Learning + Fun - Stigma = Kudoz, UX Case Study.
The Kudoz Host App
RED Academy, October 2016
Kudoz is a non-charitable learning platform for the cognitively disabled. It has a website, texting service and an app for the Kudoers (the disabled). However, there is no app for the hosts (the teachers). The current flow of Kudoz works and is live, however is flawed due to the need for hosts to use multiple devices (I.E. desktop, Email, Text). My team and I had three weeks to research, plan, design and test a prototype mobile app built solely for the hosts of Kudoz.
Researching and Data Mining:
After meeting with our correspondent Andie, we found she was a host as well as a member of the Kudoz staff. We put on our design hats on and unloaded our questions, we wanted to know what makes a Kudoz host tick. What she said here was in line with what the other hosts said in interviews.
We found that the current system works, however it could be optimized. The hosts don’t have direct access to important information before their experience begins. Just like meeting a blind date for the first time, hosts have a limited idea of the personality of a Kudoer. They have access to the Kudoers profile via the desktop, however, there are many hoops to jump through just to understand who this person is. Thus, when making an experience tailor-made for a Kudoer it usually ends in an awkward situation.
This actual instance happened to us when we became our user in a “Taster Experience”.
A taster experience is when a new host is inducted to the Kudoz ecosystem and wants to test drive their learning experience. A trained Kudoer (in our case it was the lovely Jonathan) comes by and tries out the host’s experience. They give direct feedback on it before every Kudoer can request it.
Our initial thoughts and user problems where solidified from our time with Jonathan. We had a tough time meeting up with him, we had no idea how long we took, our experience was very improvised because we didn’t know his personality/learning habits and we had the thought of “what if something went wrong”? Who would we contact? Our contact Andie was driving at the time and we had no additional emergency contact for Jonathan.
This contextual inquiry was the highlight of our research, for it was one thing to listen to a user to list these problems, but another to feel the frustrations first hand.
Now having our major pain points narrowed down we understood the current system was flawed. The need to communicate more efficiently, manage host responsibilities via multiple devices, a lack of understanding of profiles and also to manage host experiences (before, during and after an experience) was holding back the user experience immensely.
Compiling our data together our persona was brought forward:
Meet Nancy, she has a passion for baking and she loves sharing it. She learned about Kudoz a month ago, from a friend and now is a host. She loves to discover new things and to help others learn.
Her full-time job sometimes gets in the way of her role as a host. She often forgets to log in to the Kudoz website to keep on track of her responsibilities. Thus, she forgets her role in the Kudoz community. She wishes there was a host app for the so she could manage her Kudoz life more efficiently.
From Nancy, we learned that our product must meet three main objectives.
Our MVP (minimum viable product) was a mobile app that allowed the user to:
- Manage experiences more effectively.
- Conduct easy communication with anyone within the Kudoz ecosystem.
- Have a visual representation of experiences chronologically.
Designing, Prototyping and Testing:
To flesh out those MVP features we entered our favourite method of creation, The “Design Studio”. A way of brainstorming and creating anything we needed. Feature ideas, problem-solving, pain points, page designs you name it.
To “studio” a problem, our team assembled for 5-minute stints of silent sketching. After time was up we shared ideas and went again. Thus, leading us towards thoughtful and creative user design as a group. These then developed to paper prototype pages and feature ideas.
Our low-fidelity flows through the app were directly influenced by the current system, for this app had to fit neatly in the current family of Kudoz platforms. The wins and fails of this prototype were directly implemented into the medium-fidelity prototype.
We had a minor pivot in design here. Due to the nature of the current desktop experience builder, we found it would translate poorly to mobile. The choice was made to address the user as a current host with active experiences, not a new host that must make new experiences. So, we removed the functionality of making new experiences.
Our application went from being a complete replacement of the system to a companion of the system.
The testing in low-fidelity ironed out the majority of our design flaws. In turn, our medium fidelity designing and testing were very straightforward. At this point, we were able to effectively test with the real end user.
Testing with real hosts was the most rewarding part of the whole project. The feedback was not only the most valuable part of our design but the positive remarks were the most reassuring moment we had yet as young fresh designers. Watching the users fly through the prototypes and renditions without any major snags was a huge win for the team as students of the trade.
Moving to the high-fidelity prototype was our biggest challenge. For not only did we have to translate our working prototype into a visually appealing look, but also have the look fit within the parameters of the Kudoz branding.
To meet the MVP, we developed the 3 main features.
1. Host experience editor/manager (viewing and editing past, present and future experiences) Including Experience mode.
Managing experiences was to give access to the option of editing an existing experience. It is a simple editor of the listing. Thus, allowing the host to tailor to the Kudoer.
Experience mode was made to not only help the host manage time during an experience but also allow the host to access Kudoz support, emergency contact and a way to take pictures of an experience. It would be activated when the user was ready to start the experience. Then the phone would be placed aside as a gentle reminder of time elapsed, but still giving direct access to anything the user needed. The dark colours are meant to not distract when placed face up for the duration of a experience.
The majority of tests we did with hosts came with high praise to this feature, for it helped solve a lot of common user issues. However, some users thought this would be too distracting. So, the addition of a lock screen slide was implemented to address this, allowing the functionality and idea to stay present but also low key as possible. We added the picture taking functionality to not only mirror the Kudoer app but also to aid in the feedback after then experience. We found by having the host take photos during an experience they could give better feedback to the Kudoz support team and allow for a better method of sharing on social media.
2. Integrated Messaging (host to host, host to Kudoer, host to live support chat)
The hosts are in a need for a dependable platform to communicate with. By giving our user access to an onboard messaging system, the user could solve many problems that arise.
-The Kudoer is late? Message them!
-The Kudoer can’t answer? Message the support chat!
-Need advice on hosting or want to connect with a fellow host? Search and find a host!
-Want to know your Kudoer better? Talk with them before you meet them!
-Need help using the app? Message the support chat!
By simply giving our user to direct access to anyone they would want to talk with, the app eliminates many major issues with the current system. No need to jump from desktop to email to text anymore. Its all integrated into the app.
The tests conducted with the messaging were very positive, every tester had a smile after seeing their options of communication. It allows the user to problem solve with the app how they see fit, not depending on the process to solve the problem.
3. Calendar and managing experience requests.
Hosts usually have weeks or months between their experiences. Our testing with a traditional calendar (monthly grid format) went poorly, so we developed a “need to know” design. By displaying only, the dates that would be used by the host, we eliminated clutter and dead space. However, still having the app talk with the user’s phone calendar. Thus, addressing users who would like to see where their Kudoz life fits in with their personal life.
Again, to our delight the tests where very appealing to this function. Users found the idea of the ‘need to know’ approach where beneficial and the addition of calendar functionality pleased a wide range of testers.
Currently, every month or so Kudoz has a community event where a badging ceremony is held. Hosts and Kudoers are given unique badges for their accomplishments within Kudoz. To make our design further integrate with the current ecosystem, we mirrored this with a bit of “Gamification”. An onboard trophy room is within the app giving access to small and big achievements. Bringing forward the underlining mood of fun of Kudoz and keeping our user engaged with the app while in between experiences.
Badges where achieved for such things like signing in for the first time, submitting feedback for the fifth time and accepting a request.
Another feature imaged where push notifications to the user when a new message or request was booked. but also, they would be used in the “downtime” between experiences. These simple reminders are to use the app in new ways. Nothing too jarring or in your face, just friendly hints or acknowledgments.
Notifications where ones such as:
- “When was the last time you checked your Kudoz calendar?”
- “You’re on your way to earning a new badge, click here to see!”
- “When was the last time you read our hosting tips, see them here.”
- “You have a new booking request, see now!”
Thus, keeping the user engaged and knowledgeable of their responsibilities as a Kudoz host and enlighten to all the resources available to them.
Summary and Reflection:
As this was the first time us students at the Red Academy where working together, we had a limited understanding of what we were getting into. Not only was the first time we where working in teams and with real clients, but this was also the first time UX and UI students were grouped in a curriculum at Red. With only our own wits and past two projects guiding us, I feel this project was successful.
We had a limited three weeks to complete the project, and a mountain of work to complete. But in the end, we delivered a creative working prototype to Kudoz that not only meet the business goals but was also fun and meaningful to the end user.
Additionally, we were pleased to hear that our design would be sent downstairs to the application development students for their final project. Our work will be made into a real app! For students of design making only prototypes so far, this was a huge achievement for us. Not only was the design effective and creative, but now work to enrich the real people of Kudoz we care for so much.
In closing, the lessons and failures I learned throughout this project will not only affect my career but also my personal life. I see ones with cognitive disabilities in a new light, a positive light. I caught the Kudoz bug by having my mindset change about social stereotypes. At the beginning of the project, we had to dance around this stigma associated with the disabled. We learned quickly that there really isn’t one at all, just a mindset. Going forward in my career and in my life, I will remember my work with Kudoz. As it opened my mind and my heart towards any user, and any person.
For we all want to learn new things, regardless of who we are.
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