Embark — Language Learning App

Brett Gunter
Apr 10, 2018 · 8 min read

Overview

This is one of my favorite UX projects that I had the opportunity to work on as the lead designer for Global Educational Technologies (GET). My team had been tasked to redesign a language learning tool that has been used for about 15 years at the Missionary Training Center called TALL. We completely rebranded the application from TALL to Embark.

The User

Missionaries

GET is contracted with the Missionary Training Center to produce language learning applications for the missionaries. While the LDS missionaries are at the MTC, they spend 6–9 weeks studying language and religion 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. They are expected to perform very quickly, teaching in practice situations in the first week of their stay. This means that our language learning material and course structure needs to be very open so the missionaries can study exactly what they need and when. Missionaries are also learning many different languages from many other languages so the application needs to be able support a wide variety of language types both in input and output.

The Problem

To put it short, the missionaries were no longer using TALL and their language learning was suffering as a product of that. GET has a patented and proven model for language learning and they know from studies done on previous user groups years before that when users use the application their language learning improves drastically. Overall language efficiency at the MTC has decreased in last few years and redesigning TALL to better fit their needs is one way the MTC is trying to remedy that.

The Process

Research

The first thing my team and I did was jump into research on the current product being used. We dove into the app to try and figure out all the various pieces and their purpose and get a sense for how things had been organized.

Synthesize

After we felt we had gathered enough information from researching we took all of our notes, video files, and audio recordings and began to compile key findings and takeaways.

  1. The design of the app is OLD and cumbersome which makes it difficult for the users to use and engage with. Because of the design language, they have also lost trust that the application can help them learn their language.
  2. Missionaries like to see varying activities to challenge them and break up the monotony of memorizing vocabulary.
  3. Missionaries want to be able to review content and study it again even after they have mastered it to help them keep it fresh in their minds.

Prototype

Throughout this process we’ve put together many prototypes for varying features and aspects of the app at varying fidelity stages: paper prototypes, wireframes, low fidelity, and high fidelity. Below are several examples of the prototypes:

Test

For each piece of the application that we prototyped we tested it on users before moving up in fidelity on the prototype. Working on site with the users allows us easy access to them and so we do user testing at least twice a week. Testing our users is crucial to the success of our product and we have had several major pivots due to testing.

Repeat

For me, the UX process is very fluid and is not a clear stair step to success. There are a lot of moving pieces in an application and it often takes multiple attempts to find an acceptable solution to the problem. This makes “repeat” the most important step in the process for me. Throughout this project we are constantly researching, synthesizing our research, building prototypes, and testing to learn from them and improve them.

The Current Solution

Below is a set of screenshots for the current designs of the application.

Conclusion

To summarize, the problem we were trying to solve was getting the missionaries at the MTC use Embark more than TALL so that their language learning would improve.

  1. They didn’t trust TALL because the design was old and outdated.
  2. They couldn’t review content they had already studied.
  3. There weren’t enough varied activities to keep them engaged. ‘

Brett Gunter

Written by

UX Designer