HERE’S THE GIST:
This project’s objective was to design a mobile application for one of my peers, with a focus on applying the Double Diamond design model. The problem to solve was to help the user who has moved to a new area connect with locals and establish friendships. After conducting user research, pulling user insights, concept testing and usability testing, I designed Buddy Up as my solution. The app’s main value is that is focuses on raising the user’s comfort level and familiarity for those who generally have difficulty socializing. A working prototype is my final deliverable.
Team Member(s): Mark Pragides
Duration: One week
Tools: Sketch, Marvel
HOW DID THIS PROJECT BEGIN?
The basis of this project was to conduct a preliminary interview with one of my colleagues. Through this interview, I would then discover a problem the interviewee had and design a solution for it. The only parameter for the solution was that it had to be a mobile application.
THAT’S COOL, BUT WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SOLVE?
Through this interview, I found that my colleague moved quite a lot, and from what she discussed, she had troubling connecting with new people and making friends as a result. As an frugal adult, she wanted the process of meeting the locals and building friendships to be easier. Based on this information, I came to the following problem statement:
Design a mobile application to help a user who’s moved to a new location make new friends while dealing with financial limitations and the pressures of being overly social.
GREAT! TELL ME ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH.
I conducted interviews to determine the process of how people made their current friends, and their approach to making new friends. I also emphasized in these interviews what sort of qualities people value in their friends, and what serves as the foundation for their most meaningful relationships.
“When handling a social event for the first time, I’m kind of shy and it’s hard to introduce myself because I’ve always had someone to talk to.”
– Kelly R.
“My current friends are generally open-minded, fun and tend to be more extroverted than me, with my introverted friends having more common interests with me.”
– Bianca H.
“I don’t spend too much time online making friends because I like to treat my friends equally, and the online anonimity steers me away.”
– Bert T.
ANALYSIS TIME! WHAT DID ALL THIS TELL YOU?
OBSERVATIONS & KEY INSIGHTS
I compiled the results of my research into an affinity map, then analyzed the data to find key trends, relationships, observations, and inferences for which to base my design solution. In doing so, I discovered a number of insights which revealed that the problem at hand stemed more from the user’s personality type rather than physical distance or age.
- People prefer to meet at locations they’re already familiar with, or prefer to go to a new location with people they already know.
- People gravitate to environments that reflect their interests.
- Introverts have the most difficulty in befriending new people.
- Proximity is only a concern when establishing new friendships as opposed to growing current friendships.
- People are naturally drawn to others the more they engage with them.
- The difficulty of making friends in a new location is due to a lack of familiarity.
OKAY, HOTSHOT. WHAT’S YOUR DESIGN STRATEGY?
Well, now that I had a sufficient amount of broad user insights to guide my design process, the next step was to use this information to formulate an tangible mobile application. To achieve this, I converted my insights into actionable design principles for which to base my solution.
I consolidated my key insights into the following design principles:
- Remove as much of the sense of unfamiliarity as possible.
- The platform should be accessible to users who struggle with socializing.
- Allow for a way to incorporate pre-existing friends into the experience.
AND…WHAT’S YOUR DESIGN SOLUTION?
It became apparent that the core value I was going to provide for the user was a remedy for fear. As the user’s main obstruction was their own uncertainty, I chose to build a design solution that focused on alleviating this problem:
Create a mobile application that lets the user comfortably meet people in their area by letting them share the experience with a friend, while connecting users through familiar interests.
The first step in building out this solution was through concept sketches. In addition to laying out the general interface, it was a means of finding out what elements would align to our design principles, such as how the user would connect with a “buddy”, and possible parameters the user can set to match their comfort level.
As a proof of concept, I designed a variety of wireframes, screens, and mockups and built them into an initial prototype that focuses on how the mobile application should operate.
WHAT ABOUT USER TESTING? HOW’D YOU VALIDATE THIS?
Naturally, an application is only as good as the people who use it. I used this initial prototype and conducted usability tests with a number of beta users who’ve had similar experiences to my colleague. I asked them to perform basic tasks, observed their behavior, and determined the following problems and solutions.
Issues that were discovered include:
- There was no way to verify potential friends with real-time messaging.
- Scanning multiple users at once put pressure on the user’s selection process, which made connections feel too impersonal.
- The option for establishing group events was met with hesitation.
I addressed these problems with the following changes:
- One-on-one communication was implemented.
- A “meetup” service was added for being less socially demanding than an “event” service.
- I switched to a communications-driven interface to turn the user experience from being group-focused to individual-focused.
BRING IT ON HOME! WHAT ARE YOUR FINAL DELIVERABLES?
After reiterating the design to better emphasize meaningful connections through individualized connectivity, I improved upon the initial prototype by building a higher fidelity prototype that has a more defined information architecture, style guide, and accessibility. This prototype was presented as my final deliverable.
WHAT WERE THE FINAL RESULTS OF YOUR PROJECT? NEXT STEPS?
The final presentation of my “Buddy Up” mobile application design was met with a largely positive reception for addressing a problem I had identified of the user. My colleague in particular responded favorably to my final prototype, having attuned herself to the app’s interface fairly quickly.
Some of the suggestions I received for improvement included the possibility of importing a pre-existing social media profile to maximize the user’s authenticity. They also mentioned formatting the “buddy system” into a request-based operation to ease the user’s reservations, as well as adding language that the user’s demographic can resonate with. Streamlining the user flow was a key point to improve upon.
There were a few points in the design that I would’ve done differently. For one, I would’ve designed the application to adhere more towards responsive web design. I also saw an oversight in addressing the user’s financial restrictions and an opportunity for a rewards incentive for “buddies”. Ultimately, my next step towards advancing my “Buddy Up” application would be to research and incorporate the nuances of human relationships into my design’s overall framework.