Usability makes the world work better.

The team spent Friday morning coalescing ideas and understanding about eastern Iowans and what we might be able to do for them. Thursday we sent out email surveys and called people to ask questions. Friday we discussed our interviews and identified some information needs that eastern Iowans might have:

  • Child rearing – online forums, daycare
  • Family Activities & events
  • Housekeeping/housework
  • Family dinner & nutrition
  • Crime news & enforcement & neighborhood watch
  • Baby news & family news
  • Local business & jobs
  • Farmers market
  • Grown-up things to do
  • Local news
  • Keeping in touch with friends, family
  • Night life
  • Making news gathering easier: most news-bang for time-buck

A favorite of mine is the need to make news gathering easier.

A new study from Medill’s Media Management Center called ” What It Takes To Be A Web Favorite” shows that people can be overwhelmed by the volume of stuff on a newspaper’s website. They see a enormous list of headlines in multiple columns on a web page, and get turned off. Another study from the AP called “A New Model for News” shows that readers really want depth in the news they consume, but often don’t get that in their daily reading. People will go from web site to web site looking for stories that provide more information and read the same story or similar stories over and over.

People don’t have a lot of time to read the news, but want in-depth news and are having trouble getting it. This issue was echoed by a few people we interviewed, and our team members recognized that this is something that they personally deal with.

It’s the usability, stupid.

Let me talk a little about how we came to pick these topics.

We did a limited survey of people who volunteered to participate, and called them to ask some more in-depth questions. A few people were stay-at-home moms. Around half of the people had kids of some age. The rest didn’t. We then threw ideas around in a few rounds to come up with a list of things that jived with the activities and interests of the people we talked to and received survey responses from.

It’s certainly not exhaustive and definately rushed.

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3 comments until now

  1. Wow. That list of topic ideas makes eastern Iowans (a category in which I’ve belonged for the last, oh, eleven months) sound awfully pathetic compared to, say, big-city kids from Evanston. I’d be quick to scream something vindictive about how we’re not all obsessed with the topics listed above … but by and large, you’re probably correct. Particularly as you pulled those ideas from a poll.

    Just don’t talk down to us in the process, though, OK? The whole ‘Crunchberry’ rhetoric is clever as hell, but makes me wince, too. We’re not all SAHM’s looking furiously for the Next Big Thing to make our perfect suburban families for supper tonight.

  2. Hey, Jessica. Glad you found us.

    Our survey was definitely not comprehensive, and I’ll bet that we’ve missed the mark completely with a couple of the ideas listed above. We’re doing our best to conceive a way to create connections among twenty- and thirty-somethings in Cedar Rapids.

    The folks we’ve spoken with in that demographic are, by and large, people who love Cedar Rapids. Maybe they were raised there, and maybe they’ve come to the area for the opportunities it presents. They’re middle class, starting families, and putting down their roots.

    For these reasons and more, we found ourselves discussing the issues a young family faces, and I think you’d agree those issues apply to young families from Chicago and Cedar Rapids just the same.

    Thanks for taking the time to write, and I hope you keep reading! We would love more of your feedback.

  3. I think your list is really spot-on. Its consistent with focus groups we’ve done in the past year or so too. “Grown up things to do” made me smile, we got that too from focus groups in Iowa City especially. Students who graduated from U of Iowa and stayed in the area, grad students and like, they’ve outgrown the “college kid” bar scene and want something more sophisticated, so to speak.
    And families, there are a lot of families in this area. So child rearing, baby news, finding time to put a nutritious dinner on the table and keep up with housework- its HUGE. Attendance at baby workshops through St Luke’s Hospital in CR is evidence of that also. (I’ve been there in the last year so I know from experience)
    This is Iowa, lets face it, there just isn’t as much to do compared to big cities, so socializing with friends and family is key, and night life, and farmers markets are seriously big. Nice work identifying farmers markets, its true. They’re hugely attended but could easily fly under the radar.
    Keep up the good work! Not bad for a bunch of “big-city kids from Evanston” – I love it. Thanks for the blog. I love the name of the project and look forward to seeing what you conclude. And, if I can help in any way don’t be shy.

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