How do you change the way that people talk about politics on the internet?
A political discussion platform that rewards you for listening to what others have to say.
A political discussion platform that rewards you for listening to what others have to say.

The Problem

Talking about politics on the internet is awful. Opinions are thrown around under the guise of facts, harassment is everywhere, and social media platforms have devolved into shouting matches.
“I think lesser of myself because I’m being baited into a worthless conversation that doesn’t influence anybody, generates anger and animosity, and both of what we say is uninformed.”
“I don’t do it. I think it’s difficult to have a conversation when it’s so easy for things to be misconstrued.”
“The ability to sit behind a keyboard and say whatever you want to someone…oftentimes, they’re things that you wouldn’t say to someone in public.”
“I think lesser of myself because I’m being baited into a worthless conversation that doesn’t influence anybody, generates anger and animosity, and both of what we say is uninformed.”
“I don’t do it. I think it’s difficult to have a conversation when it’s so easy for things to be misconstrued.”
“The ability to sit behind a keyboard and say whatever you want to someone…oftentimes, they’re things that you wouldn’t say to someone in public.”

The Work

We created Roundtable, a video-only discussion platform from NPR that rewards participants for listening to each other’s opinions and for being informed.

My Role

As the experience designer on this project, I designed all the systems and features in both concept and execution, as well as crafting my team's ideas into features. I also introduced a phenomenally talented team of art directors and a copywriter to the UX design process, and led them through stages like research, design reviews, testing, and multiple product iterations. I was responsible for turning all of our product ideas into reality, including the visual design of the version you see here.

Overview

Platform Goals

Get people to listen to each other rather than expect others to read what they have to say.
Bring intelligence back into political discussions.
Reward the use of facts and objective truths while discouraging or penalizing false news and mistruths.

Skills and Methods

Product Strategy
Visual and Interaction Design
Systems and Feature Design
Wireframing & IA
Digital Prototyping
UX Research & User Interviews
User Journey Mapping
Usability Testing
Design Review
- Product Strategy
- Visual and Interaction Design
- Systems and Feature Design
- Wireframing & IA
- Digital Prototyping
- UX Research & User Interviews
- User Journey Mapping
- Usability Testing
- Design Review

Main Features

A Video-Only Platform
Roundtable users communicate 100% through live and recorded videos. Text-based communication is a key part of the internet’s toxicity problem; it depersonalizes interaction at best and allows malicious people to hide behind screens at worst.

Speaking over a live or recorded video forces someone to listen more closely to the words they’re saying and express themselves conscientiously.
Viewpoints
Each day, Roundtable posts three discussion topics based on yesterday’s news. People will be able to share their thoughts on these topics with others through live or prerecorded videos. 

The only catch is that in order to upload a video, they have to watch two videos from other people. They can record response videos as well, creating a discussion thread like what you see on Facebook or Twitter, but with more substance.
Debates
Each week, Roundtable will host a live debate on a single topic, allowing people to square off against a single opponent or on three-person debate teams. Roundtable will provide relevant information that enables participants to prepare statements, cross examination questions, and defensive strategies. Debaters will have to register in advance, and will not be able to choose which side their team argues. 

By only holding competitive debates once a week, we alter behavior through scarcity: Unlike every other impulsive, get-it-when-you-want-it digital experience, this elevate debates to an event worth paying attention to.
Why It Works This Way
The only way to participate with early versions of Roundtable was through live, multi-user debate. It was chaotic; each scenario unintentionally created winners and losers, rather than promoting mutual understanding and respect. 

This version of the debate is intentionally competitive, but in a way that requires participants to understand all sides of an issue in order to succeed. The next version of Roundtable will take these ideas and run with them, again making live video the only way to communicate on the platform.
Social
Roundtable is a community of people who want to talk about politics intelligently and learn more about each others’ viewpoints. To that end, people can connect with their existing friends and make new connections on Roundtable, still communicating entirely through video messages to each other.

Roundtable fights against fake news to restore authority to credible news sources. You can react to the factual accuracy of videos with links to news sources, altering a video’s chances of being seen by others. Our list of verified news sources contains all of our rankings and explanations in one place.

Site Map / Wire Flow

Roundtable’s page architecture is designed to be logical and fast, no matter what the user is looking to do. The two flows below highlight the core sections of the platform, and you can view a detailed page analysis by downloading the site map from the link below.

User Journey / Loop

Process / Revisions

Roundtable originally made sense as a desktop-only Facebook product, designed to eliminate toxic conversations by providing a new avenue for political discussion from the source itself. After several tests, we discovered that our systems were too complicated and rife with cheap gamification, sending us back to the drawing board to create something simpler.
Wires for Review
At multiple points in the project, I produced high-fidelity wires for my team to go over, putting features in place and cleaning up my original ideas. InVision, while light on features, was invaluable as a collaborative tool.
High Fidelity Comps
Our initial testing with high-fidelity comps was disheartening, confirming my suspicions from earlier in the project: Features were too complicated and motivation was cheap and overly gamified. Even worse, our systems rewarded people for trying to “win,” rather than listen to each other, thereby failing our goal
It’s All a Toolbox
For this project, my prototyping workflow included sharpie markers and coffee-stained notepads, InVision, Sketch, and Principle.
The NPR version of Roundtable you see here is version two of the project, and is still just a stepping stone. During testing, one of my respondents remarked “this looks like Facebook,” and I can’t argue with that. NPR’s visual identity is spartan, and my attempt to inject color into their predominantly white and grey branding made this look like Facebook. My team and I had always planned on releasing this under our own branding as an original product, and this is further reasoning to that point. Please reach out if you'd like to work with us as we move forward, I'd love to hear from you.

Campaign

Our campaign was based around the concept that Roundtable is a debate platform where everyone has a voice. In addition to print and video media, we sought to turn users into influencers through physical rewards and recognition based on participation. Influencer packages would contain branded and useful merchandise, like stress balls and video backdrops.

Meet the Rest of the Team

Maddy Baldwin
Elliot Eliash
Jason Goldberg

Thanks for Reading!

I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments, or if you’re interested in working together. Drop me a line some time.