Slack Design Challenge
You’ve just joined Virtually There, a small company working on a videoconferencing product for the workplace. You’ve had an initial brainstorming session with your team and have come up with a problem:
Taking and sharing good notes is often important but it can be hard to capture visuals that are shown, and the note-taker may miss parts of what was said. How could Virtually There make this virtually painless?
Why did I choose this problem?
I have critiques and group meetings on a daily basis and I always thought to myself there has got to be a better way to organize, retrieve, and remember the details of each critique than taking notes on paper. I am personally passionate about improving interdisciplinary collaboration. The reason being is that often interdisciplinary groups have team members who focus on very specific tasks and they can feel left out and self conscious about expressing feedback. Some of them fear that their feedback won’t add much to the conversation or might even pull back from expressing their reactions worrying that it could affect the relationship with the presenter. When interdisciplinary teams stop expressing their ideas, the final product can often feel very incomplete to the end user due to the disconnect between team members.
Through this design exercise, I not only want to improve the experience of taking and sharing notes, but also want to create a collaborative environment that allows every group member to feel welcomed to chip in with their ideas and feedback.
Remote employee who often calls into meetings using their laptop.
What constraints, requirements, and assumptions are you making?
- A product for the web or a laptop native app (could possibly have a secondary mobile app)
- No physical interaction between the remote employee and onsite team members
- Cloud based collaboration
- Allow live feedback (visual, verbal, text)
- Enable notes taken from the meeting to be as mobile as a notebook
- Allow user to retrieve notes and verbal feedback given from any previous videoconference meetings
- Allow discussions to resolve clashing feedback or to clarify a feedback
- Organize feedback in a manageable and intuitive manner
- Speech to text recognition for retrieving what user missed to note
- People prefer verbal feedback because its faster than typing
- Creative teams will prefer visual feedback for clarity
- Some ideas and feedback will clash with each other
- Discussing and going into detail about certain ideas is the best way to resolve unclear feedback
- Specialists who might not be directly involved with the material being presented will not express their reactions and ideas
- People will not use a software/program that makes video conferencing any more distractive or slower than how it works currently
After weighing the different pros and cons of five potential design solutions shown above, I decided to stick with a Cloud Based Collaboration Videoconferencing Platform(4). This solution seemed most promising because it provided rich verbal and contextual feedback that was linked to the person who gave the feedback. Linking the live feedback with the person who gave the feedback is crucial because the presenter can follow up with questions to clarify details about anything and it allows for discussions to happen post-videoconferencing on the web platform. This direction also helps introverts or specialists in the meeting to leave feedback through their laptops if they don’t feel comfortable to voice their ideas and reactions verbally.
Persona Based Use Case Scenario
Julian is a freelance graphic designer based in Pittsburgh who works for various local clients. He recently started working remotely for a tech startup based in Austin, Texas designing promotional material for their company. His main interaction with the team at Austin is through videoconferencing. Julian currently screen shares from his laptop to show the mockups to the employees and iterates upon his designs based on the feedback he receives.
Problem framing based on Persona
After working remotely for a month, Julian realized that solely relying on verbal responses to get feedback on his designs has become challenging for him and the startup. Not only has it become harder to write down every spoken detail, but also has become harder to point out which detail the employee is referring to based on verbal feedback. Julian often looks at his hand written notes from the meetings but have no idea who said what. He doesn’t know any of the employees personally so the only way to follow up with a question is through email. This has created excessive email threads of image attachments of his designs and has caused more confusion than clarity for him and the team at Austin.
Low Fidelity Mockup
High Fidelity Mockup
I decided to make a high fidelity mockup of what the primary user would use post-videoconferencing. “Virtually There” virtually makes note taking and collaboration painless by clearly showing who left feedback and where they left their feedback on the presentation. Virtually There also allows discussions to carry on beyond the conference call and helps the user to clarify any questions they have regarding the feedback given by team members. By adding the resolve button to singular feedbacks, it allows the whole team to be in the loop with the progress being made by a remote employee. For conflicting feedback as shown above, the remote employee can tag their team members to make clarifications on those details.
What are the tradeoffs in your design? What are the key benefits? What are the risks?
One tradeoff with my final design solution is that voice recognition and transcribing speech to text is not as accurate in the real world in comparison to what I envision it to be. Especially with conversations happening simultaneously in video conferences, I wonder how my design could improve to accommodate for unanticipated situations. An example could be a team member interrupting when another team member’s feedback is being recorded on Virtually There.
I also considered letting users to draw directly onto a presentation for rich visual feedback, but this was consciously avoided due to concerns I had with visual feedback becoming distracting for the presenter and unmanageable for reviewing later on. The reason why I decided to use circular profile photos instead was to make viewing large numbers of feedback to be more manageable and feel more personal when viewing post-videoconferencing(reminding that a team member was behind a comment).
The risk involved with allowing team members to type their feedback instead of verbally expressing it is the possibility of demotivating conversations to happen because people will gravitate towards typing their feedback. Also, I worry that some people might leave more hurtful comments and I can see it becoming demotivating for the presenter who needs to make those changes.
What would you try if you had more time?
If I had more time I would like to explore designing the interaction of leaving a feedback on “Virtually There”. I can imagine the design being similar to the FAB(Floating Action Buttons) by material design which lets the user to call the action. I was envisioning when a user clicks anywhere in a design being shared, it would create a circle and automatically starts recording. When no voice is detected I envisioned the circle to prompt the user if they would like to type their feedback, trying to make “Virtually There” as intuitive and accommodating for different types of users.
Another aspect I would like to explore is when there are numerous projects, how does the end user track all the revisions they make to a design and how feedback can be organized in a more manageable manner along with the circular dots(summary of feedback, keywords from meeting, etc). Also, I wanted to explore how Virtually There can manifest itself on mobile. What I particularly like about Slack is how I can continue a discussion I had on my laptop to my phone and I want Virtually There to provide the same level of mobility.