field for All has received considerable attention in the media industry. In 2014 Sidor was awarded the prize Medieormen from the national public radio, Sverige Radio, for their work online and the comment field.