Apella is a citizen journalism website focused on short, quality articles on the subject of technology and its impact on our lives. The site is meant to get people thinking more about the choices they make within an industry that is growing exponentially. The advent of the Internet age has made it possible for normal citizens to openly voice their opinions to millions around the globe (Allan, Thorsen, 2009). Citizen journalists come from all walks of life, have myriad viewpoints and unlike traditional journalists, are not constrained to the ideals and base principles of the Estates they write for.
The term Apella dates back one of the first democracies. It is the name for the Spartans’ method of long range, democratic voting. Eligible Citizens would congregate and shout their votes in order to prevent corruption (Apella, 2015). This ancient system is reflected in the idea of citizen journalism – creating a virtual place where citizens can come together and voice their opinions.
Many citizen journalism websites that were researched as part of this project were badly designed and visually unappealing. Articles ranged broadly
across subject, length and quality. None were able to nurture discussion and most articles failed to exhibit a single comment (Damji, 2014). Commenting provides diverse insights and can help to fuel further research so it is regretful that many citizen journalism sites miss out on the opportunity (Appendix 2). In view of this it was decided that the heart of Apella should be an environment that fosters a spirit of discussion and debate.
The research report focused heavily on ways to encourage healthy discussion and discourage trolling and abusive behaviour. The Project started out as being very user experience focused. Axure wireframes were created and tested iteratively to ensure a successful, user-friendly design. These were a main part of the final product as they helped pin down ideas and ensure the structure worked cohesively.
The final site is more code intensive than first planned but it has been a successful endeavour and demonstrates user‐centred design alongside technological skill.