Less time with the TFL crowd — there’s an app for that.
Get to know your user well — and well enough to figure out what could make their daily life a bit easier. Learn the process of lean UX and execute your idea through user research, user flows, sketches and finally — prototyping.
In short: we’re off the races!
I met Anca a few minutes into my first day of class. We quickly made eye contact after being told to find a partner for Project 1, which is generally the best way to ask “want to work together?” when you’re both nervous and don’t know anyone’s name yet.
The transition from student to interviewer washed my nerves away in one fell swoop. I love learning about others, so this was going to be easy, right? Right,… -ish. I was seeing lots of problems, but no clear solutions. Getting out of my own head and focusing on Anca’s was my biggest learning from day 1. Once I started ignoring my own thought bubbles, I was able to focus on the task at hand in the right way.
Anca is 29. She moved to London from her home in Romania just about 2 years ago — London seemed like the easiest option when she was looking to be somewhere new. She has a law degree which she tells me she “never did anything with” as she smiles sheepishly. She’s done a lot of studying and worked in a few different places before finding herself starting her journey as a UX designer. She likes London for a lot of reasons, but just like anyone else — there’s (more than) a few things that bother her about the city. It’s too big, it gets crowded, public transportation can be a nightmare, etc., etc.
She just moved to a new flat in West London, but most of her friends live far east. Plus, she is a self-described “lazy person” who doesn’t appreciate the thought of 45 minute ride on the tube just to grab a drink. “I hate being lazy,” she tells me when I ask her what, if anything, she’d like to change about herself.
I think to myself that I could really use a lazy day (or at least a lazy hour) right about now, but I can very much see where she’s coming from.
Anca loves her friends, but hates spending too much time on public transportation. Living too far away from friends makes it hard to see them often.
Once we figured out the problem, which Anca says is something she experiences on a weekly basis, we started talking about what might spark a change.
I ask her if she thinks about moving somewhere closer to East London, but she tells me that she really likes her new flat. The neighbourhood is nice (a little boring, but that doesn’t bother her much) and the location makes it easy to get to wherever she needs to be.
I ask her if she ever meets her friends closer to where she lives. She tells me there’s not much going on in her area, so no — not really.
“What about meeting them halfway?”
Pause. Thoughts. Slight look of confusion. Then, an answer! “I don’t really know where we would meet in the middle.”
Has anyone put two and two together yet? YES!? NO?
Fine, I’ll tell you all my secrets: We’ll be working on an app that helps you find places (restaurants, bars, free events, museums, outdoor activities, etc.) for you and a friend to meet somewhere halfway. We’ll call it: Meet Me Halfway.
Quote of the day (or quote that made my day, rather):
“Yes. I would use that.” -Anca, 2016
Sketch & flow:
I made the rookie mistake of using my brain only to start sketching out the user flows. Plus, I made a lot of assumptons when sketching out my first user flow. If anyone had recorded me on day 2 of this project, you probably would have heard a lot of: “Yeah, but that’s obvious, right? I wouldn’t need to include it.” Wrong! Wrong. So wrong.
As the hours went on and I sat down with Anca every hour or so, things became a little clearer. Every step is important. Every thought is important. Write it all down.
To make things a bit easier initially, I decided to create a user flow of the app’s happy path. If all goes right & perfect, what steps are we taking and what screens are we looking at?
Here’s the path:
- Select friend’s username
- Select a date & time for you and your friend to meet
- Send them an invite
- Wait for invite to be accepted
- Close the app
- Open the app again once you receive a notification that your friend has accepted
- Add your current location
- Select what you would like to do (meet at a restaurant, bar, etc.)
- Click “like” or “next” on the options the app populates for you
- Once both friends have clicked “like”, you will receive meeting details.
- You can add these to your calendar or find directions as a last step.
Find the difference between user flow 1 and the latest below.
Sketching became much easier once the user flow was complete and made sense to both Anca and me — but even then, Anca had a lot of thoughts about my initial screens.
Example 1: She didn’t like the ‘end result page’ in my first round of sketching, which featured a list of options of places to go, but not much else. This wasn’t enough. It was important to her to leave the app and have a clear plan for the meeting. She didn’t just want options of where to meet, she wants to make sure this meeting was happening — and that her friend was part of the decision and received all the details as well.
Example 2: Once we had changed the end results page, she didn’t like that she couldn’t go back and edit. “What if I messed up and made a wrong decision? What if I change my mind about wanting to go there and want to look at more options?”, she asked.
There were a lot more of these, but I’ll spare you all the details.
The changes made in the second sketch are based on Anca’s questions and feedback.
I used MarvelApp to create a prototype for Meet Me Halfway. This is where the process got even more interesting. Up until this point, I had been basing all my decisions on Anca’s thoughts. Now I got to watch her in action, take those observations, and run. After sending her first invite, her initial reaction was to go back and edit the page.
“K, well…you can’t.”
“But you’ll be able to. SOON!”
Back to the drawing board.
This ‘happy path’ prototype also includes a few key features Anca felt were important. All the meeting options allow you to click on the address to find it on a map, for example. Think you might use this app yourself? Have any feedback yourself after going through it? Drop me a line!
A few weeks later, I came back to this project with a pair of visual design goggles on — FYI, these goggles do not always provide clear vision.
Here’s what I knew: the brand had to adventurous but not daring, motivating but not overwhelming, and reliable but not corporate.
My process went a bit like this (add a few naps, coffee breaks and meetings with my user, Anca, in between):
- Create a mood board.
- Sketch out some logo ideas — 95% of which should not be used under any circumstance, but will still help you get to the end result. See below.
- Spend 6–7 hours flipping through color palettes (I dare you to spend less than 10 minutes on this site).
- Bring your ideas to life via Sketch and Invision.
- Make edits based on user feedback
- Go back to 2, 3 and 4 and edit away.
Anca and I discussed ways in which this app would develop into something even more useful in the future. Here’s what we came up with:
- Ability to use the app function even if your friend doesn’t use it
- Ability to coordinate events with a group of friends vs. just one
For now? It’s time for a beer — it’s been a long week! In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates.