Designing for education — Tentouch

Interviews with those responsible for driving mobile learning innovation forward.

Technology is changing the options available to teachers and students and challenging our perceptions of education. In this series of interviews, I talk to digital designers in the education space about what they foresee for the future of education technology.

The first interview is with Vasil Enchev, Product Designer at Tentouch. Tentouch is responsible for several learning and productivity apps, namely Grafio and Vidra.

Vidra is an way to make an explainer video, while Grafio lets users create vector diagrams, graphs and designs. Both aim to increase productivity and communication while providing beautiful and intuitive interactions that allow users of all ages to use the products.

How did Tentouch come about? What was the original concept? What problem was it solving? What were your original goals for the app?

Tentouch was originally designed to make touch screens. In 2009, we were researching multitouch technology and how it could be used for drawing and interactivity.We had a prototype of a drawing app for a 22” screen but it wasn’t smooth due to technology limitations. But the iPad changed everything. After its launch, our CEO, Stoyan Marinov, iPad in hand, insisted, “We should make an app for that.” He had the idea of an app that you would use to draw graphs and diagrams like you would on a cocktail napkin, and that was the working title — Napkin. The name was later changed to iDesk because words with the “i” prefix were very fashionable at that time.

Grafio

The initial goals were simple:

  • Recognize basic shapes (rectangles, ellipses, triangles, etc)
  • Recognize connections
  • Add text in the shapes

With all of this, the user could achieve a simple diagram in no time.

What was your role? How big was your team? What were their roles?

There are currently 4 people actively working on Grafio — 3 developers and me. While I’m technically theProduct Designer, I do everything from content marketing to QA. Everything except writing code. We brainstorm often to decide what features to add and how to improve the product or solve a problem, or when I need some feedback on a new design.

Vidra
What was your process for creating the product? First steps?

We begin with the problem we want to solve. In our case we wanted to make it super easy to make beautiful diagrams. Afterwards we discussed what the user needs were and what features we should add. We added everything initially, then later settled on the minimum set of features and decided what our MVP should be.

After that I did lots of R&D. To get an idea of what the app would look like, I spoke with the developers to determine what would be easy for them (and what would be pointlessly hard). I was ready for wireframing the app but I combined this step with design. Since I act as both a UI and a UX designer, I see no point in drawing gray wireframes and prefer to do realistic mockups of the app right away. I’m not saying this is the correct way to do it, but this is my way of doing it.

Grafio
What was the biggest challenge creating products for such a broad user base? Greatest learnings?

The biggest challenge we face is making Grafio easy for all users. We take intuitiveness very seriously and we are always looking for ways to improve how the app works and make it even easier to use. We learn a lot from our users’ feedback. For example, we learned that lots of users have more than 200 documents and really need a better way of organizing them inside the app.

What is the next step for the products? How do you hope to use your learnings moving forward with product development?

We are working on two major improvements: “Folders” and Grafio for Mac. These are our top requests. We want to explore document collaboration, allowing multiple users to edit one document in real time. We are curious to see if this could enable collaborative learning in educational institutions.

Where do you see education in the digital space in the immediate future? 5 years?

Lots of schools have already started digitizing the class room, boosting both teacher and student performance and productivity. I think there are two main problems in education: it’s boring and it’s not personalized. We can all agree that virtual reality lessons and more interactive materials are better than textbooks at getting students’ attention. Gamification could be interesting to see in education, and the Internet of Things will find its place into the classroom in coming years. Kids love cool stuff :)

Sophisticated artificial intelligence could make personalized programs and tasks for each student, analyzing his or her attention in class thought eye sight cameras and other tools. It could then engage the student personally or give statistics to the teachers.

Collaboration from a distance and virtual reality classrooms will make education more accessible from everywhere, not constraining it to the classroom.

There are tons of innovations in education that will happen the next few years and we’ll take what we’ve learned and help innovation happen quicker!

Grafio