From myAT&T to yourAT&T – Design Strategy Feature Brief

AT&T is a complex product that needs to do a lot of things. Things like pay bills. Buy devices. Observe different types and levels of data etc. An application that spans across commerce, finances and data usage holds a lot of complexity and therefore is inherently difficult to make in a simple fashion while still scoring high on usability tests.

The steps bringing our designs to this final stage have been arduous and many. They include conducting research with people who currently use the myAT&T product where we gain a comprehensive understanding of how it feels to be a person in direct relation with the various attributes of the product.

From there we mapped the connections between attributes and tasks. Understanding what features and components were and/or could be related to each other was key to making an experience that makes sense. Then came development of the wireframes from sketching to digital.

It then got exciting going to meet with a developer and get the creation sized up for a development timeline and then thinking critically and strategically to put those timelines into a roadmap and action plan.

In creating the Feature brief, or final document, the process is to pull the most essential and impactful pieces out from all of those processes and aggregate them into a story. This was the most clear example of always having more information than you can articulate concisely.

It was cool to see how fluent I was in this product. When you’re in the thick of a certain part of the process, its often hard to see the full value of what you gleaned from each step. Creating a Design Strategy Feature Brief is a sure way of making sure that you have dumped each portion of your knowledge on the project at hand, onto the paper or screen in front of you.

In research I was noticing 3 main things:

 

  • The AT&T mobile application is not a place where users go to “hangout” for pleasure.
  • The existing in-app experience feels like a conglomerate of different development efforts that have been “patchworked” together.
  • Users are confused by the multiple routes there are to the completion of a task.

 

The first one is pointing towards the PURPOSE of the application. How do people naturally use the thing?

The second one is regarding CONTINUITY. The current state of the application feels like it was trying to cram all of the needed attributes in the experience without thinking about things like flow, continuity, number of steps, recognition vs recall etc.

The 3rd one is regarding the actual FUNCTION of the app. How does it relate with itself? For example: There are 5 different ways a ‘+’ sign is used in the current experience.

These observations informed my design decisions. The abstraction of these observations told me what I should do…

  1. The product should provide the ability to quickly complete actions
  2. The product should feel like a cohesive, trusted experience
  3. The product should provide clear pathways to the tasks users want to complete

All of these behavioral insights and design principles are pointing towards an overarching theme of efficiency and trust being held as the highest values. Therefore with all of my thoughts I was trying to condense information. Provide more streamlined ways of moving through the experience.

The value that I promised to deliver came to this:

I promise to help AT&T customers rapidly accomplish tasks with ease while feeling in control of their account.

This massively influenced my UX and UI decisions. Especially because of the discombobulation of the current experience I was set on making it fluid and easy to be fluent in, as well as quick to develop. I was looking at this project as relatively start-up style. If I was on a guerilla team trying to get this product out to the AT&T customers because the current experience is so “broken”. Therefore I changed much of my navigation to standard iOS components to be able to get it out the door more swiftly.

In considering this drastic of a change. What, really, is a change of company posture and approach. I started to think about how a company would launch a change like this. A Feature brief could be the perfect spot to initiate that kind of conceptual, company perspective change.

Context

yourAT&T Feature Brief V3

Road mapping from Design to Development

In my last blog post I discussed the process of going to an application developer and estimating how long a build would take. Specifically, the redesign of the mobile experience that myAT&T offers for iOS.

Since then I have mapped out the road map to bringing the design into reality based on the estimations that came out of the developer meeting.

I approached this task through 2 lenses simultaneously. The first was assessing what unique capabilities and benefits does using your AT&T application on mobile have as opposed to a brick and mortar store or the online web application. The mobile application is unique in that you can access it anywhere, at anytime. Filtering through the tasks deemed most important from our user research:

  • Make a payment and set up Automatic payments
  • Suspend or remove a device
  • Change a plan
  • Set and update account security
  • Compare usage to available plans

And

  • Upgrade a device.

What is most important? How does the mobile app make any of these more valuable?

Changing a plan

The reasoning behind a user changing their plan comes down to how much they are using their phone. Usually people use more data than they have allocated for themselves. Therefore when you are nearing your data limit, if your phone reminded you of that unfortunate event and you had the myAT&T application you could change your plan right then and avoid future charges.

The second lense that I assessed things through in parallel to the first was the fact that this is a mobile application. It being a mobile application that houses sensitive data and potentially vulnerable actions means it needs to be secure. For this reason, partnered with developing the Change a plan flow I developed the Login, Add Card, and Add billing address  flows simultaneously.

This development method of moving forward the functionality that was pertinent to the mobile medium as well as functionality that was pertinent to the user felt like an effective plan for providing value to the parties that really matter.

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myAT&T Product Roadmap

Scoping Development – Timeline & Resources

-Tying the process together-

In my previous blog post I discussed the processes associated with evaluating a mobile application. The application we are redesigning is the iOS version for myAT&T. From the usability evaluations of our wireframes we furthered the redesign. Correcting all of the usability issues that we found. Our main goal was to be able to bring it to a developer and get it estimated for cost and timeline. Development is exciting because you start the conversation about making it all real.

The core takeaways from the evaluations were as follows:

  • The experience feels discombobulated. There is little to no feeling of continuity. The user always feels slightly unsure if they’re doing it right.
  • Attributes and/or Features are not effectively communicating their purpose. The design does not provide clarity.
  • Visibility, control and freedom are huge overarching issues. Each screen is separate with separate actions and it is relatively arduous to go back a couple steps to change something.
  • Hierarchy and priority are not clearly visualized. Everything feels the same. The design does not draw the users attention to the next step.

I tied together all of this feedback and redesigned my tasks to compliment these findings. From there it was time for development.

I took my giant printouts up to the 14th floor of a downtown office building and sat down for a development estimation meeting. In preparation for this meeting I compiled all of the flows, showed where the user was interacting with each screen and broke out all of the key components, controls and features within the application onto a separate print. In describing the attributes and functions of each component, feature, and control I started to see where I had gone wrong. It is hard to foresee issues when immersed in the core of 1 phase of a process (Design) but now that the conversation was turning towards development I was easily able to identify what would be a misstep in terms of engineering my design. In design I felt like I had been gearing everything to the user (good right? Not so good for development) and attempting to make the flow as seamless as possible. So essentially I was basing my decisions for what to build off of the prior screen and the task that was needed. Now development comes in, which means money and time are ringing loud and clear.

As I sat down to this meeting I was excited to hear what the developer would have to say about my designs.

I gave him the shpeel;

“We are redesigning the mobile experience of the AT&T iOS application. The reason this is a significant build is because, currently, in the experience it feels like someone duct taped multiple apps together. You can accomplish the same tasks from multiple different angles, there is conflicting navigation attributes etc. My value promise for this build is founded on the idea that someone’s mobile phone account management application is not one that they want to “hang out” on. Sure it needs to be good looking in a trustable way but a user should be able to accomplish their task quickly and simply with as few steps as possible.” And with that brief background we began.

While walking him through the flows he pointed out all of the controls that I had made custom that could use standard iOS features which means the code is already written and open source. Less build time for simple things = a faster delivery to the user as well as the ability to put development resources towards more important functions. Therefore I said yes to his suggestions. Further down the line I can bring custom elements in if I wish but at this stage, to provide value to the user, custom features are not essential. This also helped because, within my design, it leveraged the same simple attributes for different uses.

I had built out radio buttons:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.02.04 PM   

I had built out a selector:

   Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.02.27 PM

I had built out a different kind of selector:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.03.01 PM

All of these can be streamlined into the usage of an iOS picker, similar to the one below, for all of these use cases:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.04.27 PM

From these changes a design language seems to be emerging in the form of

If there is one choice…  it’s a click.

If there are multiple choices…  it’s a swipe.

A click is commitment

A swipe implies freedom

The developers next question stumped me because it was one that slipped my mind and I hadnt even considered it. “How long do you want it to take before it “times-out” and logs you our of the app”? This is an interesting piece of the story because, in terms of the pathway through the flows, it was meaningless. However, to the overall customer experience it was highly important. Imagine if you were in the middle of buying your new iphone and got kicked off because you were trying to pick between silver and rose gold, not cool! He said it really wouldn’t take a different amount of time to code a different time-out duration but it did need to be defined. Good to know.

*Learning: In design you can’t just focus on your specific task, you must push your mind to consider all of the surrounding influences and potential scenerios.*

We then assessed my custom features:

Usage/usage progress bars:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.07.20 PM Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.07.30 PM

A phone selection carousel:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 5.07.07 PM

These we isolated from the estimation of the other flows and gave them a timeline by themselves. Another thing is that there are billions of people on the planet.. Someone has probably made something similar to your idea before. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the resources that already exist. It is fine and awesome to craft your own designs, but make sure that that is realistic for the scope of the project. Is the company you are working with strong in branding which makes that a very important consideration? Or are you trying to get the product shipped out the door and the importance lies more in the functionality and initial value to the user. This is something that I couldn’t have been aware of before building my first set of screens for an app.

The output from all of the above is an estimation for the scope of the work, both price and time. We were delegated 2 (theoretical) developers working full time. So…

Resources: 2 Developers @ 40 hours per week

Salaries: $200,000 each

Estimation (in man days):

60 days to complete the project (30 days per man)

Timeline: 6 weeks

Price: $44,609.67 in total

To explain the work; I have run my system through 3 types of evaluations (Heuristic Evaluation, cognitive walkthrough, and think aloud protocol), I met with a developer; understood the way development is thought about and executed and now am moving into the phase where I need to think about the features i’m delivering and why, this phase aggregates the importance of all of the prior phases and makes me see how important it is to take all of these things into account at once. Which, from my understanding, is why at the Austin Center for Design we are learning them all as a fluid skillset. There are exponentially valuable details that are lost when a project gets handed off from one step to the other. In conversation with a developer when asked a question I am referencing all the way back to when I did research with users of the current experience to discover their most painful interactions with the myAT&T application. That reference spans across 3 disciplines.

I am looking forward to the next time I go to begin an app build because from project launch I will be considering the user, their needs, what they think about and are used to (Design Research), the goals of the service, what the criteria and principles for creation are and designing for and within those parameters and requirements (Interaction Design) as well as development and the pace and price by which my designs would be developed (Product Management). It’s all coming together!

The full collection of artifacts (task oriented screen flows, features and components broken out of the flows, estimations on cost/time, summaries, insights and conclusions are Development estimation – read out.

myAT&T Re-design

-Getting into evaluation and usability engineering methods-

A brief recap of what has happened to bring us to the evaluation conversation

Last quarter we took a head first dive into the myAT&T mobile application. We talked to people about their most painful interactions with this application and plotted our findings against each other.pain points chartThrough this ranking of difficulty, we came to understand the most common pain points. From there we went into the app itself and studied the ways those actions are executed in the current experience. It was a patchwork of an experience. There were multiple ways a simple ‘+’ button was used, to give 1 example. It truly seemed like developers had stitched together multiple different attributes created at different times.

We then went into sense making. Plotting the verbiage that was particularly important to this specific experience and the 6 tasks we had identified. We plotted these nouns in terms of their relationships with each other. These connections needed to be thought about critically. It was not just a site map, it was connections both tangible and intangible, what was the back and forth of attributes to accomplish common tasks? Noun matrix v2After this initial sense making, we made concept maps which I blogged about and you can find that here. This allowed us to map the connections within the app in a way that imprinted them into our minds. This activity is exponentially important so that moving forward with creation, ideas and redesign we could quickly reference the important details and how they connected to other key components to enable action. After fully understanding the ins and outs we consciously tried to strip away all constructs of what the experience currently looks like. Divergent thinking. Push your mind into new territory. What would simplify? How could this action be streamlined? How can we innovate? In this phase, we allowed ourselves to be unrealistic, no constraints. To translate this expansion back into the applicable context is difficult but needed, to be effective. Here is the blog that I wrote regarding the portion of the process walking you through divergent thinking and into initial paper prototype sketches.

Bringing this comprehension into digital space for the first time, I felt confident. I was quick to learn that I did not have the capability to see all of the details yet. There are things that one cannot be aware of until their attention is explicitly pointed towards the details that are imporant. And often the most important details are the hardest ones to see.

Evaluation Explanation

Which brings us to evaluation and product management. In this class, we are learning how to evaluate the learnability, usability and, essentially, effectiveness of a digital interface. The methodologies we are learning are the best-known combinations of effectiveness while also being inexpensive. The methods are called Cognitive Walkthrough, Heuristic Evaluation, and Think Aloud Protocol. These methods, in combination with eachother, provide a holistic view into the issues that prevent ease of use for a digital interface.

Cognitive walkthrough is a method for observing and assessing the learnability of a product. This method is based on a theory about the way that people analyze and solve problems. The way that I have started to think about it is like the signage of a grocery store. If our user wants some cheerios what words are they going to look for? What other things would they naturally associate as surrounding products? etc. It is performed by walking through the digital experience, screen by screen and asking the series of questions as follows:

  1. Will the user try to achieve the right effect?
  2. Will the user notice that the correct action is available?
  3. Will the user associate the correct action with the effect that user is trying to achieve?
  4. If the correct action is performed, will the user see that progress is being made towards their goal?

From this, a designer gleans the knowledge needed to make sure that the experience invites the user into it in a way that makes sense to them.

Think Aloud Protocol and Heuristic Evaluation are for gauging the overall usability of the interface. Think aloud protocol is a process that a designer facilitates with actual users who have never seen the product before. This is to create an unbiased set of responses. The user is asked to run through a prototype and verbalize the actions they are taking and their thought process to get there. To give an example, if I was opening a door handle my thought process may go something like this “Alright, I am going through the door, I see the door handle, I know that I need to turn it, I turn it, go through it and close the door behind me.” The only words the evaluator uses are “Please keep talking” if the user falls silent. This verbiage is so that they don’t go into introspection, they continue to be focused on the interface rather than think about their answer or if it is good enough. The reason you want to avoid the introspective effect is that this activates a different part of the brain than operational, task oriented thoughts do. The way I think about this one is it is like the grocery store signage designer observing real shoppers walking through her/his systems. Is it being used the way the designer hypothesized? Everybody’s brain works differently, in different patterns, with different values. Then, on the contrary, there are those things that make sense to everyone and everyone can relate to, understand and abide by. Which leads us into Heuristic Evaluation. A metaphor to illustrate the way I think about viewing a digital product through this lens is its like the rules of the road. The heuristics of the road. You have your different kinds of lines (double solid yellow, dashed etc.) on the road that mean different things. There are guidelines for what to do and what not to do. Similarly, there is a common language, and a common list of best practices for mobile applications. Do’s and don’ts. You can build the most gorgeous car ever but if the size of the product is the width of two lanes of the road, your car will not be effective and will never be used. The same goes for heuristics in mobile applications. The heuristics to hold a creation up against are as follows:

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors
  10. Help and documentation

These are exponentially useful for understanding applications in general and the common language that is behind the creation of any digital products. These are the kind of details, again, that are the most important…. So important, in fact, that when they are well executed, the user doesn’t even notice they are a thing that someone has to think about.

The utilization of evaluation

As explained, the 3 kinds of evaluations are valuable for different reasons. I used them in a particular sequence that I found to be very effective.

During last quarter, we did multiple iterations of our screens and in between the last few iterations we used Think Aloud Protocol. This quarter, I knew that I had some screens missing. Such as, when something needs to be typed in with a keyboard, I had the keyboard appear fully expanded without a screen for the tapping action that precludes the keyboard being on the screen. The screen on the far left, below, is the iteration before evaluation. I then added the screen to the screen in the middle to preclude the screen on the right to mitigate this keyboard issue as well as protect users passwords because I realized that showing a users password from the get-go was a major security issue.

 Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 9.11.04 PMScreen Shot 2017-01-19 at 9.10.04 PM

So, for this reason, and knowing that Cognitive Walkthrough is for checking the learnability of a product, I used this method to find the places in the experience where I needed to add less important, filler screens such as the keyboard example. This worked well because it opened my eyes to other details that felt abrupt. The things that I didn’t make the user ready for.

After adding these screens and noting learnability issues I moved on to heuristic evaluations. I had 5 evaluators look at my screens and log the feedback in a spreadsheet. As I got comfortable in using this evaluation I started to not have to reference the list of heuristics, I would just start to see the issues and why they manifested that way. I think learning these methods alongside actually building an app is such a valuable cadence for learning because on both sides of the equation; evaluation vs creation, the learning is applicable. I am excited to rebuild the rest of my screens for this AT&T redesign and am even more excited to begin on the creation of my own application from scratch with all of these “rules of the road” ingrained into the way I look at interfaces now.

Lastly, I did a few Think Aloud Protocols saw that in a lot of ways, users were doing what I thought they would do, and in a lot of ways, they weren’t. Work to be done! Improvements to be made!

Breaking down evaluation findings

I’m going to start at a high-level description of the synthesized take always and then break them down in terms of where they came from and how they inform redesign.

Takeaways:

The experience felt discombobulated. There is little to no feeling of continuity. The user always feels slightly unsure if they’re doing it right.

Attributes and/or features are not effectively communicating their purpose. The design does not provide clarity.

Visibility, control and freedom are huge overarching issues. Each screen is separate with separate actions and it is relatively arduous to go back a couple steps to change something.

Hierarchy and priority are not clearly visualized. Everything feels the same. The design does not draw the users’ attention to the next step.

From Cognitive Walkthrough I learned a lot about verbiage. The wording and phrasing is so important to afford the right actions findable. This also ties in with difficulties in navigating. Navigation flaws are very often linked with the wording that is used to inform movement. Navigation was also inhibited by screen length, mostly in regards to where the screens were getting cut off. I did not think about screen length or scrolling at all in my first phases of design so this was a huge learning. And lastly Cognitive Walkthrough was an excellent method for finding screens that were missing as I said before.

From the Heuristic Evaluations I began to see the gestault of failure in overall visibility of the app and where users were in completing tasks with multiple steps. I found that my users, often times, did not have full control of their experience. There were actions and buttons that were the end all, be all of a task and the user did not have full freedom, I was mandating them fitting into my ‘template’ of actions. And lastly from Heuristic Evaluation I more fully understood the importance of users being able to recognize something as opposed to recalling it from previous usage. This is especially significant in the context of the AT&T app because I assume that users don’t interact with the experience more than once per month. Compliment this with the fact they users probably want to get in and out fairly quickly, recognition should be highly valued.

Lastly, Think Aloud Protocol made me understand more thoroughly the power and importance of word choice. What is applicable to the greatest number of people? I was approaching the initial creation of the application with a  very minimalistic mindset. I felt, and to a large degree still feel, that at this day in age simplicity is largely important. However, when it comes to sensitive information, money, or actions that are difficult to reverse, customers are very tentative and protective of their space. Therefore, enough information needs to be handed to them so that they feel they have full comprehension of what is happening. And sometimes, in the right circumstances, that is a short text block. The combination of explanation and action is important.

Redesign based on evaluation

I will illustrate the redesigns I have made in the context of a flow of screens that are about the action of ‘Upgrading a device’. I chose this flow because it housed all of the issues identified above in some capacity.

First let me break down some of the changed attributes…

I changed the attribute that compares the data used by individual users on the account to the amount of data the account as a whole has. This was informed by a misunderstanding of the comparison of its initial, more boxy, vertical format, with the other ways that timelines and data were visualized.

This first visual is how the billing cycle and data are displayed:

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.26.55 PM

Take that into account when looking at how individual users data usage are compared with each other. The formatting is utterly not the same…

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.26.21 PM

Which brought me to the following design:

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.27.53 PM

I changed the boxy attribute to be the same shape as the other barometers to provide ease of mental digestion of the information.

In terms of wording, I changed quite a few things. To give a few examples, I changed:

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.24.43 PM

ToScreen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.24.28 PM

Because I learned, in think aloud protocol that this could be perceived as a positive amount of money rather than an amount that needed to be paid.

Another wording change was from ‘Devices’ to ‘Devices & Users’ on the tab bar.

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.23.50 PM

To

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 6.24.08 PM

This was significant because people were going to the “plans and usage” tab for actions regarding individual users’ information in regards to data rather than to the ‘devices’ tab. Which is fine, but not intended and in 1 circumstance was detrimental to the desired action to be achieved.

To give you a full sense of the changes I made and how they manifest here are my old and revised flows back to back.

First is the old version of ‘Upgrading a device’:

Upgrade a device 1 - originalUpgrade a device 2 - original

Then here is the redesign:

Upgrade a device 1 - redesign Upgrade a device 2 - redesignThe umbrella goal of the revision is to provide ease of back tracking. Buying a phone is a complicated transaction with a lot of steps and a lot of details and it is satisfying being able to see all of the things you have chosen while you are making your next choice.

To summarize my takeaways; this is how I will be thinking about these methods of evaluation going into the future.

Cognitive walkthrough:

What invites users in the experience in a way that makes sense to them?

 

Think aloud protocol:

What doesn’t make sense at all?

 

Heuristic Evaluation:

Structure and guidelines – what are people used to?

 

In combination, these provide clarity and insight into how to make products that people love to use.

You can see my full presentation AT&T Evaluation Deck here.

Access to healthy food vs. utilization of the access available – Making sense of the mayhem

 

The food exploration continues.

I will be discussing our steps between my last blog post: Intro to Rigor/Applying the Q1 learnings to research where we were still initially dipping our feet into the space and then I will be furthering that to our initial findings in the sense making and understanding phase.

Finishing up research and coming to realization

The realization:

‘Many people have access, yet they are still not eating in a way they deem healthy or desirable.’

Why are people not utilizing the resources around them to the fullest extent? What an interesting question. This was the team’s epiphany as we moved through the middle of our research process.

It was a difficult and increasingly interesting concept to discover.

Throughout our research participants we found that there were financial and physical barriers to certain stores and certain kinds and categories of food (fresh produce, organic, restaurants etc.) yet in every case the participants were not fully utilizing the access that they had in the ways that they optimally would have been using them.

We interviewed 4 employees from organizations that are already working in the social service arena of the food space. We spoke with The Sustainable Food Center, and The Central Texas Food Bank which are both working to increase access to food physically, educationally, and financially. Foundation Communities, and Caritas which are low income housing organizations that also have internal initiatives in regards to food. These take the form of food pantries and programs in partnership with other alike organizations. We spoke with 4 food industry employees, a local restaurant owner, a corner store manager, a dietician, and an employee at a local produce home delivery service. Finally, we spoke with 10 participants from low to middle class incomes. Including the oldest WWII vet still alive, he is 110 years old!

In the experience of the large majority of our participants, there were events related to addictive tendencies, disease or family situations that were strong fast reasoning’s for making a change. They knew, generally the actions they needed, and/or strongly desired, to take yet also expressed a multitude of examples of how they were not meeting those goals and it was hurting their lives both physically for their bodies as well as mentally and emotionally because they were experiencing varying degrees of self-sabotage due to food being so damn tempting and delicious, yet, in the core truth of it, they didn’t want to be taking those unhealthy actions.

It reminded me very well of my own walk with cigarettes. I truly don’t want to be smoking, yet for some stupid (chemical) reason I have continued to pick them up again. When we started to see addictive tendencies in our participants experiences it was easy for me to drop into the empathy mindset. I could relate what I saw in the world and what I have experienced in myself.

From this knowledge, our team discussed a pivot in focus. Where we ended up was “We want to understand why people don’t eat a balanced diet when they have access to more nutritious food.” This sparked a whole new slew of questions; “What were people placing value on?” “What were the influences surrounding folks’ situations and decisions?” “What is cool? And how does coolness play a role in what we eat?” Questions like this started to emerge and so, yet again, we revamped the orientation of our questioning to accommodate this new direction.

This pivot felt justified for 2 main reasons, first and foremost because of our findings in regards to people not fully utilizing the access to healthier foods even when there were very tangible reasons to do so. Followed by the discussions we had with those 4 food access and low income focused organizations who illustrated well that there is large quantities of money, resources and time being put into reducing barriers to food access. We acknowledged that those services were not feeding the need 100% and there was definitely room for new ideas and innovation, however, based on the data we had collected it seemed like the louder pattern was that of the level of utilization of the access available.

 

Moving into making sense of it all through synthesis

IMG_4426

We experienced a bottleneck during transcription of the interviews where we were ready to start the sense making process but did not have all of our transcription done. This proved problematic and set us back a few days. We hammered it out and dove into the sea of data points.

 

Our initial findings were related to some overarching themes that we synthesized in our minds during interviews. We discovered during debriefs with our team after our time in people’s homes that there were common barriers to people actualizing their healthy eating goals. Some of these are time, ancestral influence, disease, addiction, justifications, finances, location, the tempting nature of food, and education barriers to name a few.

IMG_4427

This illustrates the first pass of a cultural model to illustrate the influences all people are experiencing in regards to food and food choices, whether they are aware of it or not. That is the interesting piece!! Are we aware of what impacts our choices? Our participants that expressed awareness around the ways their family members (etc.) influenced them seemed much more capable of harnessing  control over their actions in terms of what they ate.

We are walking the interesting line between broken systems and a lack of education. Where we will focus in terms of development is still unclear.

 

 

Learning the mechanics of wireframes

myAT&T Mobile application Redesign

Go redesign an informationally overloaded app for your first ever wireframes, ready? Go! Yup, thats AC4D.

The AT&T Mobile application has been mind expanding to dig into. After 3 iterations it is starting to feel like “Yeah, this is something that people could actually use that would be so much damn easier!” The meaning and possible use cases of ‘iteration’ shifted slightly for me in the past few days with this project, especially ‘iterations’ relationship with ‘fidelity’.

Previously, I had understood fidelity as making things look better, adding polish, finishing touches etc. I also understood iteration as a similar thing. Except iteration was taking into account layout, as well as what worked and what didn’t work. A tool for mixing, matching and trying different methods and things until you find what you want. After these past 2 weeks iterating on screen flows for the myAT&T app I am seeing them in a different light.

Let me explain.

The Process

We have chosen 6 use-case stories for classic uses of the myAT&T application. We chose these in particular through speaking with AT&T customers and asking them about their most difficult, frustrating, and time consuming interactions with their mobile app.

We aggregated the information as a class and came up with these use-case pain-points:

  1. The ability to view current plan and features.
  2. The ability to compare usage against available plans. &The ability to change a plan.
  3. The ability to upgrade a device.
  4. The ability to suspend or remove a device.
  5. The ability to make a payment/set up automatic payments.
  6. The ability to review and set account security.

From these pain points we exploded the flows correlated with these interactions in the application and created concept maps to make sense of the mayhem. This initial sense making process is outlined here in my blog about Attacking Concept Mapping.

The thinking behind divergent thinking

Getting into redesign was inspiring. We utilized “divergent thinking” to come up with multiple ideas for optimization of the myAT&T experience. This was another term redefinition moment. My thoughts about what divergent thinking meant were predicated on ideas of “How abstract can we get?” “What would a car be like if it had square wheels? Lets design suspension around that idea”. Thoughts along these lines led my mind into uncharted territory where I came up with ideas that, most likely, AT&T would never agree with because it was essentially a ‘servant leader’ model of operation. AT&T would be assisting the customer in the facilitation of things that were good for them and potentially problematic for AT&T.

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This rudimentarily illustrates the application allowing a limit on various phone applications to train regimentation for its customers. Everyone wants to use Facebook a little bit less right? Probably not the case with the Executives at AT&T.

Here are others from that first round of iterations using divergent thinking.

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The feedback I received was that my ideas were not realistic in terms of redesigning the experience. I was redefining AT&T’s fundamental offering. A totally understandable criticism which showed me my bias towards enjoying paradigm shattering innovation. This also brought a realization for me that, those lofty ideas of what is ‘needed’ (paradigm shifts)  in the given space is not the next step for what is ‘necessary’. This is true even when speaking in regards to incremental steps towards the “needed” paradigm shifts.

I, then, pulled in the extremities of my ideas and focused on redesigning screens and the flows of our stories. My goal for the second round of iteration was to get my main core ideas onto paper, specifically the variance in the sequencing of ideas and what comes next within the app.

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Raising the fidelity so that the next step is digitization was my favorite. I practiced user empathy, and stepped out of my design mind as much as possible. How would this actual feel? What do I care about? What is annoying? What am I most likely trying to do? How can I make all of the extraneous information only show up when it is mandated for an unlikely and specific interaction? These questions, and more like them, helped me immensely in establishing criteria for what I was trying to create within the constraints set out by myAT&T and what it offers. They also helped me establish why I want to create that type of experience.

Welcome to the new myAT&T experience (on paper lol):

Home Screen Concepts

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  1. The ability to view current plan and features. 
  2. The ability to compare usage against available plans.
  3. The ability to change a plan.

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2. The ability to upgrade a device.IMG_4357

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3. The ability to suspend or remove a device.

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4. The ability to make a payment/set up automatic payments.

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5. The ability to review and set account security.

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I got a lot out of having to consider continuity and the design language I was creating at every step in the process of the last iteration. What would be good at every step, in every scenario? That refines the constraints considerably. It is easy to create something beautiful and awesome 1 time for 1 use. But to consider all of the people, with all of the connectivity we have today, that will use this for, might as well say, all time…. That is a lot to consider.

Initially we analyzed the current structures, flows, and navigation of the myAT&T app the way that it is now. We went through all of our pain-point heavy flows and critiqued them apart. What we inferred was that various pieces of the application had been developed at different times and then been “duck taped” together. We came to this assumption because of stratified purposes for different navigation attributes. Very little of the reasonings behind actions or portrayals of information had continuity. Therefore, putting a larger emphasis on the importance of consistency, continuity and thoroughness of thought in the creation of attributes and navigation was necessary.

As I alluded to earlier, the characteristics of what iteration and fidelity mean lost a little bit of definition in my mind and also became more robust in other ways through this process. The way they were utilized in the circumstances of this project were to zoom way out to what was idealistically ideal. Then come back down to earth and morph the utter optimal into the truly practical and probable next iteration in a world that needs numerous and constant iterations. The way that those two words coalesced during this project was enlightening because you need to stay at low fidelity to allow for more iteration. Your iterations need to gradually gain in fidelity as they gain in detail. Therefore, with low fidelity accompanied by a first iteration, there should be few details and then as more iterations happen and the fidelity gets raised you add more details because you have gradually solidified the overarching framework of your creation through trial and error.

You know what the shape of the house will be, now you have to chose the color of the paint, and what flooring you want, followed by furniture and decor choices.

First things first.

Worse things burst.

Birth new worth.

I like poetry.

Turkey.

Peace.

#TeamBritishTofu – A Briefing on Service Design round 2

In our Service Design class, we’re applying our emerging design skills to help improve the service delivery of a local business in Austin.

Given our collective passion for sustainable food systems, we’re excited to partner with an Austin-based company that delivers local produce directly to customers’ doorstep (referred to here as our “client”).

(Throughout this blog we will be showing you slides from our design brief to provide a more visceral experience of where we are)

Our Client- Design Brief II full

 

Who is our client?

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Currently we are directly in the middle of the ‘Understanding phase’ of this service design project.

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This means we have just finished assessing and “discovering” our client’s service model and the customer’s experience from head to toe, and from front-end to back-end.

We’ve found they’re trying to shift the relationship people have with food.

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To help optimize our client’s service delivery, we needed to understand the full customer experience. From this information, we created a customer journey map, including all service frustrations and breakdowns. Before sharing this, however, the most current piece of the project was to understand the perceived state of the customer journey from the perspective of ‘our client’. We gathered the reality of this assumed state through an interview with the head of customer service as well as a few smaller inquiries with staff members. The thought process around the service they offer was a very mechanized and linear one. 

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As our client moves from one step, to the next, to the next, very little consideration is taken into account for the real human being on the other end of the transaction and their experience of the process.

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This gets interesting when you juxtapose the perceived state with what is actually happening. To understand the actual customer journey, we followed four new customers from sign-up to receipt of service, and then we spoke to three past customers. From this information, we created an ‘actual state’ customer journey map, including all service frustrations and breakdowns.

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When we dug into why our client wasn’t delivering on pieces of their value promise we found that it all came down to communication.

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We then jam packed all of this juiciness into one artifact.

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Lets take a closer look.

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During our observation of the participant’s sign up process we spoke with Lily.

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Delivery Screen

 

Our clients site interactions are screaming for some user experience. Pathways of movement are not clear. Actions are not explicit. Most next steps have to be maneuvered using “guess and check (or click)”.

Moving onto the ‘cycle phase’ of the ‘actual state’ of the Customer Journey, we mapped out the experience of receiving the service.

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Callie

 

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James

 

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To recap and aggregate all of this in one place.

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Next we will be moving into thoroughly defining the problem spaces, deciding on where we want to focus our energy and establishing frames through which to test our solutions. All of this facilitated by what is called a vignette, which is a concise depiction that encapsulates the gestalt of a space, problem or issue in one image.

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This has been a very enlightening project because on both sides of the story, customer and company, the thoughts about the other are false. ‘Our client’ thinks everything is 100% fine while the customer feels like they are not quite receiving the value that they are paying hard earned dollars for. All of this culminating to a breakdown in communication.

It makes us reflect on the importance of communication within our team and within design strategies in general. Good, thorough design is facilitated by having a diverse set of minds pointed towards one problem and eventually creation. Communication is the crux of how that process becomes possible.

The excitement is steadily rising the more we solidify the breakdowns, what they are made of, and why they exist. Solutions become more and more tangible and graspable. More to come about fresh, local, sustainably grown agriculture delivered directly to your door and how we will make that a more inviting and valuable offering.

If interested, attached is our appendix regarding what we did prior to this design brief. As well has how we define things like the importance of a Customer Journey Map and activities that we did with research participants.

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Quarter 1 – A full introduction to rigor | Quarter 2 – Applying Q1 learnings

 

A full introduction to rigor

This blogpost will be a combination of what we are currently doing in Research & Synthesis mixed with what was learned last quarter and how I am carrying it over into this quarter.

The course so far has been an intense whirlwind of a process. It seems we were taught all things at once, full on, in the first quarter:

  • Sketching and how to communicate your ideas through a wordless medium.
  • Theories about the role that design plays in our world. Accompanied by trying to wrap your mind around such mind bending ideas, we were tasked with refining 6 articles at a time into 1 storyboard comic of our own creation. This teaches us how to portray just the really juicy, potent and key aspects of the material to facilitate an understanding of the gestalt of a given space without needing to dive into the overly granular details and sectors that such theories entail.
  • Research & Synthesis methods for gathering data and insight about a given space. Our assignment was Short-term loans.

All of the classes appeared somewhat isolated and discombobulated at the beginning. Yet after a few weeks into the program, they all started to merge together. I see how the 3 skill sets of storyboarding, research and synthesis, and sketching tie together nicely to be able to cultivate persuasive arguments pointing towards new ideas. For me they were, all 3, almost entirely new categories of learning. It was a steep learning curve.

The purpose of this method and structure seems to be very deliberate. It seems to be set up the way that it is so that we are thrown into head-high water and are made to figure out how to handle complexity and rigor in our own way with rapid fire instruction. After trying any given task or methodology once we then are told, look for this next time, there is this method, for [said scenario] you can use these types of tools, this is a really useful way to think about [said subject]. The way it seems to work is that we have to try things ourselves. Through this trial and error finding the way that would feel most natural to us. Then from there we receive instruction for using methodology that we can integrate and use to reinforce our natural thought process around the task or issue. This style, whether intentional or not I still don’t fully understand, really helps with not just having a methodology drummed into your head. We didn’t learn a list of rights and wrongs. Instead, having tools handed to you that you can put onto the tool belt that you already have made for yourself, for the process, to make you more effective.

Following that, this cadence of ‘try, then learn the tools’ also seems to help with another facet of the world of design that has been taking shape in my knowledge base over the last couple months and that is that we, to a certain degree, were set up to “fail” in various ways. Which got us used to the fact that “failing” is the most immense opportunity for learning, and in design you need to have people tell you things you did wrong or better ways of doing things so that you can make whatever the thing is, better. It seems that this cycle will persist through anybody’s career in the design world. For the fact that, in applying design to complex social problems, you can’t ‘do it right’ there is no one-size-fits-all solution for such large scale, complex problems. So, try, learn, repeat becomes increasingly important and valuable in those types of messy situations.

 

Research – Applying Q1 learnings to ‘Food is Freedom’

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 In terms of Research and Synthesis I am entering this next phase of Research in Quarter 2 with much more comfortability. When recruiting research participants, I have put feelers out in as many directions as possible at the very beginning and have observed which ones are getting the results that I want. Which is funny because it’s still not working very well. It seems that working with any different ‘public’ requires completely different recruiting methods. The nature of this topic of research is a significantly different space. We are diving into access to food and low income populations’ relationship to food. In particular, healthy food. Last quarter I just mentally banked on that our first ideas would bring in all of the participants we would need, which was not the case. So, for that reason exactly I cast a wider net. However, it is seeming like more active, physical recruitment is what is proving fruitful for our team so far.

The team, being Sally, Conner and myself, chose the focus on low-income individuals and food access because we understand that food is one of the most essential building blocks of every person’s life. That alone illustrates the importance that it holds for each person and they can resonate with the conversations we are facilitating. We are defining ‘low-income’ as earning less than $10/hr or less than $18,000 annually. We defined it in this way because in Austin the living wage is $9.52/hr, minimum wage being $7.25. Another of our criteria that presented itself as a needed parameter was to state that we are looking for participants that have housing. We thought about, researched and found that when people do not have housing it fundamentally changes the food conversation. When you do not have a consistent place to live, in a very general sense, you are taking things day by day. It is hard to really be able to discuss routes for getting food and how one thinks about or values food when living day by day.

This topic is interesting because it has so much traction here in Austin. We have been in contact with multiple organizations that have their heads in the space and are taking some pretty potent and powerful steps. The Sustainable Food Center, Caritas, Foundation Communities and The Central Texas Food Bank are all taking initiative to educate people about healthy food as well as provide it to low income and at risk populations.

So far we have interviewed 1 stakeholder to get our minds in the space and discover what is possible and where we can go for effective recruiting. Accompanied by 4 participants that fall inside of our defined bracket. We have found an interesting array of ways of managing and relating with food. I have some further assumptions that I think I will hold onto until further data informs the truth.

I’m continually trying to remind myself, ‘during interviews, ask the hard questions!’ When someone shows emotion, dive into that! Throw all societal normality’s for conversation out the window. The uncomfortable zones is often where the juiciest information is. Don’t be afraid to take control, stop them in a ramble, hold them off on a tangent, lead them in a new direction, interrupt.

We just revamped our discussion guide based on our first couple interviews. After our last interview I became very illuminated about my lens about this topic. We had some questions in our discussion guide that were heavily pointing towards eating out, which work in some situations, but in some situations that is not even on the table of possibility. So to reestablish our questions based on a more wide angle lens of what we possibly may find felt like a step that will bring confidence and rich data out of any interview in any environment.

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A question I have been continually asking myself is ‘How fully can I get in their environment?’ Once we got into the data last quarter I felt like I had been an observer of the space I hadn’t been IN the space, I hadn’t BEEN the space.

Now I will momentarily speak to myself. Synthesis, data sense making, takes more time than I think, synthesis takes more time than I think, synthesis takes more time than I think. Give it the time it deserves. During synthesis, write down all of the facets of the mechanism, write, write, write, draw, write, write, write, draw, draw, draw feel confident in what you find. If you’re not confident, it’s not there yet. Metaphors are the best for helping you step out of the space and still see the trueness of the behavioral mechanism. Utilize them! When presenting, be intentional. Tie a cohesive narrative through all participants. What is your point? The findings don’t matter unless you have come to some focal point. You build the walls and frame prior to handing somebody your gem through the box and frame you have established.

Overall, the nature of the way subject matter is delivered in this course is easily consumable and digestible for me because I thrive on experiential learning and putting things into my own context.

 

I and we are excited to share our further findings and creations for the next 21 weeks.

Attacking Concept Mapping

Complexity is fascinating. When I say complexity i’m talking about all of the details that exist at every level of zoom on a sector, service public, problem, or product. The exponential growth of complexity and the way it is weaving into the tapestry of our lives is pretty ridiculous. In every interaction, the interdependence on at least half a dozen other systems is present. I cannot help but see this. My mind does it now automatically. There is a succession to everything, everything you do, see, smell, eat, play with, work on, everything. It is most often times, not explicit what the steps were to bring you the experience you’re having. To be able to make sense of it, though, and communicate the sense you made is a different ball game altogether.

This brings me to our Rapid Ideation and Complex Problem Solving class where we are creating a concept map, a sensemaking tool, to be able to understand the ins and outs of the AT&T mobile application. Like I said, I observe the worldly systems with scrutiny but have not done so as much with mobile applications. My approach with apps is generally, go in, understand what I need to understand, and get out. Especially with an application as monotonous as AT&T. It has been intriguing applying that systems level observation to the mobile space and seeing that, just like in larger systems, each step is so vastly important when every furthering step is building off of the last. In concept mapping the goal is to express the relationship each function has with each other function. In the first iteration the line between literal connections and informative connections was hard to find and balance. My first creation was speaking to the literal flow of actions within the app. ‘From ____ you access _____ to get to _____ type of connections.’

myAT&T Concept Map

Through critique I came to understand that concept maps were, more so, used to illustrate the breakdown of topics underneath an umbrella topic (in this context AT&T) and the relationships and impact that they all have on each other. Which informed me I needed to take a few more passes of iteration. I think affinity mapping helped with the second phase of this process. It allowed me to more easily pick up on subtle similarities and connections outside of the literalness. Why are two things connected outside of all obvious surface level descriptors?

And after multiple iterations that thought process brought me here:

AT&T Concept Map v4

Overall, I learned that complexity is easily harnessable with the right tools and some thorough analysis of what is important. I’m looking forward to reversing the utilization of concept mapping to foster optimal states of flow that naturally make sense.

The Schooling Brain

-The way our brains operate = the way our world looks-

How do you justify what the “right way” to learn is? Is the rationale because it gets you a job, the job makes you a lot of money, and it’s easy? Is it about how you like to think? Is it about your passion? Did you decide to learn because you were “supposed to”? The question is, what is being created? In you, and in the world.

The brain is a powerful instrument with intricate functions. It is also like clay. Clay in the sense that the exposure you immerse it in comes back around through your expression in the world. There are arguments in all directions alongside what I am saying. As is true with any topic about the way people do things.

If you teach a man to fish, he learned how to fish! Now he can go and get better at fishing, he can teach other people how to fish, he can sell the fish he catches, there are a multitude of ways he can use that skill.

If you teach a man the science of fish, he understands fish! He can study where in the world has the best fish and why, he can discover what fish do when they aren’t on a humans plate, he can find out nutritional facts about fish and who should and shouldn’t eat them. There are a multitude of things he can do knowing the science of fish.

So, what do learning those 2 things do for our world? Look for the final impact outcome of all of this hubbub. It is interesting to think about the impact being the real reason for why you’re doing what you’re doing. Are your ideas creating difficulty and problems for future generations? How fully can we consider the outcomes of our creations and consciously build a vision that fits into the collective needs of all. Call me idealist, I think the empathetic designer can get pretty damn close.