Martin Crowley
UX designer

The Story of OverlApp

A team-based mobile app design project with a business-focused approach.

The Problem

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. 

Project Phases
1. Research & Analysis

Interviews

Feasibility Study

Competitor Analysis

Mind-mapping
2. Design

User Flow

Sketching

Paper Prototyping

Digital Prototyping

UI Design
3. Validation & Iteration

User Testing

Focus Groups
Research

We needed to understand how to serve our core demographic and learn from other apps.

Much was learned from the discourse recorded in group interviews

Much was learned from the discourse recorded in group interviews

Group Interviews

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?

"Quite often, people don't show up for group meetings. It would be helpful to know who, if anyone, will be there or if someone is running late"
Interviewee Statement
Why an app?

Why an app?

But why an App?

A mobile app was our chosen platform for two reasons:

  1. Apps allow the flexibility to make and change arrangements anywhere, anytime.

  2. GPS/map integration could provide several helpful solutions for meetings. 

    • Establish and find the meeting place

    • 'Running late' notifications

Market research.

Market research.

Feasibility Study

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.

Competitive benchmark.

Competitive benchmark.

Competitive Benchmark

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.

Design
Early flow diagram.

Early flow diagram.

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.

Group sketching session.

Group sketching session.

Early Sketches

Early sketching served as visual brainstorming sessions. The best ideas were kept for inclusion in future prototypes.

Constructing the low-fi prototype on paper.

Constructing the low-fi prototype on paper.

Low-Fi Prototype

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.

Video document of paper prototype user testing.

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).

Some preliminary user flows demonstrated.

Improved User Experience - Moving from Paper to Digital
Marvel, a cloud-based platform, allowed members to design remotely, as well as in group meetings.

Marvel, a cloud-based platform, allowed members to design remotely, as well as in group meetings.

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"

Lo-Fi User Testing - Suggested Improvements
Different outcomes.

Different outcomes.

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:

  1. Everybody agrees.

  2. The majority decides the meeting time.

  3. Everybody disagrees - Two options available:

    • Tiebreaker: Spin the wheel of fortune & let fate decide 

    • Negotiate a time via group chat

Floating

Floating "Find a Slot" button.

Floating Button

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.

Gamification: 'Pick a stick' was changed to 'wheel of fortune'.

Gamification: 'Pick a stick' was changed to 'wheel of fortune'.

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.

Digital prototype user testing session.

Digital prototype user testing session.

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.

Final Prototype - Key Features
Home screen.

Home screen.

Intuitive 3-Button Navigation

The facility to easily navigate to the three primary functions within the app:

  1. Home screen

  2. Find a meeting slot

  3. Groups page

Home screen.

Home screen.

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

    • Checked in

    • On their way

    • Running late

Status notifications.

Status notifications.

Capacity for Status Notifications 

  • 'Check-in' to the meeting.

  • 'Video call': to join meeting virtually.

  • 'Running late': to update others, courteously.


Tiebreaker game.

Tiebreaker game.

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.

Groups screen.

Groups screen.

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 '+'.

Interactive Prototype.

Tentative timeline.

Tentative timeline.

Next Steps

Had the project continued, we highlighted a rough timeline of planned improvements and an eventual initial rollout date.

Reflection

Learning Points

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.