Learning to work in a Group
UXD Professional Program — REDAcademy
The following case study describes yet another step in my educational journey of UX Design knowledge & experience.*
*AKA. my first UX Design group project
Setting the Scene
“To put it bluntly, anything involving multiple personalities is never simple.”
For the third project of the Red Academy UX Designer Professional program, we were placed into a group of 4 to create a mobile app for a fictional client. The focus of the project was to apply the design tools we had previously learned (Research, Planning, Design, and Testing), to a 2 week project while working in a collaborative group setting. Simple, right?
To put it bluntly, anything involving multiple personalities is never “Simple”. That being said, this project was chock full of learning opportunities and experiences for all around.
For this project, our group was tasked with creating high fidelity design for the mobile app, NOMO FOMO*. Along with designing the app, documentation of the process through research, planning, and testing needed to be kept.
“Vancouver is a melting pot for food, music, arts culture and events. Whatever the season, there is always something happening and new to explore. Whether you are a visitor, from somewhere else or born and raised, there is always a certain degree of anxiety in the fear of missing out (“FOMO”)** in events both big and small, and either local or just amongst your many friends.”
To summarize, Vancouver is full of events and culture. People want to discover and share them in a convenient matter.
*NOMO FOMO stands for “No More Fear of Missing Out.”
**FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out”. It is fearing that you may have made the wrong decision on how to spend time, as you can imagine how things could be different.
Users do not have a platform allowing them to search the internet for the many events and culture, while seamlessly scheduling and sharing them amongst their peers. Multiple services and platforms have to be used by the User to complete these tasks.
Allow Users to do all of the following, on a single mobile app.
- Filter events & happenings based on own taste & preference
- Follow & connect with trend setters around the city (Be a part of what they’re up to.)
- Create & share own events with others (Have the ability to become a tastemaker* yourself after a number of followers & events.)
- Share events through social media
- Create a feed of your own “NOMO FOMO’s” (A way to organize events & happenings around you.)
*A tastemaker is a person who decides or influences what is or will become fashionable.
Before I get into the details of the research, I’d like to give you some context of the group dynamic during this phase.
At this point our group was feeling optimistic, motivated, and under the impression that we were all on the same page. Roles and work were eagerly delegated. Plans were set forth. The key element in maintaining this dynamic?
Time. We still had lots of it.
For this step, data would be collected through different forms of research. The data would then be organized and compared to gain a holistic viewpoint of the project at hand.
The goal with our User Research was to find out who needed this app. Surveys were conducted to find the scope of our User’s age range, occupation, and gender, amongst other values. Approximately 30 survey responses were collected and organized.
Here are key points that were pulled from our survey.
- Age range 20–25
- 50/50 split on Male or Female
- Optimistic & Extroverted (slightly)
- Technologically Competent
- Average to high social media usage
This information gave us a general idea of our target User. However, it did not give us the whole picture. It needed to be supplemented by more intimate interviews.
Each of our group members set out to conduct separate User Interviews. Through these interviews, our group was looking for emotional highs and lows when dealing with finding, creating, sharing, or communicating events. A total of 8 interviews were conducted.
To summarize, our key findings were:
- Likes: Movies, clubs, food events, museums, art, speaking panels, and live music.
- Dislikes: Scheduling and coordinating plans, not knowing the latest in events and happenings, and flakiness.
- Sharing experiences with friends is a huge focus
- Potential to share a moment with peers outweighs the negativity of setting up plans
Results: The people we interviewed had a large range of interests. Their dislikes focused on the finding and planning of events pertaining to these interests. Most importantly, sharing these moments with their peers was above all else.
Based off of the research collected, our group created a target persona.
Meet Joanne Summers.
Location: Vancouver, BC
Joanne wants to:
- Easily find out about local events
- Share events that she finds out about with her peers
- Know what her peers around her are planning
- Find personalized suggestions based on her interests
“Joanne is a student who lives in Vancouver, BC. Her main priority in life is convenience, often putting location, comfort, and enjoyment above finances or stability. She can be found at home studying, eating, or watching tv. She likes going out with friends and enjoys activities among people. She is always curious about current local events that may interest her. Being up to date and avoiding extra work are challenges that Joanne is trying to solve. She does not consider herself “lazy”, but does admit to be a person who prefers the easier choices in life.”
Next, our group looked for comparable competitors within a similar domain. We found a large group of competitors, but narrowed it down to a select few. Here are 3 of the most comparable companies.
Pocket Social and Meetup were found to have a mobile app. Bored in Vancouver did not. All 3 had a website that allowed for Users to do a variety of things. But let’s just focus on Pocket Social.
Pocket Social was the closest competitor to what we were trying to achieve with NOMO FOMO.
Here’s a quick run-down of what Pocket Social does.
- What: Pocket Social is a local social planner. Helps you find events and activities locally and share them with others.
- User can create and promote events in one spot. Collect money with no fees. Check in guests with their phone.
- Strengths: Allows for social media sharing. Event planning and sharing options cover all the bases. Helps with finding info on events and activities and sharing with others.
- Weaknesses: The interface is cluttered. The amount of options jammed into the application makes for an over saturated layout. Finding things becomes overwhelming.
Pocket Social does a good job covering some of the goals of NOMO FOMO, but there is room for streamlining. There are also opportunities to improve certain areas to create an app more inline with NOMO FOMO’s goals.
At this stage in the project, the group became discombobulated. As a group, we were struggling to get past a conceptual and theoretical level. Regardless of being on the same page or not, work was being done orally rather than physically. Cyclic sessions of conversation erupted and our group hit a lull in production.
From a physically productive standpoint, we were stuck.
Given an unlimited amount of time to complete this project, we may have been stuck forever. But that’s unrealistic. We knew we had a time limit. We felt the pressure of that time limit. In a reference to the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention”:
The need to finish became imperative, and we were forced to find ways of achieving it.
This lead to a Lean* approach for the remainder of our project.
*Lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.
Simply put, work efficient based on your user.
Here we referred back to our target user, Joanne Summers. Creating a scenario realistic to her persona became key in defining specific needs. We needed to figure out our user’s needs & flow to define & prioritize specific features for the app.
“Joanne loves music. She enjoys the local music scene and is constantly looking for new events to attend and share with her friends. Most of the time, she goes onto google and various blog sites to keep up to date with the music scene. However, being a student leaves Joanne with very little time to cruise the internet looking for these events. This causes Joanne to miss out on some of the local music events she wants to attend. She begins to feel out of the loop in the local music scene. Joanne begins suffer from FOMO”
Key points to take from Joanne’s scenario:
- Joanne wants to find local music events
- She doesn’t have time to search all over the internet for these events
- She wants to find these events so she can attend and share with friends
- She doesn’t want a temporary solution to finding these events
- She wants an easier way to keep up to date (With her interests.)
For our user flow, we concentrated on Joanne finding an event. We also concentrated on finding options for her that would allow her continue finding events around her. This formulated the ideas for individual events, and curated lists.
Based on the target user’s needs, we decided on a list of “Must-Have” features for the NOMO FOMO app.
Users are able to create, find, and share, events. Events are sorted through categories (General terms: Music, Sports, Food, etc…), and tags (Specific terms: Jazz, Football, BBQ, etc…) as definitions.
Users are able to curate lists of events. They are free to choose from any of the events created, found, or shared. These lists can then be shared or followed by other users. The original curator is also able to update these lists, allowing them to be a tastemaker. Lists, like events, are also defined through categories & tags.
- Customization (Follow or Favourite)
Users are given the ability to follow other users or favourite lists and events. Following a user keeps you up to date with what others are doing. Favouriting lists allows for users to be continuously updated by other users on the latest events & happenings. Favouriting an event allows for users to “bookmark” individual events that may interest them. They can then revisit these events at a later time to decide whether they would like to attend or not.
Users can RSVP to events found through any of NOMO FOMO’s means. That means users can create, search, share, keep updated, and RSVP to events all in one place.
Upon deciding on these key features, our group was ready to move into the Design & Testing phase.
The moment our group hit this point, it became a mad dash to the finish. The stage was set, but time was running out. As a group, we were beginning to come together again. The there must have been some relatability in the lack of time we all shared. Never the less, we dove into the design and testing of our app (mostly on the same page as one another.)
UI Paper Sketches & Testing
Through an attempted scrum* process, our group came up with a flurry of paper sketched UI’s.
The key screens that were focused on were:
- Lists Homepage
- Individual List Page
- Events Homepage
- Individual Event Page
*Scrum process is a technique that has groups split into divisions to work at a problem or task. Each division is given the same task, and an allotted amount of time to come to a solution. After the time is up, the group reconvenes and discusses each other’s solutions.
**Onboarding refers to the mechanism through which new users acquire the necessary knowledge over a new app, while also personalizing their own experience.
After finalizing and organizing our app flow, we set out to test it’s functionality.
Some of our questions we had were:
- Is the Onboarding process too long?
- Are there too many features and functions?
- Is joining an event streamlined enough?
The results of our Paper Prototype testing proved to be very helpful. It went on to answer some of our initial questions.
- Is the Onboarding process too long? NO
People did not mind the length of our Onboarding process (3 steps asking for preferences and interests.)
- Are there too many features and functions? YES
Favourite, Share, Create, etc… was all on the initial screens for each of the Lists and Events. This created a saturated interface that became consitently difficult for users to navigate. All features and functions were removed in favour of a singel Favourite button.
- Is joining an event streamlined enough? NO
In the paper prototypes, we initially had 3 options embedded in the RSVP section of an event page. Users could select from 3 icons (remove event, rsvp to event, and favourite event.) We realized that users spent a huge amount of time deciphering this section. It had to be removed in favour of a single RSVP function.
Digital Mid-Fidelity Design & Testing
One of the biggest recurring problems we came across was on the home pages for Lists & Events. The vertical spacing made it hard to differentiate which description and image matched.
To fix it, we used arrows and image overlay. This made the relationship between descriptions and images obvious to the user.
Another problem that came up was on the Event RSVP confirmation. In the mid-fidelity prototype, pushing JOIN EVENT would prompt a toaster style overlay. The overlay would spring up from the bottom of the screen, validate the user’s action, and give sharing options.
The problem can be seen in the above image (on the right screen). The share options take priority over the EVENT JOINED prompt. This caused many tester to become confused as to whether or not they had joined the event yet.
The fix, create a visual hierarchy that promotes the EVENT JOINED message above the share options.
Through quick cycles of testing with users, our group finally came to a final result. A High-Fidelity Prototype for the NOMO FOMO mobile app.
Given the time constraints and context of the project, I feel as though my group came up with a pretty solid result. Looking back on the entire scope of this project, there is little I would do to change the experience. The whole process was a messy web of misguided ideas and direction lead by different personalities. There were many hurdles and challenges along the way that we faced as a group, both divided and united.
Ultimately, the whole project was an amazing experience. It put a focus on group dynamics and efficiency. Everything I have learned during this project will and can be used in projects moving forwards.
I am happy to say, I am finished my first UX Design group project.