Building the Kindness project

Out of all the projects I have worked on so far, The Kindness project is very dear to my heart. The idea was suggested by a friend and immediately I know there was a potential in the idea. Potential not to become viral or make cash, but to spread kindness. The aim of the kindness project is to encourage acts of kindness, to provide a gentle nudge to the user to consciously perform more acts of kindness in day to day life. My role in the project was that of a UX designer.

In this post, I will outline the overall UX design process I followed for the Kindness Project.

Initial Idea:

The initial idea was to provide a list of tasks — acts of kindness — that a user can choose from and complete. Typical examples of tasks might be — buy a homeless person some food, or get up and offer your seat to an elderly person on the subway, or maybe even just smile at a stranger. The user can browse through the entire list of tasks and select one that he/she likes and complete it. Once the user completes a task, they can post about their experience, as a way to encourage others.

<INSERT SKETCH OF THE INITIAL IDEA>

I took this idea as the foundation and kickstarted the UX design process.

UX Design

The core of UX design is the User research. I charted a UX research plan that would be best suited for this project. Creating a UX research plan, helps keep the UX design process focussed and also serves as a great way to share your process with other stakeholders.

UX RESEARCH PLAN

Kindness Project UX research plan

Next step was to prepare a script that I would base my customer interviews on. I spoke to around 10 people — 4 friends and 6 strangers I sources through the communities I am a part of on Slack.com

Customer interview script

Here is a excerpt from my interview script:

Key Insights from customer interviews:

Apart from validating the idea, the customer interviews provided crucial insights which helped refine the concept significantly.

I am not sharing the data collected from the interviews, but here are some of the insights that were synthesized from the data:

People have a strong urge to do acts of kindness, but postpone it.
In the context of day to day life, acts of kindness gets shoved down the priority list.
People are more likely to do acts of kindness if one of their friends or acquaintances is doing them.
Many a times, the acts of kindness are spontaneous or in other words, the acts of kindness are random.
In certain cases, people lack the ‘inspiration’ or motivation to get out of their comfort zone and perform a random act of kindness.

Armed with these insights, the team made changes to the product concept.

I will discuss these changes and the reason behind these change, as we go along the article.

To capture the results of the analysis phase, I created an empathy map and shared it with the team.

Empathy map for the target persona

A storyboard for a typical scenario would be as such:

The synopsis of the story is that Matthew is in his 20's and works at a tech company in NYC as a product designer. He is deeply sensitive and observant just like any good designer would be. Matthew is content with his life, but is driven by a desire for self-actualization both in his professional and personal life. He stays in brooklyn with his wife Martha and a dog called Kempu. Matthew takes a sub to reach his work Manhattan everyday and then walks by foot for 10 mins to reach his work place. Everyday on his way to work, he comes across a guy carrying a signboard, asking for money. Matthew keeps thinking about helping out the guy, but also postpones it everyday. Later on in the day while having a coffee he reflects on the homeless person and feels a slight pang of sadness at his state.

Defining the problem statement:

After gaining empathy with the audience and unearthing certain key insights, the next step was to clearly frame the problem statement.

This app is not as much about solving a problem as it is about meeting a desire for paying it forward. The app is an expression of the deep seated human propensity to help, to be of use. The value of this app lies in the value the user can add to another person’s life. The app is meant to be a gentle push, a slight nudge, a reminder to pay it forward, to remember to be kind. With this broad understanding in mind, I framed a couple of point of view statements that in essence reflected the most important aspect which could guide the product design.

Point of view statements

Rationale behind the design choices

As I had mentioned, the insights we could draw from the customer interview helped us refine the initial design. Good design is always delibrate. Every design choice should have a reason, a justification. I will discuss some of the major design choices we made and the reason behind the choices.

  1. Instead of calling the tasks ‘acts of kindness’, we decided to call it ‘kindness challenges’. This is because, a challenge acknowledges the fact that sometimes it might not be easy to do the task, so in a way you are prodding the user to perform the task by presenting it as a challenge. Think of how popular the ice bucket challenge got.
  2. Instead of listing all the kindness challenges at once, the app will list only a small number — say 5- of kindness challenges. This is done to reduce the number of choices the user has, and thereby making it easier for the user to choose a challange. In other words, this design choice is aimed at reducing the cognitive overload on the user.
  3. Each challenge had a deadline. A challenge does not run indefinetly. This was a major design choice. Each challenge runs for a week. This creates a sense of urgency and helps combat the user’s propensity to postpone the task.
  4. The login will be through facebook and each challenge will have a feed associated with. The feed will contain pictures, status updates etc, associated with the task. This is ensure social reinforcement.
  5. Apart from the 5 tasks that run each week, there will be one ‘perform an act of your choice’ option. This encourages creativity and spontaneity.
  6. The app will have a section that will curate the best posts from members across the app. This is meant to inspire the users who might be using the app in a passive way to get more involved.

Building the first Prototype

Once the major design choices were made it was time to create a prototype.

I used sketch for designing the screens and invision for creating a clickable prototype.

Refining the visual design

Next up was refining the visual design in an incremental and iterative fashion. This is an endless process needless to say. At least until I am happy with the design.

The app is being developed by a Friend, using AngularJS + Ionic, so that we can reach both Android and iPhone target markets.

The product is under active development and the first working prototype is ready. However, there is a lot of work still to be done. Fingers crossed !

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