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O2 WorldChat UK — design sprint

A case story

This is my personal account of a 2 weeks sprint, a close collaboration with a trusted colleague. Much was accomplished in a small time thanks to our inherent complementary of skills and personal confidence in our purpose and shared values.


O2 WorldChat is an iOS and Android mobile app that allows user to make clear international calls using pre-paid credit without relying on the quality of the internet connection or using data.

The issue with voice over Internet is the variable quality of the sound and frequent drop off on mobile devices. WorldChat caters for users who do not have mobile web access or prefer not to use their -limited- data plan.

O2 Telefonica Research and Innovation gave our team, Jussi Brightmore and I, the opportunity to review the information architecture and navigation to increase in-app engagement and conversion.

  • User research revealed the app is being used for long family calls where quality vs cost concerns are balanced: value for money and sound quality both matter.
  • Priority of features in a central home/hub page can be improved to better meet the end-user’s primary actions.

Brief & Objectives

App Hierarchy and Information Structure

Problem: Our users need a way to navigate through the application, but we believe the existing structure could be make clearer and more functional.

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

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

Information Architecture at the centre of user needs, business context and product/service content.

Information Architecture Discovery

Information architecture is at the core of our project. IA is the intersection of 3 main user experience fields that will be the focus of our efforts:

User’s needs analysis through interviews, persona and usability testing.

Business context, competitors and market positioning.

App content: feature prioritisation for simple and efficient navigation.

Key discovery points:

  • Current Site Map is fragmented in 5 sections accessed by navigation bar menu. No default page within the app as the user is directed back to the last section of his last action.
  • UK Telecoms market is crowded and VoIP offers pretty much saturated with the trendsetters Messenger, Viber and WhatsApp. Their social media integration makes them ubiquitous.
  • WorldChat in contrast comes across as a Minimum Viable Product. One single purpose for a specific use case: make pre-paid international calls without the need of internet neither at the calling nor the receiving end.
  • The stakeholder interview with Jonathan Bree (Design Lead — Research & Innovation, O2 Telefónica), confirmed that 78% of user called only one destination, with Poland, India and Nigeria as top 3.
WorldChat UK current screen flow.

Current app user feedback:

  • “Everyone wants to earn free credit first.” — Gregory, 55, from Poland
  • “I think it’s a pretty cool idea as a backup.” — Anastacia, 26, from Moldova
  • “It’s simple, which is ok. Nothing special. Not fun, not fresh…” — Nastya, 28 from Romania
  • “I’m not getting enough info to trust entering my credit cards details” — Marta, 32 from Poland
  • “Our country is really poor. If we spend more than we can afford it might end tragically.” — Marin, 24, from Moldova
  • “Paypal and Ebay, these are the international names that people trust.” — Marin, 24 from Moldova
  • “I make calls whenever I get the time; day or night, at work, at home or walking in the street.” — Wojtek, 43 from Poland

Converging to define a problem

Extracting insights from the user research proved quite a challenge as the general public is reluctant to take part in any telecom related survey, exhausted by so many marketing solicitation in the past.

While Jussi decided to resort to good old fashion on street interviews, I had a couple of Polish friends, fitting the target audience, to put our screening script to the test and proceed with in depth interviews.

Actionable user insights:

  • value for money and line quality/reliability are top user priorities
  • calls are made to only two to three number,
  • most users have a weekly schedule call to family members abroad
  • most calls are lengthy: 30 min to 1:30h
  • current credit level should be clear before making the call
  • during call, the users do not know how much time is left or how fast is the credit depleting
  • current payment increment is high and criticised by users
  • user felt the app was not memorable

Dendrogram to review the feature priority

Dendrogram based on the actual agreement method to depict factual relationships in grouping.

Digital card sorting is both fun and fast! We gather the findings from 10 participants and can identify the 3 grouping:

  • payments and account
  • contacts and dialler
  • more/T&Cs

Meet Our proto-persona: Marin,22, from Eastern Europe

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

“If Elon Musk can send people to Mars, why can’t we here on earth speak to each other?” — Marin, 22, from Moldova

Marin’s current in app journey map

Current user journey with pain points and frustration of dropped call.

The lengthy process of dialling and redialling after a manual top up credit presents an opportunity for improvement.

Problem Statement:

Marin needs a quick way of knowing how much time of phone conversation with his cousin Veronyka, he has left with his current credit. If necessary, purchase a micro top-up, so he can confidently enjoy a special family moment by phone.

‘How Might We’ Question:

How might we give Marin fast access to credit information and time remaining for a favourite number and allow him to top-up credit easily so he can enjoy his call?

Ideation and iterative design

  1. A new central hub for Marin to quickly access all the app functions
Design studio sketches illustrating the central hub for the app functionalities.

2. Micro-top ups: like putting coins into a pay phone

To offer a more attractive range of credit values, the top-up minimum value is set to one pound.

Top level navigation

The first mockup of the navigation menu.
The next iteration of icons and the change of settings to info label and relevant iconography.

Primary User Journey: making calls

Secondary user journey: setting up PayPal to get 25% free credit

Tertiary user journey: sending a referral to friends to gain a £ reward

New Home hub navigation

Delivering an implementation of our ideas

Paper prototype allows for quick iteration and user testing.

User testing and prototyping to a higher fidelity

Usability testing to confirm our design decisions or change and adapt accordingly.

Moving into a clickable high-fidelity prototype, we created the screens for all 3 journeys.

Starting with the Paypal setup, then implementing the in-call top-up scenario, with finally a timely message to refer the app to a friend and get free credit.

Some extra ideas to test and iterate further

With a bit more time and resources, our team would have liked to

  • give the app a stronger identity. This would require a full sprint and gather more insights on the market differentiators.
  • develop the rates page with dynamic content to maintain the user’s interest past the first-time use of checking the applicable rate for the international countries of his/her contacts.

My thoughts…

Along this project, I’ve been puzzled by:

  • the lack of consistency of customer message between the web marketing touchpoint (colourful and modern) and the on-boarding in app content (mono-chromatic and strict minimum).
  • the relative niche appeal and use case of this product. A testament that even big Telecom players want to cover all bases and saturate the market to provide a solution that is network agnostic.

If I had to draft a couple of lessons learned from this sprint, I would reflect further on the mutual support and emulation within our team, a fertile ground of open-minded investigation and creative thinking.

Finally, I am grateful to have researched the current digital solution for such a basic human need of communication… and got the chance to catch up to my friends in Rome and Paris on my free in app credits!



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