This case study contains 4 phases: Phase 1: Understand, Phase 2: Create, Phase 3: Validate and Phase 4: Refine. Additionally, there are two interstices which discuss co-creation workshops we conducted with middle school students.
Since my team consisted of six members dedicated to UX research and design, we had the luxury of executing several research methods which wouldn’t have been feasible under usual circumstances. The methods included: domain research, competitive analysis, surveys, interviews and co-creation workshops.
EXPLORING THE DOMAIN
Kevin and I sought to understand the domain by researching middle school aged kids’ general internet/device usage habits both as a means of uncovering any mental models they may have and to detect any technological paradigm shifts among the identified users. This research was especially useful since the target users’ behavior is known to change rapidly. We also sought to gain at least a rudimentary understanding of their extracurricular involvement as well as interpersonal relationships, considering the platform may include socialization functionality.
The most compelling findings are highlighted below.
SCOPING OUT THE COMPETITION
Meanwhile, Whitney and Paymon performed a competitive analysis of the top 15 mobile/web platforms which focus on the intellectual and social development of middle school aged kids. The platforms were distributed across four categories: academic sharing platforms, event aggregators, homework tracking and EC/youth events discovery. These categories were of interest because, collectively, they embodied the CEO’s vision of Mosayec.
Opportunities for Differentiation
LISTENING TO THE USERS PT. 1: INTERVIEWS
The final step of our data collection process consisted of interviewing students, parents and SMEs (teachers, counselors, coaches, etc.). John, Paymon and I were responsible for formulating the questions, but other team members helped with interviews to expedite the process.
We sought to answer six broader questions during our in-depth interviews:
Whitney, Kevin and Ayoub developed content and structure for the co-creation workshop we hosted for a small group of middle school aged kids. The purpose of this workshop was to:
The workshop consisted of four primary components through which we attained our goals:
We came together at the conclusion of the workshop to discuss our findings and develop insights:
DECODING THE RESULTS
After conducting several rounds of interviews with parents, teachers and coaches and gathering data from the students, Paymon, Kevin and I decoded all the data by affinity mapping. The patterns we uncovered were eventually translated into design principles and user personas. Whitney, John and Ayoub spent time developing the final workshop for the students during our decoding process.
The decoding process began with affinity mapping every data point we collected from the survey and interviews. Our process consisted of condensing every main idea into a sticky note then finding patterns among all disparate data points by grouping them into categories. During this process, we discovered that our data was largely in accordance with the research performed during the domain exploration. This made it easier to move forward with our findings; otherwise we would need to take additional steps to ensure our data was accurate.
CODIFYING THE INSIGHTS
Unearthing key insights from affinity mapping allowed us to create a set of design principles which would serve as a beacon for our design solution. We also developed a problem statement, or a statement which encapsulates the ultimate problem the team should solve. This statement had a sizable influence on the design principles. In order to humanize the insights and help us understand the users’ goals, we further extrapolated the data into personas: one tutor and two types of students.
Middle school aged kids need a way to find activities that align with their interests and social needs, convince authority figures in their lives to let them participate, and reflect on positive affirmation of accomplishments.
1. Safe & Trustworthy – Parents need to trust that the platform and that the content provided by the platform is safe for them and their kids.
2. Informative – Always provide as much information as possible to allow users to make informed decisions.
3. Exploratory – The platform should allow students to view activities based on interests and preferences but also allow them to explore new interests.
4. All-encompassing – The platform needs to provide students from all socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to find extracurricular activities.
5. Relatable – Visual elements and content should be unambiguous and relevant to the primary users.
The second phase consisted of ideating solutions based on our codified insights from the previous phase. My team and I started by individually sketching out ideas to develop the conceptual foundation, then further developed the concepts by consolidating our ideas into two sets of wireframes and mid-fidelity prototypes.
IDEATING THE SOLUTION
Each team member took roughly 30 minutes to sketch out a conceptual foundation ultimately based on the user personas. Following this exercise, we made low-fidelity wireframes of our sketches and immediately discussed our ideas as a team with the creative director.
My initial concept is below.
Some aspects of this concept, such as the community functionality, were inspired by Slack. Once a student verifies their enrollment at a specific school, they gain access to their district’s communities (akin to channels in Slack) such as chess club, band, art club, recreational soccer, etc. After a user clicks on a community, they can view all upcoming events in a list which includes a preview of details and create their own event. If the user is interested in an event, they can RSVP, view a list of peers who are attending and make comments which are visible to all participants.
This concept concentrates on event tracking and discovery based on users’ interest as gauged in the onboarding process.
The wireframes above do not fully communicate my concept as standalone artifacts because we were under strict time constraints for completion. However, they did fulfill the purpose of serving as a rudimentary visual aid for expounding upon my concept.
CONCEPT 1 Whitney, Ayoub and Paymon
Core competency: “easily find activities”
CONCEPT 2 John, Kevin and Abhay
Core competency: interest driven event/activity discovery
This phase took place during the first 30 minutes of the second workshop with the middle schoolers.
LISTENING TO THE USERS PT. 2: USER TESTS
By this point, the team already divided in half and produced two concepts which could be tested by the middle schoolers. Our strategy for administering these user tests was to create two groups of kids with three kids each. UX team 1 tested one group while UX team 2 tested the other. We switched groups after 15 minutes. The benefit to rapid user testing is that the insights which are ascertained are more organic since the testers wouldn’t necessarily have the time to assist users as much.
Following the user tests, much of our time was spent being introduced to and personally experiencing the initial concept proposed by the CEO: a “game” in which users select their activities by way of trading and earning cards. It’s unknown why this concept wasn’t fully introduced to the team earlier in the process.
Consensus: the concept was far too complex, even for the UX team. From a usability standpoint, we determined implementing the concept was untenable given that 1) we only had one week left to finish the project and run the concept through the validation/create/iteration process and 2) the concept failed to fulfill the CEO’s own requirements which were brought forth during our first meeting.
In this final phase, we iterated upon our concepts based on the feedback we received during the user tests which ultimately resulted in high-fidelity wireframes and prototypes.
This phase consisted of fine tuning our concept by accounting for empty, hover and error states as well as by adding more detail to certain task flows such as the addition of an event to the reflection page. As I was responsible for interaction design, my goal was to make the prototype as “life-like” as possible, leaving no equivocation for the developers. It also prevents us from having to rely mostly on annotations, which can easily be misinterpreted. The showing rather than telling strategy immensely helps in this situation.
Since there were so many modifications we wanted to make within a small time frame, one challenge we faced was determining which changes should take precedence. This was simply resolved by prioritizing the most complex changes rather than simple ones which could easily be mentioned in the final presentation with little to no misinterpretation.
Our final design was well received by the CEO of Mosayec, noting its robustness and ability to fully communicate our concept while maintaining the integrity of his vision.
One recommendation I’d make is to keep track of and adapt to fluctuating socioeconomic patterns among middle schoolers given that our concept is heavily informed by those factors.
Next steps include: