Much was learned from the discourse recorded in group interviews
College students find it hard to coordinate group project meetings.
Our team devised a calendar-based planner app to help solve this problem. The project incorporated a blend of design practice and business strategy. Firstly, our team established that this was a viable product and secondly, we designed iteratively guided by continual user testing.
We needed to understand how to serve our core demographic and learn from other apps.
We had unlimited access to our core demographic: Students! We took advantage of this by conducting group interviews.
Questions probed two areas:
Problem Validity: Were group meetings an issue for other students, and not just us?
Workaround Inspiration: What aids, if any, were other students using to coordinate meetings?
But why an App?
A mobile app was our chosen platform for two reasons:
Apps allow the flexibility to make and change arrangements anywhere, anytime.
GPS/map integration could provide several helpful solutions for meetings.
Establish and find the meeting place
'Running late' notifications
Narrowed our focus to the Irish market initially, we ascertained that this would be a marketable endeavour.
In Ireland alone, there are 150k students, many of whom will be involved in group projects at one time or another.
Analysing similar apps helped us to understand what we could do differently... & do better! In our favour, none of these apps coordinated meeting slots particularly well.
Studying the earning model of each app helped us to understand how our own app might turn a profit.
Establishing Initial Flow
After setting out the desired functionality, simple chalkboard sketches helped us to quickly plan the initial high-level flow through the app.
Early sketching served as visual brainstorming sessions. The best ideas were kept for inclusion in future prototypes.
Up to this point, we had largely been working in isolation. It was now time to open up our designs to outside scrutiny.
We began with a paper prototyping phase that underwent two iterations; version two benefitting from more realistic interactivity via Marvel Pop.
User Testing - Round 1
Testing our paper prototypes helped to test basic functionalities and establish a workable flow.
For round one, we recruited three individuals from our target group (students) and the same for round two (using Marvel Pop).
Medium Fidelity Prototype
Feedback from user testing indicated that the paper prototype contained too many steps & too much functionality.
We had become lost in "features". We decided to establish a USP to focus our thinking:
"To find a meeting slot at a time that suits everyone"
More Streamlined Outcomes
We put more thought into enhancing the main selling point of our app - "finding a free slot to suit everyone". We needed to minimise conflict and appease all members. Not an easy task!
We identified three possible outcomes and proposed solutions as follows:
The majority decides the meeting time.
Everybody disagrees - Two options available:
Tiebreaker: Spin the wheel of fortune & let fate decide
Negotiate a time via group chat
The alpha prototype made it difficult to navigate to “find a free slot” after the initial onboarding was complete. In response, an ever-present floating button is incorporated.
Test candidates found it easier to carry out the task successfully due to this more overt “find a slot” button.
Avoid Cultural Misconceptions
Users found the gamification element fun, but the ‘pick the shortest stick’ game scenario was confusing to one particular candidate who was of Chinese background. This prompted us to swap to a more universally understood ‘spin the wheel of fortune’ model.
User Testing - Medium Fidelity Prototype
Testing indicated that the logic of our prototype was basically correct, however, needlessly confusing complexity still existed.
The playfulness of the gamification element ('spinning wheel') was generally appreciated by all testers, though a lack of animation affected its enjoyment.
Intuitive 3-Button Navigation
The facility to easily navigate to the three primary functions within the app:
Find a meeting slot
A More Focused Home Screen
A calendar focused home screen that better highlights the urgency of tasks.
User has an at a glance view of the most vital information:
Time until upcoming meetings
Members within each meeting group
User's personal status for that meeting
On their way
Capacity for Status Notifications
'Check-in' to the meeting.
'Video call': to join meeting virtually.
'Running late': to update others, courteously.
Animated Tie Breaker Game
On tapping 'SPIN', the wheel begins spinning.
When it stops, whoever is pointed to "wins" and the meeting is scheduled for their preferred time.
A Dedicated Groups Page
All your groups are easily accessible in one screen via thumbnails that can be customised for easier identification.
Easily create a new group by tapping '+'.
Had the project continued, we highlighted a rough timeline of planned improvements and an eventual initial rollout date.
Several factors hindered us from working efficiently during this project:
- We realised too late that we should have focused on doing one thing really well than catering to several 'edge cases' badly!
In the early stages, everyone had an idea and very few ideas were shelved (AR navigation to meeting place, anyone?). Focusing on the core USP helped in streamlining our process.
- As there was nothing at stake for test candidates, we were not fully satisfied that user testing was sufficient to test the feasibility of the proposed meeting solutions (e.g. gamification/majority rules etc.). Building a functional high fidelity prototype and observing its use within the context of a real group project might better serve this end.
- Team roles overlapped quite a bit, partly due to us all wanting to learn new skills. We may have worked more efficiently had we stuck to specialised roles.