Designing a second screen application for news that enables viewers to understand complex news stories.


Nowadays, the digital medium has become the most important source to obtain news and the rise of mobile technologies has enhanced the consumption of television content. TV companion applications have been created to increase immersion for many recent television shows.

Though these applications provide a range of related information as well as a medium to interact with contacts (via social networks), most of these applications do not focus on the content. As a result, the content is still hard to comprehend for most interactors, thereby defeating the purpose of a second screen application. Therefore, there is a need to design a second screen application for news that would enable news consumers to better understand a news story.

Based on survey conducted by BBC 2013


Complex news stories can typically be experienced in a multi-sequential format. However, most the news stories shown on TV today are presented in a unisequential format making it difficult to follow complex news stories. The complex nature of the news, especially those involving multiple actors, groups, locations and events, pose barriers for viewers who are new to the news story and may not have any context. Therefore, the goal of my project was to,

“Design of a second screen application for complex news"

In order to facilitate the design process, I selected the 2014 crisis in Syria as the complex news story for my project.

Characteristics of a complex news story

Competitive Analysis

Competitive Analysis

User Research

In order to gain a better understanding about the users, I decided to conduct an online survey followed by user interviews.

Key Findings

From Problems to Solutions

The online survey and user interviews helped reveal some key aspects which helped me define the core functions of my applications.


Design Solution Built

Screen Flow

Newspad Prototype

Narrative Visualization

Annotated Map

Whenever the news story involved a place, an interactive annotated map would be displayed. This map would not only display the place, but also provided additional relevant information.

Annotated Map

Partitioned Poster

The partitioned poster was a visualization presented for news stories comprising of multiple varied groups/sections.

Partitioned Poster

Timeline Slider

The timeline slider was a visualization presented to display the series of events that took place sequentially during a specific period of time.

Timeline Slider

Event Timeline

The event timeline provided a quick and simple way of understanding the context of the news story.

Event Timeline

News Coverage from across the world

An important aspect of the application was to present different point of views to the viewers. Viewers were also interested in knowing from which part of the world was the news coming from. Therefore, I designed a screen displaying a carousel of news stories from across the world.

News Coverage from across the world

Testing and Findings

The usability study involved individual sessions that required the participants to watch a news clip and in addition to this, they were given an iPad that had a prototype of the application installed on it. To understand how the participants felt while using the application, I requested them to think aloud.

On completion of the task, the participants were first asked questions related to the video followed by a post completion survey.

Study Findings

My role

This was a three month long project as part of my Master’s thesis at Georgia Tech. As this was an individual project, I also had the opportunity of wearing multiple hats (in terms of the research, design and prototyping ) while working on this project.

If you are interested in learning more about this project you could get in touch with me at writetoamrutha[at]gmail[dot]com.