Redesigning Sync

I worked on interaction design class project four years ago. We called it Sync. Here’s what it looked like. Overall, it was interesting, it was novel, it was a design class project.

It was an app where you could see your day in pictures next to another person’s day in pictures (our use case was a mother who had a 12 hour time difference with her daughter). The special sauce of Sync was taking the photos that happened, say at noon on the mother’s side, and putting it with the photos that happened at noon on the daughter’s side. This really only made sense on specific occasions such as holidays.

But recently, I’ve had to describe this project in my portfolio, which made me think about it more, especially with what I’ve learned over the past few years.

Sync is made to help you reflect over your day and the other person’s day. In the case of the mother that is 12 hours ahead of her daughter, she would have to wait 12 hours to compare what she just did to what her daughter just did. Say it’s Chinese New Years, where typically there’s a huge family lunch. The mother misses her daughter who has moved away and can no longer make this annual family occasion. So having just finished lunch, she would have to wait 12 hours to see what her daughter did for Chinese New Year’s lunch. By that time, the mother is probably asleep. It would work out for the daughter, because she’s constantly getting updates of what has already happened. She can already see her mom’s lunch as soon as she eats. However, it wouldn’t work out for her mom.

We made Sync with the purpose of connecting parents with their adult children in a contextual, worry-free, delightful way. However, thinking back to this, this wouldn’t be the result. (This was also a design class project, so as soon as the wireframes were done, the project was done.) The person “behind in time” would always get these delightful updates that aligned their day with another person’s. However the person “ahead of time” would never have the same experience. In fact, it would probably magnify the disconnect they feel from the other person.

So where did I go from here? I knew why it didn’t work, but I couldn’t just get rid of the problem (which was the time difference itself).

Back to the drawing board.

So back to the drawing board I went. I looked at the initial research we did. We interviewed parents who were either in Asia or Europe. We interviewed college aged students that were in the US. The concerns that were brought up were:

  • One mom had trouble connecting with her son because he was always busy. For her, it would be great if she could know when he’s available, what his schedule is, and where he is.
  • Generally, both the parents and child will text or leave messages because it’s less intrusive.
  • A mom mentioned she has to always keep the time in mind when she calls because of the different timezones.
  • Conversation topics are generally about the adult child’s children, food, traffic, the weather, what activities they’re engaged in, stuff they’re doing, what their living situation is like, school, jobs,
  • There’s a very small window of time to talk to their children with the time difference and how work/class schedule go.
  • Most wish there was more context because the conversation would be different if she knew they were at work, driving, or relaxing at home.
  • The longer you go without conversation, the harder it is to have a good one. It’s also harder to pick up where they left off.
  • Some parents aren’t comfortable using skype or facetime (this was four years ago).

Based off of these points and some prior ideas from designing the first version, I drew up what I wanted from Sync.

What Sync is:

  • a one-on-one conversation with a loved one
  • a quick way to catch up on your day (“I ate today”, “The weather was terrible”, “Oma and Papa visited today”)
  • a stand-in for a typical “how was your day”
  • a representation of your loved one when you are away from them
  • an assistant to help you catch up with your loved one in the small windows of time you have to connect with them
  • a painless, reassuring, informative, and thought provoking experience

What Sync isn’t:

  • a photo sharing app
  • a social network
  • a messaging app

So what does it look like now?

There is a screen for each loved one that you’re connected to which represents their current state. On this screen, there’s location, time, date, weather, and an image that that loved one has posted. Contact icons will appear at the top depending on the schedule that your loved one has inputted. You swipe left and right to view different loved ones.

Swipe left and right to see the current view of your loved ones.

Swipe up and down to view their day(s). The information at the top will update with the information for each instance, but won’t have your loved one’s name and contact methods, since that’s not their current state. A tap at the up arrow will take you to the current state of your loved one.

What you see if you swipe up through Vera’s day..

The first page that you land on when you open the app will be your own. It lists your current information and the last instance that you have uploaded. A plus icon in the upper right corner allows you to add new instances with a description.

Landing page and flow for taking a picture

Overall, this was a quick refresh of an old design. There are a lot more features I would love to add in the future.