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HackerNoon - A User Experience Analysis: Part 1 by@gedyflowers
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HackerNoon - A User Experience Analysis: Part 1

by Tuan Anh VuAugust 10th, 2023
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This article, discusses a user and task analysis of the HackerNoon website, focusing on user personas, accessibility, internationalization, and cognitive/perceptual challenges. The analysis is divided into two articles; this is the first part. It introduces HackerNoon as a platform for tech enthusiasts and writers and outlines potential user personas—readers and writers—with their characteristics, goals, and familiarity with technology. The article also delves into accessibility features for visually impaired users and how the site caters to international readers. Cognitive and perceptual challenges, such as cognitive load and layout complexity, are examined. The user analysis offers insights into users' demographics, tech familiarity, and online behaviors. The article serves as a general speculative overview of HackerNoon's usage, offering insights into user experiences and challenges.
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Tuan Anh Vu HackerNoon profile picture


Before delving into the content of this article, some context needs to be laid out first:


  1. I work at HackerNoon
  2. I am still a student in the University
  3. I’m taking a class on user-centered design
  4. For the class, we’ve been asked to carry out a user and task analysis of a website we’re familiar with.


So naturally, I wrote a report on HackerNoon (duh.)


Disclaimer: This is by no means a representation of how HackerNoon is used amongst users but merely a general analytic speculation on the overall usage and aesthetic of the site. This can be used as a reference for new users on what HackerNoon is and how to utilize the site on a basic level.


As the report is quite lengthy, I’ll divide it into 2 articles.


This is the first part of the series and it will address the following:


  1. What is HackerNoon?
  2. Who are the potential users of HackerNoon and what are their personas?
  3. A brief analysis of HackerNoon with regards to Accessibility, Internationalization, and Cognitive & Perceptual challenges.


Content Overview

  • About HackerNoon

  • User Analysis

    • Accessibility
    • Internationalization
    • Cognitive and Perceptual Challenges
  • Personas

  • References


ABOUT HACKERNOON

HackerNoon (hackernoon.com) is an American online publishing website, designed for tech enthusiasts to read, write, and publish. It is an open and multinational community of 35,000+ contributing authors that post articles sharing tech news and knowledge for a monthly audience of 5 - 8 million readers. (HackerNoon 2023a).


Potential users of HackerNoon

International users who are interested in anything technology and want to learn more about the tech industry or share their technology-related knowledge with the world.


The knowledge or information potential HackerNoon users look for, are interested in, or are willing to share/write about can range from technology-centric topics like AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, etc. to other technology-adjacent topics like gaming, history, culture, and news media (HackerNoon 2023b; SimilarWeb 2023).


The potential users of HackerNoon can be divided into 2 main groups: Readers and Writers. The Readers are more generic users while the Writers are a more specific and focused group in the HackerNoon audience.


USER ANALYSIS

HackerNoon readers

1. User characteristics


a. Distinguishability:

  • Age: 25-34 (SimilarWeb 2023), thus they range from the older segment of Gen Z to the younger segment of Gen Y.

  • Gender: Both male and female but male is dominant (SimilarWeb 2023; HackerNoon 2023).

  • Ethnicity/Geographic: Mostly come from the US or India (SimilarWeb 2023).

  • Language: They speak at least 2 languages, one of which is English

  • Occupation: They are students or people that are currently working in the tech industry.

  • Income: Middle to high income, from about $44,879 to $101,494 a year (talent.com 2023).



b. Homogeneity:

  • They grew up in the era of technology development, thus being very tech-savvy (Herrity 2023).
  • They are interested in anything tech related and are willing to read and learn about their topics of interest.
  • They spend on average 25 hours per week online, with which the majority of time is spent reading blogs online (Bandy 2020).
  • They are communicative, creative, and interactive; they are ready to make connections within the HackerNoon community.
  • They want to be able to read quality, informative content that not only offers immense family but is also free and has no paywalls (Ciulla 2020; HackerNoon 2023).
  • Use social media to connect with brands mainly for customer service and support (SproutSocial 2023).


c. Domain knowledge: ​​

  • The ability to understand basic web functions, carrying out tasks like login, creating a profile, and navigating the domain.
  • Familiar with words and phrases related to technology such as blockchain, web3, cybersecurity, etc. in order to easily navigate topics.
  • Have prior experience and knowledge with similar websites such as dev.to, or GitHub.
  • While most HackerNoon readers don’t possess much knowledge on how to fully utilize the website, a small percentage of readers who want to become writers or are simply regular readers, do make a HackerNoon account and are familiar with the website’s features such as how to give reactions and how to comment, share or quote HackerNoon articles.


d. Other attributes:

  • Skills: HackerNoon readers are expected to be familiar with tech devices and basic blog/online news website layout, they are able to use drop-down menus and simple search engines and are able to comfortably navigate through a homepage that is packed with information (Herrity 2023).




2. Goals:

  • Generic: To discuss technology and tech-related topics with the community and people with the same interests at the same time build personal branding or connect with other tech journalists through the HackerNoon platform.

  • Specific to the group: To read and learn about technology.


HackerNoon writers

1. User characteristics:


a. Distinguishability:

  • Age: 25-34 (SimilarWeb 2023), in the range from the older segment of Gen Z to the younger segment of Gen Y.
  • Gender: Male and Female
  • Ethnicity/Geographic: Mostly come from the US or India (SimilarWeb 2023).
  • Language: They speak at least 2 languages, one of which is English
  • Occupation: People working in the tech industry. They can be coders, web developers, founders, or CEO of tech companies; they can also be entrepreneurs, running their own tech startups (HackerNoon 2023).
  • Income: Middle to high income, from about $44,879 to $101,494 a year (talent.com 2023).


b. Homogeneity:

  • They are tech-savvy digital natives (Herrity 2023).
  • They are interested in anything tech related.
  • They are creative, results-oriented, and like to receive praise, thus they seek ways to show off their knowledge and experiences; therefore, they are prone to write about their topics of interest (Herrity 2023).
  • They like collaborative work, willing to make connections with people of the same profession and same interests (Aisle Planner 2019; Herrity 2023).
  • In order to establish good connections with other technologists and companies, they most often use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (Nowspeed 2023).


c. Domain knowledge: ​​

  • The ability to understand basic web functions, carrying out tasks like login, creating a profile, and navigating the domain.
  • Familiar with and able to correctly use words and phrases related to technology such as blockchain, web3, cybersecurity, etc. in their articles.
  • Have prior writing experience and publishing with similar websites such as medium.com, dev.to, or GitHub.
  • Familiar with the website’s features such as how to give reactions and how to comment, share or quote HackerNoon articles. Additionally, know how to fully utilize HackerNoon writing resources such as writing templates and how to enter writing contests.
  • HackerNoon writers are expected to have basic knowledge of the DOs and DON’Ts when publishing with HackerNoon (HackerNoon n.d.).


d. Other attributes:

  • Skills:

    • HackerNoon writers are expected to be good with tech devices and familiar with basic blog/online news website layout, they are able to use drop-down menus and simple search engines and are able to comfortably navigate through a homepage that is packed with information.

    • They are expected to have good writing skills, good communication, and an expert understanding of the topic they write about.




2. Goals:

  • Generic: To discuss technology and tech-related topics with the community and people with the same interests at the same time build personal branding or connect with other tech journalists through the HackerNoon platform.

  • Specific to the group: To write and publish articles on the site.


Accessibility

1. Visually impaired group of users (low vision and blindness):

  • HackerNoon (hackernoon.com) is compatible with accessibility features for visually impaired people provided by the operating systems (both MacOS and Windows).

  • People with visual impairments can navigate the contents on HackerNoon by setting up Voice Over and Spoken Content on MacOS, or use Microsoft Edge on Windows.


2. People whose disabilities don’t allow them to type:

  • HackerNoon (hackernoon.com) is compatible with the dictation feature both on MacOS and Windows, allowing users to type, search and write with their voice


Internationalization

HackerNoon allows users to read articles in 8 different languages including English, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Japanese. Additionally, users can access the HackerNoon homepage in each translated language by adding /vi, /zh, /hi, /es, /fr, /pt, and /ja to the hackernoon.com URL on the search bar.


On top of that, when users are on the HackerNoon homepage in different languages, each individual article’s URL will also be shown in the chosen language thus increasing SEO credibility as well as better promoting the domain/articles in the country (LinkedIn 2023).


While HackerNoon aims to cater to an international audience, it currently restricts writers to English-only content, which can be seen as a limitation to the website's own internationalization efforts.


Additionally, navigating HackerNoon can be quite the feat due to its complexity, filled with academic jargon and industry-specific terms. The platform is geared towards tech enthusiasts and professionals, fostering discussions and exchanging ideas within the tech community. As a result, a foundational understanding of technology is essential to fully utilize and comprehend the content.


Cognitive and Perceptual Challenges

Cognitive Challenges

Analyzing HackerNoon in the context of understanding cognitive challenges. Specifically: how users - old and new - in different user groups are able to learn and use the site effectively.


There are 3 types of cognitive load: Intrinsic, Extraneous, and Germane, all of which are applicable to understanding HackerNoon (Fuhrman 2017).


  • Intrinsic cognitive load: Refers to how users perceive difficulty, based on HackerNoon’s interface. It is not hard to navigate around the site, as every basic function and information can be found on the homepage or just by scrolling down. Readers and writers can easily navigate through the site with ease. Additionally, on the navigation bar, the “Help” section is clearly visible with subtabs of potential problems users might encounter.


    Figure 1. HackerNoon HELP section on the navigation bar.



    However, as users become more involved with the site, transitioning from casual readers to writers/contributors on HackerNoon, the process of getting published presents some more complexity. Despite having basic instructions on how to write on the homepage, writers may encounter potential navigation challenges. For instance, to save a draft, a title must first be provided.



    Figure 2. You really need to have a title to save the draft of your article.



    There’s also the fact that writers can customize the text in their articles (Figure 3). Moreso, there are DOs and DON’Ts writers must follow in order to get published on the site (see more here). These are not complicated things but they require a bit of a learning curve for users of the site.



Figure 3. Customization functions on HackerNoon editor




  • Extraneous cognitive load: Refers to how the human brain perceives designs and layouts. In the case of HackerNoon, the overall layout and search bar (Figures 4 & 5) can be overwhelming as the site displays many articles, as well as information on the homepage. Thus, it can potentially be perceived as clutter.



    Figure 4. HackerNoon navigation bar.




  • Figure 5. HackerNoon search bar.



    Additionally, the default color of the site, green and yellow can also drain the eyes when looking at it for long periods of time. These are all indications of potential excess of extraneous cognitive load.


  • Germane cognitive load: Refers to how humans relate things that look similar to a group of similar functions (Fuhrman 2017). It can also be understood in terms of the law of proximity. In this case, HackerNoon has done a good job of building consistency among functions and features. This is exemplified by how items and lists in the navigation bar possess the same aesthetic (Figure 4), and how all the steps of the writing process have the same white background, green borders, and green highlights throughout.


Perceptual Challenges

Since the website is easy to navigate with full instructions and simple icons/titles, there are little to no perceptual challenges users might encounter. The biggest problem still lies in how information-packed HackerNoon is and how complex a task it is for writers to get published. While these challenges might have been analyzed above as extraneous cognitive load, when users are overwhelmed with information and colors, they might refrain from learning and navigating the site, which is a perception issue (Williams 2021).


PERSONAS


HackerNoon writer:

Figure 6. HackerNoon writer persona.


HackerNoon reader:

Figure 7. HackerNoon reader persona.


REFERENCES

  • Aisle PLanner (2019) Marketing to Millennials: Keeping Up & Connecting with Generation Y, Aisle Planner website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.aisleplanner.com/blog/worklife/marketing-millennials-keeping-connecting-generation-y


  • Bandy C (2020) MARKETING TO MILLENNIALS THROUGH BLOGS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW, LEADG2 website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://leadg2.thecenterforsalesstrategy.com/blog/marketing-to-millennials-through-blogs


  • Ciulla M (2020) Building A Content Brand w/ Linh Smooke of Hacker Noon, SAASPLG website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://saasplg.com/building-a-content-brand/


  • Fuhrman J (2017) Cognitive Load Theory: Helping Students' Learning Systems Function More Efficiently, The International Institute for Innovative Instruction website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.franklin.edu/institute/blog/cognitive-load-theory-helping-studentslearning-systems-function-more-efficiently


  • HackerNoon (2023) About HackerNoon How Hackers Start Their Afternoons, About HackerNoon website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.about.hackernoon.com


  • HackerNoon (2023) HackerNoon Testimonials, HackerNoon Testimonials website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://testimonials.hackernoon.com


  • HackerNoon (n.d.) Backlinks Do’s and Don’ts, HackerNoon Help and Support website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://help.hackernoon.com/backlinks-guideline


  • Herrity J (2023) 8 Characteristics of Generation Y in the Workplace, indeed website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/generationy#:~:text=Gen%20Y%20is%20tech-savvy,software%20releases%20in%20the%20workplace


  • LinkedIn (2023) What are the latest trends and tools for website internationalization?, LinkedIn website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/advice/0/what-latesttrends-tools-website-internationalization


  • NowSpeed (2023) Top Social Media Platforms For Technology Companies, NowSpeed website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://nowspeed.com/uncategorized/platforms-technologycompanies/#:~:text=Among%20technology%20companies%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Twitt er,97%25%20have%20a%20LinkedIn%20profile


  • SimilarWeb (2023) hackernoon.com, SimilarWeb website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.similarweb.com/website/hackernoon.com/#overview


  • SproutSocial (2023) How Millennials use social media, sproutsocial website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/guides/social-media-use-by-generation/#howmillennials-use-social-media


  • Talent.com (2023) Tech average salary in the USA, 2023, talent.com, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.talent.com/salary?job=tech


  • Williams DD (2021) Four Common Perceptual Problems, LinkedIn website, accessed 14 April 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/four-common-perceptual-problems-coach-dianad-williams/