Case Study: O2 World Chat app

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O2 Telefónica’s World Chat native mobile application allows a user to make international calls from the UK on iOS and Android platforms. The telecoms giant’s Research and Innovation team asked my colleague and teammate Gaetan Cotton and I to redesign the app to optimise conversion rate as an optional extension project to the User Experience Design Immersive course at General Assembly, London.

Through contextual enquiry my teammate and I determined that the app wasn’t being used as O2 had expected and proved that by streamlining the information architecture and focusing the UI on the user’s specific needs the app could simultaneously achieve better conversion and retention with an experience that was simple, effective and memorable.

The Product

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The product at the time our brief was delivered

Launched in 2015, O2 describes the World Chat app as “the digital version of the international calling card” where credit is paid for in advance then used to make international calls without using internet data and without switching SIM cards. Calls by mobile network rather than data tend to be more reliable and provide better quality than voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services.

Challenge

Hypothesis: With a redesigned navigation and new information structure, we believe we might see increased engagement and a richer spread of engagement across the different sections of the application.

Our brief stated that the success of our design would be judged by the following key metrics; increasing monthly active users, conversions (number of top-ups and quantity topped-up) and engagement within the app (e.g. calls made).

Competitive Analysis

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A few of World Chat;s direct competitors

We built a foundation of knowledge through domain research and competitive analysis in advance for our initial stakeholder interview. Telecoms apps are plentiful and the foremost competitors are some of the most popular apps on the market. VoIP apps like Facebook Messenger, Viber and WhasApp are international household names.

Other apps and services offer alternative VoIP and non-VoIP propositions with mixed consumer reports on call quality and reliability. Indirect competitors are represented by the hugely popular Lebara international calling service which requires a fiddly SIM swap and Skype where users call from laptops rather than phones.

Many of the apps bolster voice call functionality with text messaging and social media capabilities which gives a bewildering number of correspondence options to the user. World Chat essentially does one thing only — make and receive calls reliably — and its simple design reflects this.

O2’s Position

In our meeting with our O2 Research and Innovation team point of contact, Jonathan Bree, we were informed that 78% of users call just one country, typically to speak to family. The majority of users were calling Poland followed by India and Nigeria. It was believed that users tended to be in lower income situations.

A selling point for World Chat is that it is SIM agnostic and the O2 team were concerned the app would be rejected by users as only being for O2 customers if visual design was too closely aligned with O2 branding conventions.

We asked what the steady increase in international VoIP usage meant to World Chat. Johnathan stated that VoIP competitors lack a sustainable revenue model and that World Chat represents O2’s commitment to sustainability:

“The General Assembly project epitomises O2’s search for new approaches and commitment to tackling problems in new ways.” — Johnathan Bree, Design Lead — Research & Innovation, O2 Telefónica

We also asked Jonathan what were the primary problems facing World Chat and agreed on a project scope that would address them while keeping our original brief to the fore. Reduced churn through better first time user experience, driving usage of the member-get-member share scheme (where users receive free credit when they share the app with contacts) and increasing top-up conversion could be achieved by making features discoverable, self-explanatory and easy to use through well designed information architecture.

User Research

To gain sufficient data Gaetan and I took to the streets of London to conduct interviews in person, task analysis, card sorting taxonomy sessions and usability testing of the current app. We chose areas with large Eastern European diaspora communities living in low income situations; Walthamstow Market and Bermondsey in East London.

Analysis

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Gaetan and I grouped the data that we had amassed in our research into meaningful patterns in an affinity map to uncover areas of opportunity and provide insights.

Gaetan and I grouped the data that we had amassed in our research into meaningful patterns in an affinity map to uncover areas of opportunity and provide insights.

The key findings were as follows:

  • Main incentives for using World Chat were value for money and line
    quality/reliability
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The final dendrogram. The features list is shown to the left and the major groups to the right.

User card sorting directed the development of our IA. We employed the Optimal Sort service to allow users to card sort app elements to establish taxonomies. Our users titled of one of the major groups ‘more’, like ‘miscellaneous’ this is never a satisfactory weird in IA. We had more work to do ourselves.

Persona

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Marin represents a generation of young, tech savvy, ambitions yet economically disadvantaged people who moved to UK from abroad.

A persona was compiled to ensure the design process remained user centred. The persona bio recounts a true story about a frustrating VoIP experience relayed during a user interview that uncovered a key business challenge and formed a core from which to develop our task analysis, problem statement and user journeys.

Solution

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We sketched out screens and I created low fidelity wireframes in Axure, moving to Sketch for higher fidelity iterations. We aimed to present a highly task focused interface and removed everything extraneous leaving plentiful white space to aid rapid comprehension of key features. Readability and hierarchy of information was improved while buy-in conversion was driven by making the lead CTA specific to new users by featuring a ‘25% discount with Paypal’ offer there, then changing it to ‘get free credit’ after first top-up.

A core feature of our navigation design was the introduction of a home screen offering all priority functionality.

The system dial out modal’s copy, previously confusing to users, was utilised to clarify the user’s conceptual model of the system image while transparently leveraging the O2 brand’s consumer status.

Iteration

User testing called for the in-call top-up interface to be further simplified and removing credit status readout and the navigation tab in subsequent iterations was met with positive test results.

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Final low fidelity wire flow

Moving to Mid-Fidelity

In tests users asked for a more memorable UI experience which was successfully achieved through a distinctive, simple and clear UI design that utilised the product logo illustrated here in my mid fidelity designs produced in Sketch.

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Prototype

These elements can be seen in our digital prototype.

Next Steps

If our app design was to be advanced further than our two week sprint allowed we would further improve and test the effects of a UI fully aligned with O2 brand on first time user conversion/churn metrics, ideally through A/B testing.

In its current iteration long term use of the rates page is unlikely to be high but it could become a platform for marketing offers through badge notifications or, given due notification to the user, even be removed from the tab bar over time.