EVALUATE AND ENHANCE
ThoughtCatalog.com’s main objective is to host articles, personal essays, poetry, short stories and more by established and aspiring writers. They have over 100,000 articles published, over 20,000 writers, and publish books for their featured writers and editors. Due to the nature of their site and their content, the company’s main goal was to be clean and clutter and focus on archival of their cumbersome amount of content; neither of which I felt they were currently achieving.
I conducted this research solo while learning the process over a 6-week course. Each element of this case study was conducted to build upon the knowledge from the prior week to create a final cohesive report.
Asses the Website's Intent
ThoughtCatalog’s mission is to be a platform for “thoughtful storytelling”. They post articles, submitted by aspiring, as well as seasoned writers and give people an outlet to connect and read stories and list articles about current events/topics as well as personal essays.
They have over 100k articles and 20k writers. They also support featured writers in book publication and run a sister platform called QuoteCatalog - highlighting writers from their site as well as well known/famous authors and poets. In addition, they run a platform called Collective.World. This is where writers can make a profile to submit articles and also have a feed of features articles
Below are ThoughtCatalog’s Ideals. Number 2 and 4 are key to strategically developing their IA.
Thought Catalog contributors should strive to make their writing fun, smart, and creative, i.e., entertaining, journalistic, and literary.
The site should be clean and clutter-free.
We believe all thinking is relevant and strive for a value-neutral editorial policy governed by openness. The more worldviews and rhetorical styles on the site, the better. We want to tell all sides of the story and generate dialogue.
We’re about today. But our mission is also archival. We want to catalog the times for tomorrow.
We want to help shape culture by empowering you to share your ideas and stories with the world.
Asses the User's Intent
Users that visit the site are there to read and submit articles. With a variety of content, the site attracts a broad range of readers. With personal stories, the site attracts readers looking for connection and community. It also attracts writers looking to gain visibility - it produces writers and articles with millions of views/reads.
The sitemap demonstrates the basic structure of the current ThoughtCatalog website. The Top Navigation and Homepage are areas I that deserve the most attention. Areas of focus are labeling, content structure and consistency.
The current wireframes exemplify the content structure of the homepage, an article, writers page, and the latest page. The main area of focus here is the writers page; curently housing 2 tabs with featured writers and everyone else (400+ pages).
Before making any design change suggestions to the interface, I conducted a variety of tests to help understand areas of friction the user may encounter when interacting with the current site architecture.
Tree Jack Test
Card Sort Test
The main objective is to make the interface as seamless as possible while meeting the user's needs and following their natural path.
Below are the results of the Tree Jack and Card Sorting Tests conducted with optimalworkshops.com
Question 1 was intended for users to explore the cumbersome “Writers” section of the site. The Featured Author’s page does have Chrissie Stockton’s name on it, but in no particular order do they seem to be listed. If you wanted to look her up by her first of last or name, knowing for sure she would be listed under All Authors, you would have no way of sorting the Authors by letter, never mind first or last name.
Questions 2 was intended to demonstrate the inconsistent labeling in “Latest” articles and the page itself being called the “Thought Reel”. There was a 40% fail rail in this trial.
Question 3 was intended to demonstrate the various ambiguous language used to label different categories of articles. There was only a 20% success rate in completing this task. At further examination of the paths, very few were taken directly to the correct answer.
The Card Sorting test proved difficult to conduct. As I was creating the test, choosing the categories and examples to test, I was noticing that due to the various way articles are tagged and organized, deciding on how to structure this was a little challenging.
I decided to do a closed card-test as oppose to open because at this point in th e journey, I'm trying to tighten up the categories and labeling and I felt doing an open test would present options with a very large range.
I chose to test the below categories to see if users would rather categorize articles by specific topic (love, astrology, self-help) or under the more broad categories ThoughtCatalog tries to implement (HeartCatalog, CreepyCatalog). I also wanted to see if users would associate Trending articles with the “Popular” label, as it exists now, or with the specific top category of the article.
The charts below show the categories I intended/predicted the users may sort the cards into and the results matrix from the test show some interesting results.
After evaluating the testing results and other comparative sites, I revamped the the IA below, focusing mainly on the Top Navigation and Discover sections. My main goal was to concentrate these sections on broad, common topics and integrate drop-downs to keep users from aimlessly clicking around.
For example, I wanted to consolidate the Top Navigation to include all the main features of the site; Writers, Shopping/Books, Quote Catalog, Heart Catalog, Creepy Catalog, Search, & Login (to incorporate their sister submission site). This new top navigation keeps the theme and categories of the site consistent and self-explanitory.
Main updates were made to the homepage and writers page. As mentioned above the Top Navigation was reorganized and I also incorporated a side Discover navigation bar to help readers more easily search by topic or category, which is how all their articles are archived.
The Writers page was updated to make navigating by the author more simplified. Previously, you had to scroll through hundreds of pages to find who you were looking for. They intended to organize by author's last name, but the tagging was not consistent and sometime the author would be tagged by first name. The addition of alphabetical navigation would alleviate the oblivious searching
Overall, my main areas of improvement lie in relabeling and consistent categorization. This would apply to their homepage, navigation bars, articles, and writers. This study illuminated areas of weakness, but also exhibits solutions to make ThoughtCatalog even more successful for the company and for users.