Chase Bank App Nigeria: Product Strategy & Feature Brief

For the last assignment Product Management class we practiced creating Product Strategy & Feature Brief for banking app we were working on in Q2 – a deliverable that explains a product’s roadmap and the reasoning behind its creation and priorities made.

A competition on American market of mobile banks is incredibly high. Almost every bank has an app, and most of them are able to implement all the features customers wish the mobile bank would be able to do – from checking account balance to depositing a check. So, MVP (Minimum Viable Product) for banking app in the United States should be very functional and powerful to survive.

But not every country has this high competition. I decided to imagine that my product will be launching on another market, not so spoiled as American, that will let me truly go through the process from MVP to fully functional process.

So, meet Chase Bank Nigeria! One of the pioneers of mobile banking in the country.

PREFACE

The country of Nigeria has been going through rapid economic and technological growth in the past several years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. With internet access and smartphones becoming more and more affordable, their penetration rate has skyrocketed. Nearly every person between ages 18 and 35 who live in metropolitan areas of Nigeria owns a smartphone with an internet connection, and a lot of them don’t own a computer.

A mobile application and messaging applications, in particular, are on the rise as well. Combination of added convenience and very moderate data consumption make mobile application a center of not just communication amongst the users, but also the key element of online retail, e-commerce, and overall financial activities.

As it relates to the financial sector, most people in Nigeria find it extremely inconvenient to have to visit a physical branch of a bank in order to perform basic financial transactions. Most young people would prefer to use a mobile application for banking if it saves them time and if it consumes less cellular data than a website. Customers also demand mobile application that is modern and match usability standard of the western world. Their needs are not satisfied with what’s currently on the market. At the same time, customers generally aren’t wealthy and are used to micromanage their very limited amounts of funds.

JPMorgan Chase is planning a full roll-out of its banking services onto the Nigerian market and establishes the brand as modern and forward-thinking. In alignment with that, this document outlines the vision for the initiative of creating a modern mobile banking application that serves growing needs of prospective Chase Bank customers in Nigeria.

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OVERVIEW

Chase Bank mobile application is a core component of the roll-out of Chase product and service offerings on Nigerian market. It allows users to keep their finances under control in an easy and unobstructed way.

Chase Bank mobile application design is based on these four behavioral insights:

  1. The majority of customers in Nigeria own very limited amount of funds and have to micromanage their finances.
  2. Not having clear visibility to each and every transaction associated with a debit or credit card that the customer owns steers them towards avoiding using any bank cards at all.
  3. Many banking customers in Nigeria still have to visit a branch in order to perform a money transaction, but only because their banks don’t provide a more convenient way to do that.
  4. Most customers in Nigeria would prefer to email or message their bank, instead of having a phone call.

BEHAVIORAL INSIGHTS

  1. The majority of customers in Nigeria own very limited amount of funds and have to micromanage their finances.

While Nigeria is going through the rapid growth phase, 60.9% families in the country are still below the poverty line, another 20% are very close to it. For many, that means that they need to keep a very close eye on their account balance (whether it’s a real bank account, or just saved up cash) and plan their lives and activities around it.

Chase Bank mobile application should allow customers to have a clear and easy view of their finances, ideally showing trends and projections.

“I barely can make it to my next paycheck… Every month I’m trying to make it through, I don’t have any certainty if I actually will. It is stressful, but it’s my reality. I really need to know where every my naira goes… Otherwise I quickly will go in dept.” – Abebi

  1. Not having clear visibility to each and every transaction associated with the debit or credit card that the customer owns steers them towards avoiding using any bank cards at all, due to fraud concerns.

81% of adults in Nigeria prefer cash because they feel like they have a lot more control and visibility over how much they have and where it goes. They physically have to hand out the money in order for their “total balance” to decrease, which also gives customers a perception of full control of their finances. Customers believe that credit and debit cards are prone to financial fraud.

Chase Bank mobile application should be making customers comfortable through displaying all transaction and detailed information about each of them. Ideally, clearly displayed fraud protection features should be a part of the user experience, in order to assure the customers of high security and safety of Chase Bank products and services.

“I don’t trust all these banks. They can still my money and I’ll not even notice! And even if I do it’s probably going to be too late to do something”. – Rayowa

  1. Many banking customers in Nigeria still have to visit a branch in order to perform a money transaction, but only because their banks don’t provide a more convenient way to do that.

Most banks in Nigeria currently require their customers to visit the branch in order to deposit a check, transfer money to a family member or a friend, make a wire transfer, or perform any other monetary transaction. 84% of interviewed customers noted that they don’t enjoy the experience of performing those operations in person at a bank branch – mainly because it’s hard to find enough time during a workday to do that.

Chase Bank mobile application should introduce the suite of “Move Money” features that are possible to perform using the smartphone, without the necessity of visiting a Chase branch.

“I don’t use any banks and don’t have any banking accounts. What for? I don’t want to spend a whole day trying to get my money from them, I just can not afford it. I have to work”. – Jayamma 

  1. Calling their bank is a serious challenge for most people in Nigeria and leads to frustration and anxiety due to per-minute billing and a vast difference in language dialects between country’s regions.

Most cell service companies in Nigeria charge for phone calls per minute, while free Wi-Fi connection can be found in most homes, schools, and workplaces. Even via a 3G connection, a lengthy conversation with a bank representative over an internet chat is a lot cheaper than it would be on the phone.

Additionally, many customers in certain regions of the country experience issues when calling any company headquartered in the country’s capital, Abuja, due to a difference in dialects and accents. A simple conversation becomes a frustrating and costly experience.

Chase Bank mobile application should allow for an easy way to communicate with a Chase representative via a live chat, making every customer comfortable and confident that their problem will be resolved.

“I only call my daughter because I want to hear her voice. I tried to avoid calling anybody else. It’s too expensive!”- Machie 

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VALUE PROPOSITION

We promise to support Chase Bank Nigeria users in pursuing their goals in a safe and trustworthy way through providing an easy and efficient control over their financial lives.

HIGH LEVEL STRATEGIC ROADMAP

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DETAILED STRATEGIC ROADMAP

You can see detailed roadmap here.

CORE CAPABILITIES

Account Overview
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Fraud Alerts

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Move Money

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Live Chat

 

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Smart Money

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REFLECTION

I do enjoy thinking about product strategy and features. What, when and why we should build? How exciting these questions!

However, I found out that I always have a feeling that “we don’t have enough data to answer those questions”. During this exercise, we were supposed to make up a whole story behind our design decisions and it was hard for me. I wish I really know what people in Nigeria do, how they live and how they use their mobile banking apps. In real life, I need to learn how to find that spot where I know enough to make a decision to move forward with one idea.

Presenting this report I realized how important it is to know your audience: who they are and what they already know. Do they care about quotes from real people? Did they already see your product? What are their titles? And many other questions. It was hard to emulate real-life experience without knowing all of it. I’m really looking forward to the real life to teach me this and many more other lessons.

UX Design Professional World, here we come!

Mobile App Strategic Feature Brief

This quarter I’ve taken on the role of a product manager for a mobile banking app. First, I met with a developer to size and scope the app, then I sliced the original product into an MVP version by removing the non-essential features. This was done so that we could build the product as quickly as possible (and still provide value!). Next, I rearranged the most important features into a product road map. The roadmap is a sharable document for both the design team and the engineer team. I also created a version of the roadmap that is mostly just for me, so that I can track the different components and features and prioritize which to build.

Now I am presenting a feature brief to the board. The brief will live as a document that our entire team can refer back to as we move forward. It helps our team to stay grounded in why we are building certain features, and how we are prioritizing them.

For example, when the bank first decided to create a mobile banking app, it was to serve specific user needs. Many of our customers are college students and young working professionals with little time on their hands. Here are some of the things we heard from our customers:

Banking Strategic Features User Quotes.001

Customers are negatively impacted when they can’t make it to the bank.

 

Banking Strategic Features User Quotes.003Customers make personal tradeoffs to fit banking into their busy schedules.

 

Banking Strategic Features User Quotes.005

Customers only go to the bank when they absolutely have to.

This led our research team to the insight that taking time out of one’s day to go to the bank feels like a hassle and causes our customers to resent banking.

Since we are in the banking business it’s in our best interest to make banking enjoyable. Even more so, our bank would have a competitive advantage by accommodating the needs of our users busy schedules.

Given this, we are guided by a very simple value promise.

Banking Strategic Features value promise.001

The following are 9 core features that will be built into the app.

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Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.28.26 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.28.52 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.28.37 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.29.29 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.29.41 PM Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.29.03 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.29.19 PMScreen Shot 2018-04-15 at 7.29.55 PMIt may seem strange that we included making an appointment to go to our bank a core feature, but what we realized it that sometimes user do want to talk to a banker face to face. Money often makes people feel insecure and there is comfort in the physical interaction. Being able to make an appointment easily and in advance helps a user avoid extra wait time that they might find when just dropping in.

The product roadmap was update slightly from the last version in order to highlight our core features and bring the chat functionality into the third release, whereas it was in the last two releases in the original map.

Product Roadmap Simplified SMALL-01

 

Here is a closer view of the strategic releases:

Product Roadmap Simplified-03

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To see the full strategic feature brief document, you can go here.

Design Strategy Feature Brief: We’ve Only Just Begun

After creating scenarios, iterating wireframes, completing usability testing, evaluating feasibility, creating a product roadmap, and sizing with a developer, it is time to create a design strategy feature brief. The brief presents a comprehensive and straightforward vision of what the redesigned mobile application will provide and why it’s valuable.

In the real world, the brief will be shared with multiple departments from operations to sales to customer service and beyond to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the direction and capabilities of the product.

The new artifact is actually a compilation and curation of artifacts previously created. Core components of a compelling design strategy feature brief include value proposition, research insights, wireframes, features, and product roadmap. 

A simple promise articulating the future outlook.
A value proposition is a simple promise articulating the future outlook.

 

Insights are grounded in human behavior.
Insights are grounded in human behavior.

 

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Insight: customers don’t want more financial services, they want financial health and security.

 

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High-level product roadmap shows features that will come online and paints a picture for a longer term view.

 

Key capabilities and summarized to quickly communicate the customer value.
Key capabilities and wireframes are summarized to quickly communicate the customer value.

 

You can view the design strategy feature brief here.

Reflection

Throughout my marketing and communications career, I’ve reviewed similar documents. I liked building the brief because it is an opportunity to revisit design artifacts and use them to communicate a product vision in a clear, concise, and compelling way. The challenge with documents such as this is ultimately implementing the strategy and not allowing it to merely live on in an executive’s memory or bookcase.

There’s much work ahead of us to achieve and to realize the product strategy and vision. Despite the numerous steps to get to this point, we’ve only just begun. Indeed.

 

Piloting The Pulse with Austin’s Dockless Bikeshare Program

Kicking off The Pulse of Austin

Last week, Kaley and I launched our first round of content for The Pulse of Austin. On Day 1, Tuesday April 10th, 16 Austinites engaged with us via SMS about the city’s dockless bikeshare & electric scooter pilot. Our content framed the narrative around rider data, and we asked for input on two key issues: transparency and privacy. Other questions and points came up along the way, too – all reported below.

Note: we sent this report to Laura Dierenfield, the city’s Active Transportation Program Manager who is running the dockless pilot. She had some additional information to share on the current (docked) B-cycle system:

“We are actively expanding our station-based Austin B-Cycle system in several ways. The Austin City Council authorized $200,000 towards that end, per Resolution 20180201-057. We have also taken steps to expand the system in and around the UT campus.” 

Laura Dierenfield, Active Transportation Program Manager, City of Austin
Laura Dierenfield, Active Transportation Program Manager, City of Austin

Ridership Data Transparency

The City plans to privatize their dockless bikeshare and scootershare operations, rather than making them part of the city’s public B-cycle service. This means that the city will not have ownership over ridership data. Dockless bikes could provide particularly granular data on where Austinites are biking, helping to prioritize biking infrastructure. However, a lot of dockless bike companies will not make this data open.

Ofo, one of ten companies Austin is considering, even reported false data in Aurora, Colorado, claiming 2.5 daily rides per bike, when they were really clocking 0.18 daily rides.

Should Austin’s selected provider(s) be required to share their ridership data? What level of transparency is important?

Ofo Bike
Ofo Bike

People almost unanimously agreed that the city should have access to ridership data.

(see argument for tradeoff below)

“Data should be 100% open–the value of how (and if) people are using different transportation options may be worth more than the service itself.” -78723 resident

“Ridership data needs to be available.” – 78702 resident

“Transparency is important to me.” -78723 resident

“They should definitely share the data.” -78705 resident

bikeshareinput

“I think transparency is very important on this issue. The city is actively trying to gather more robust data when it comes to bike ridership and partnering with a bikeshare company could provide a lot of useful insight.” -78705 resident

Q: Due to FOIA risk, could companies report data to a third party collector that anonymizes and shares with CoA?

Yes, this is what Seattle has done to ensure riders’ privacy with the data they publish. The University of Washington acts as their intermediary, collecting all the data and sending the city reports that have been reviewed for compliance.

seattle dockless diagram

Thoughts on payment

“Feels like city should need to pay for this data – like they do to Strava right now.” -78702 resident

“I think that any entity receiving public funding should be required to make valid information, in this case daily ridership, publicly available.” -78722 resident

Q: What currently happens with B-cycle data?

Currently, anonymized B-cycle trip data is available on Austin’s Open Data platform.

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https://data.austintexas.gov/Transportation-and-Mobility/Austin-B-Cycle-Trips/tyfh-5r8s

Rider Privacy + Scope of Data Collection

Rider tracking and data sales

In addition to control over ridership data, some dockless bike companies track users even when they are not using the bikes, reserving the right to sell that data to third parties. Austin riders could become our provider’s key source of income.

On the other hand, monetizing user data could result in lower bike rental rates for residents. We are living in an age where so many products we use track us and store our data. Is bikeshare one service on which we need to draw the line? Residents weighed in:

“Not sure. All of my fitness tracking apps are already tracking and selling all my data already. If it’s anonymous, maybe it’s par for the course.” -78702 resident

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“Given the currently political climate I would say having bikes that give away data would be a very poor move for the city. Personally, I wouldn’t use a system that stored my data, feels really creepy.” – 78702 resident

“Oooh [the non-bike trip tracking] is devious and gross. Def strong dislike on that.” -78722 resident

“Protect privacy.” -78705 resident

How peripheral data could improve the service

“I think limiting data collection to when users have the app open would be a good way to regulate it. It could be useful to know where people are when they decide to look for a bike – at transit stops? At community gathering places?” -78705 resident

Alternatives to selling data

“I think an alternative way to keep lower prices could be to either sell advertising space on the bikes to third party companies or provide incentives to bike share companies if they keep their costs below a certain threshold.” – 78705 resident

Private vs. Public – why privatize now?

Revenue vs. Investment

Privatization would mean less or no capital investment on the part of the city, and they would even get fees from the companies (estimated at $30 per bike). The city may also require the companies to put up a bond.

Data Access vs. Investment

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Social Impact

Being public has given Austin B-cycle the leverage to create $5 annual memberships for low-income Austinites, and now free memberships for UT Austin students.

Next Steps

The City of Austin is engaging with the community through the end of April. The Pulse will continue to update its users on any progress with the pilot!

City-run open houses:

  • Monday, April 16 – 6-7 p.m., Willie Mae Kirk Library, 3101 Oak Springs Dr.
  • Saturday, April 21 – 12 p.m., Earth Day ATX, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon St.
  • Saturday, April 28 – 2:30-4 p.m., Twin Oaks Library,1800 South 5th St.

Mobility Committee Meeting, April 17th – 3-4pm, City Hall

Get on The Pulse

Fill out the super short form on our website, pulseofaustin.org, to be in the know on happenings in Austin and weigh in.

TD Bank Redesign Strategy Brief

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief Back in October, I started the process of redesigning the TD Mobile Banking Application. To do this, I worked through creating an ideal vision of what I believe the banking application should be through an information architecture, storyboarding and wireframe development. I set out into the streets of Austin to do usability testing to learn how potential users might interact with the application. I learned many things including the fact that most users do not have confidence interacting with the banking application, often found the words banking application typically use confusing, and did not know the purpose of many of the features.

Simultaneously, I have been doing research with Austinites who are not financially secure. Thus, as this process is coming to a close, I wanted to honor what I have learned through both experiences.

Taking time to create a product and strategy brief brought me back to my initial insights when I first built the TD banking application redesign. The purpose of the brief is to be able to have a stand alone record that a product manager uses to communicate the rationale behind how he believes the products value should grow over time, meaning when key features should be shipped.

As a high-level overview of the process, I first returned to my initial research to recall the key insights I used when developing the product, making sure that the product’s value promise reflects those behavioral insights, and that ultimately, the strategic map is in line with this vision. The brief ends with visuals and descriptions of key features that help to drive the value and fulfill the value promise.

As the designer that TD Bank hired to redesign their application, I begin with a high level introduction to the strategy brief:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.001

 

Key Insights and Value Promise

In my research with individuals who are living with a poverty wage and are unable to plan for the future, I found that “rational” long term planning was not the highest priority even though with the right decisions and savings plan, it might be possible for those experiencing financial insecurity to gain more stability. Through interviews and secondary research, I discovered three behavior insights that will be the foundation of the product’s value promise:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.004TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.005 TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.006 TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.007

 

This led to the products value promise:

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.008

 

 

Strategic Roadmap

The strategic roadmap reflects this value promise. The first version (Core Banking Services) that ships needs to fulfill the value promise that banking is simple. So, when developing the core services, the key features are streamlined and easier to use than the current TD banking mobile application.

TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief.009

For version two (Scheduling Services), the banking application will begin incorporating scheduling services as well as data gathering for the safe to spend feature.

Version three (Financial Planning) will ultimately fulfill the value promise. Version three builds in services that will nudge users towards more financial stability, takes the burden of long term planning of them, and presents information in a way that will drive them towards making better decisions.

Below is a more detailed version of the strategic map.

Strategic Road Map

Feature Breakdown

In the final section of the brief, a product manager provides visual evidence and rationale behind each feature. In this part of the brief, the product manager is explaining the details of how specific features fulfill the value promise.

Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Core Banking Services
Scheduling Services
Scheduling Services
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning
Financial Planning

You can view the complete brief here TD Bank Strategy and Feature Brief

Reflection

It is a product manager’s job to manage, inspire, and keep the ball rolling on the product’s development. He or she is responsible for constantly being able to zoom in and out, to understand the details of how the product should be developed and then to connect each one of those details to the big picture. They must use their influence to keep developers on the same page and the executives satisfied with progress. We have been told that the only real power a product manager has his or her storytelling abilities. Thus, the strategy brief seems like it is one of the most important documents the product manager is responsible for. Anyone in an organization should be able to read it and understand not only what they are working on, but why. The core to any successful team or venture is really that everyone is on the same page about the why. To simultaneously keep the vision true and also get lost in the weeds of the day to day decision making seems almost insurmountably challenging. Perhaps, this is why keeping the user at the center of all decisions is one of the best strategic decisions a manager can make.

 

 

Velocity Credit Union Product Strategy and Feature Brief

The goal of a product strategy and feature brief is to explain a product’s roadmap and the reasoning behind its creation so as to create alignment around the purpose and priority level of specific features. This is the document a product manager uses to convince her team, peers, and bosses that she has made the right decisions about which features should be shipped and when.

Insights and Value Promise

To create a product strategy and feature brief for my Velocity Credit Union (VCU) app, my first step was to elaborate on the reasoning behind my product roadmap. In other words, I did further research to ground the logic behind the order in which I chose to develop the VCU app features. The object of this exercise was not to complete the normal, extremely rigorous ethnographic research I would have preferred to have done to form insights, but rather to find secondary research that could help me form a cogent stance about which features should be prioritized.

What I found in doing secondary research was that credit unions everywhere are struggling to attract younger members. Younger members (people between the ages of 18 and 40) are extremely important to the health of any credit union because they are the ones most likely to be taking out loans to buy houses or cars, and credit unions make the majority of their money from the interest on the loans they give out. Consequently, I focused in on the behavior of millennials and how the VCU app could appeal to their needs. I then wrote then formed the following insights:

Insight #1 - millennials don't like to go to a physical location

Insight #2 millennials don't like keeping track of when things are due

Insight #3 Millennials do not bother to memorize mundane information

Insight #4 Low-income millennials are scared of incurring fees by overdrawing their accountsThose insights led to the Velocity Credit Union value promise: We promise to minimize our clients’ anxiety and frustration surrounding banking so that they are free to pursue their long-term financial goals.

This value promise addresses the expectations, emotions, and aspirations of the VCU members.

Strategic Roadmap

Having laid out that guiding principle, I then proceeded to create a high level strategic roadmap for building out the features of the VCU app.

high level strategic roadmap

The intent and goal of each release are different and driven by the insights listed above.

MVP

For the MVP of our product, the intent is to enable clients to never have to go to a physical VCU location to complete a common transaction, thus supporting their standard banking expectations.

V2

For the v2  features (Automation), the intent is to enable clients to schedule transactions in advance and create repeated transactions. This will allow users to have a “set it and forget it” banking mentality, satisfying their desire to not have to be reminded about repetitive financial chores.

V3

The goal of the v3 (Convenience) release of the VCU app is to support users to minimize the information they need to remember or find in order to complete their banking tasks. The goal of this release corresponds to the third insight listed above: millennials often do not keep track of the contact information of the individuals and businesses with whom they transact, and so often feel frustrated and lost when expected to recall or find details about them.

V4

Finally, the goal of v4 (Safe to Spend) of the VCU app is to support users’ long-term financial health by enabling clients to live free from worry about overdrawing their accounts and build good savings habits. This release is designed specifically to address the concerns raised in the fourth insight listed above: Many low-income millennials fear over-drafting on their accounts to the point of preferring to deal completely in cash.

Feature Breakdown

The final step in creating a product strategy and feature brief is to provide a more detailed explanation of each feature that explains the value it will deliver to customers and how it reflects the value promise for the product as a whole. Here are a few examples:

MVP Release Feature: Mobile Deposit
MVP Release Feature: Mobile Deposit

 

v2 Release Feature: Schedule Recurring Transactions
v2 Release Feature: Schedule Recurring Transactions

 

v3 Release Feature: Person to Person Payments and Requests
v3 Release Feature: Person to Person Payments and Requests
v4 Feature Release: Budget Warning Push Notifications
v4 Feature Release: Smart Budget Warning Push Notifications

These more specific feature breakdowns conclude the product strategy and feature brief. You can view the brief in its entirety here

Conclusion

Having reached the end of the brief, anyone reading it should now know exactly which features the product manager is proposing to build, why those features are critical to the value promise of the product as a whole, and why the features should be built on the schedule that the product manager has proposed. For the VCU app, this means that each feature has been justified and prioritized based on the behavioral insights listed above about the millennial users VCU is trying to attract. With that grounding, I, as product manager, would have a strong set of arguments with which to approach any higher-up to convince them to give funding and time to the features I have identified as being most important.

 

What actually limits what we can imagine?

Prescribed Imagination

We’ve been exploring different answers to this question in the readings for this past week. We read about how simple things in our daily routines can actually be constraining us from thinking the possibilities beyond our current existence.

Going beyond the limitations of our imagination is tough, this is why designers and inventors have come up with methodologies that aim to disrupt the way we think and let us go a bit further than individually possible (aka, defamiliarization, insight combination, reframing). We can also imply that it takes imagination to come up with these methodologies, but it is also interesting to think about how, as humans, we are conscious about what we don’t know but curious to push the boundaries to see where our minds take us.

But imagination is an important element of innovation, so much so, that individuals in creative roles are now more important than ever. Seeking value and differentiation for a product or service is becoming harder, but chances are, if our methods are implemented in the right way, that a team of innovation is most likely to succeed in this task.

In his article “Management Education”, Roger Martin introduces one example of such methods, he states that “ […] design is not about either/or but about integrative thinking.” Integrative thinking being a way in which all perspectives (user, stakeholder, competitor, etc) around one problem are considered as a whole during the analysis, and never taken apart, avoiding tradeoffs.

Designing technology for humans

Technology has made us become more aware and proactive about our health. The massive amount of data we receive after two seconds of googling informs us (and can also get us a little panicky) but it has also made it more accessible for us to know about treatment options, their  success rates, costs, related support groups, etc. But it doesn’t really matter how much data has been made available to us, at the end of the day, our experience will be defined by the interaction with another human.

Designers are supposed to work based on empathy, but how many products or services are we designing that help people gain empathy for each other in an unbiased way? Quantifying data has become so important in order to track business performance, that the idea to stop and think about what people are really talking about is nonexistent. This resonates with what Tim and Karen say on their “The Cloud and Other Dangerous Metaphors” article published in The Atlantic:

“Our current data metaphors do us a disservice by masking the human behaviors, relationships, and communications that make up all that data we’re streaming and mining. They make it easy to get lost in the quantity of the data without remembering how personal so much of it is. And if people forget that, it’s easy to understand how large-scale ethical breaches happen; the metaphors help us to lose track of what we’re really talking about.”

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So how might we leverage existing technology and the concept of current social platforms to do this? How can we get past the day to day potentially frivolous information and help humans understand each other? We’re not talking about Facebook or Instagram here, we’re talking about something that is more complex but potentially more rewarding. Because how else do we gain empathy by people if not by asking questions. But how feasible is this in environments like, hospital rooms, to be able to ask questions without hindering efficiency.

We read a couple articles from April Starr, a designer that has shared some of her personal experiences with healthcare services. She does this by describing the patient/ caregiver perspectives, and the emotions that take place when they’re in one of the environments that can make people feel the most vulnerable; a hospital room filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Who would have thought that the humans that are there to make you feel better, aren’t cutting it?:

“Who are you? You walk into the room and we don’t know your level, specialty, name, or role. Should we listen to you? What questions can we ask you? Who the fuck knows?”
 Free ideas from a human-centered designer for hospitals that want to be (or make it seem like they are) patient-centric.

During a quick class activity, I challenged myself and my classmates to address this “how might we” question. The problem was a near future, where population will be exponentially larger and the communication between doctors and patients is still deficient. The frame I used for this activity was inspired on the dependence all organizations have on dashboards. The rules where the following:

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 6.40.34 PM

Although the dashboard format was a constraint, it was interesting to see how my classmates had different ideas and perspectives to display on the dashboard. Thinking not only about the content on the interface but also their physical (hardware) form.

IMG_2140
But, let’s remember designers are not “it”

We most likely don’t have all the answers, which is why we need to find ways to find authentic ones, design research is a good way to start. It is still important to mention that, even though designers need to “think out of the box” on a daily basis and for professional purposes, necessity is still the mother of invention. All humans have the potential to be creative thinkers, thus, have the ability to push their thinking beyond what’s prescribed, and create solutions that suit their needs. Our role as designers is to make things in an integrative way.

Housing Assist Update

In the last blog post update, I mentioned that I am developing the details of the Housing Assist online application. The big task was to create the initial intake in its entirety. By last week, I had an outline of the initial intake, and in this past week I developed and did usability testing of the screens. In this blog post, I’ll go into the details and give a glimpse of what I’ve created.

UPDATES

The initial intake is the most important part of the application for residents applying for housing repair assistance. The Housing Assist initial intake gives residents quickly tests’ residents’ eligibility for a wide variety of programs. To make the intake, I needed to analyze and synthesize all the possible applications residents could fill out. I developed this analysis with help from experts such as John Lyons, the Program Manager at Meals on Wheels, the largest housing repair provider in Central Texas.

I then developed a logical workflow diagram that illustrated the shortest possible paths for residents to take through the initial intake. Based on those questions, the logic directs residents to answer more or fewer questions, and, based on their responses, residents finish the 20-30 minute intake with a clear indication of their eligibility for any program available in the region.

Wireframes

This week I created wireframes for the whole intake.

Housing Assist Landing Page
The Housing Assist landing page is where users start their application.

 

Basic info wireframe
This sample screen illustrates the conversational and minimalist design of the wireframes. These design principles allow for older residents to more easily navigate the application independent of intake specialists. This screen shows all questions, however a user would only see questions such as mailing address fields if they click yes. This conditional logic is applied throughout the online application.

Usability Testing

After creating wireframes, I then did usability testing with five individuals. The usability testing method I followed is called the think-aloud protocol. I gave testers the task of completing the application starting from the landing page. I did not prompt them at all as to what to do on each screen. As they made their way through the online application and filled it out, they spoke their thoughts aloud so I could better learn what they noticed on each page and how they were confused or making decisions about what to “click” or fill out.

Usability testing
I completed usability testing with five individuals. Standard research has shown that 5 individuals is the optimal number to test before testing reveals too few remaining errors to be worthwhile.

The usability testing took about 15-45 minutes. The wide range of participants’ technology savvy correlated with the length of time it took for them to complete the application. Since many housing repair assistance applicants are older than sixty years old, and since technology use drops off for elderly users according to Pew research, and according to my own primary research in Austin, Housing Assist will be marketed to residents and also to their caregivers and children. With this in mind, I conducted usability testing with a seventy-nine-year-old who never uses computers and also with four individuals ranging from thirty to forty years old. Two of these younger individuals were professional housing repair application intake specialists. In addition to gaining normal usability insights, the specialists’ review of the prototype helped me identify errors or omissions in the form that would lead to inaccurately calculating residents’ eligibility.

Usability testing with elderly woman.
One usability tester was a seventy-nine-year-old woman who does not use computers. This proved extremely useful. If I can revise the application so that even she could use it, it would be usable by most anyone. In addition, her testing will help me revise language or question order so that if someone else were to help her complete the application, it will still be sensitive to her interpretation of the applications’ questions and format.

The past week was significant to advance the Housing Assist concept. The usability testing revealed many errors ranging from language use unfamiliar to users to text that was too small for some people to read. I also learned how to better orient users to the purpose of the application as well as to help them understand their orientation and progress within the application.

What’s Next

There’s less than two weeks until the final presentation, and this week I will be focusing on refining the wireframes and other assets to be better prepared for assembling the presentation deck. I plan to have a draft of that deck ready for next week’s blog post as well as refined wireframes, so stay tuned for the next Housing Assist blog update!

What limits can we Imagine? It depends on how you think about it.

 

What limits what we can imagine?

Imagination is essential for design. The very heart of design thinking lies in our ability to think divergently and move beyond the boundaries of the given set of assumptions to allow our work to be informed by the unimagined. As designers, our ability to solve a problem or create the outcomes we seek is defined by what we see and what we can imagine. More foundationally, the way we see things and imagine the world is shaped by personal experience, our relationships, and the institutions, cultural, and commercial forces around us. To better depict these ideas, I created an allegory that illustrates these forces. Read on, and I’ll continue my explanation after the short ,illustrated story.

 

 

Review of the Narrative

What happens in this story? How does it represent imagination and design?

In the story of Divia the Explorer, there are two main characters – Anali and Divia. These birds represent two forces that thinkers like Roger Martin describe as analytical or non-integrative thinking (Anali) and design or integrative thinking (Divia.) Analytical thinking is characterized as limiting variables and constraining the bounds of a system to better analyse it’s causal relationships and often quantitatively optimize outcomes. On the other hand, design thinking is characterized by widening possibilities of the scope of system, allowing for multiple causes to define any given outcome, and evaluating qualitative features in defining outcomes that are not easily or at all quantifiable. The characters of Anali and Divia continue to represent these approaches to problem-solving throughout the story.

In the article entitled “Incremental and Radical Innovation: Design Research versus Technology & Meaning Change”, Don Norman and Roberto Verganti look at, among other topics, two types  of ways that technology changes. Through incremental innovation, products or systems are improved bit by bit, and in cases of radical innovation, they are changed so much so that there is a paradigm shift with regards to the definition and meaning of the product or system. These types of changes occur in the story of Divia the Explorer.

In the beginning of the story, Anali makes an observation of plants and finds a relationship between them. He essentially creates a radical innovation in the flocks’ food sourcing by inventing farming as opposed to relying on foraging. The birds’ normal course of action is changed by this invention. What happens next is how his analytical research creates a frame around their way of life that transforms it entirely. Instead of continuing to migrate, they stay put and harness nature as a thing to be controlled. The system is well defined in order to control the variables, and Anali, year after year, optimizes the crop’s output by incrementally improving the crop’s efficiency through small innovations.

Over time, this tightly constrained system saps the birds of their color. I believe this is what happens when we shutter ourselves from a wider world view and way of life that embraces the new. One day, Divia has a dream of exotic fruits. Inspired by this dream, she leaves home to find them, even without permission. This way of life represents the divergent thinking characteristic of design thinking. She seeks something new and unfamiliar. Why does she want to go? She just does. In reading about inventors, artists, and other visionary thinkers, their reasoning isn’t constrained to explanations that have to fit the logical frame of the current way of thinking. They often pursue their visions because of an inborn tendency. To explain the reasoning would rely on sign-posts of logic that are shared by others. For there to be shared sign-posts, the rationale would necessarily need to be common, and the creative is by definition uncommon and beyond the current way of thinking.

Anali has influenced others, such as Divia’s mother, and Divia’s mother warns her daughter of the dangers. This risk-averse thinking is typical of an analytical thinking that cares more for controlling variables than opening to possibilities beyond the envisioned worldview.

When Divia gets back to the flock, they have lost even more of their color, but once the drained birds have tasted the new fruit that Divia has brought back, they are inspired are reinvigorated. I believe this invigoration is what methods like divergent thinking bring to institutions or systems normalized with traditional paths and worldviews. Defamiliarization is another method that can reinvigorate thinking. This method, as described by Genevieve Bell, Mark Blythe, and Phoebe Sengers in their work, involves encountering unfamiliar contexts or things in order to stretch the mind. For example, in order to invent new forms or meanings for home goods, we could look back at home life in the 19th century – a realm most people are unfamiliar with. As a result, we may see objects, domestic relationships, and home life in such peculiar forms that they stretch our imagination of how we might invent new items for the home. Divia introduces the unfamiliar to the flock, and it changes their way of life as well. Anali does continue employing his strengths in farming and optimizing their efforts, but now they have adapted their way of life by incorporating Divia’s expeditions as a way to bring in new fruits for their farms.

In Closing

What are the limits of our imagination? Analytical thinking does not limit our imagination. Following a single, rigid way of thinking is what limits our imagination. Converse to analytical thinking, if we only thought divergently, our thoughts would diffuse and dissociate, lacking vigor or ability to concretize pattern or sense-making. It’s the flexible analytical and divergent thinking that creates imagination. In this way, Divia and Anali are not necessarily at odds. We should not put design thinking on a pedestal and belittle analytical thinking. Just as Divia and Anali find a way to make the most of their preferred ways of thinking and work, people in the world of humans must better work together. Whether it’s in the world of business and design or in healthcare with the battling traditional and holistic healthcare providers, we will all be better off respecting and complimenting our strengths and their place to make positive change.

Grounding the future of The Pulse: testing, refining, testing…

Taking a step back and appreciating the journey

With two weeks left of AC4D (!!), Kaley and I had a bit of a retrospective on our last 6 months of working towards The Pulse of Austin. We traced our journey from research, initial insights, ideation, and then the months of testing and iterating on our concept. We have been told countless times during our school to “trust the process,” which can feel obvious, yet abstract at the same time when you’re in the thick of it. It’s when you look back at it all that you achieve that clarity: our idea has progressed immensely, and we’re excited to say that we’re in a place where we feel great about it.

Reviewing and cleansing our outdated boards.
Reviewing and cleansing our outdated boards

That’s not to say our vision is set in stone; we are still questioning and shaping our platform almost daily. However, those changes are feeling more like refinements. The foundation is solid, and our scope has narrowed. Now, within that more narrow scope, we have a new set of decisions to make.

Balancing development and testing

This week, The Pulse progressed in two tactical ways: backend iOS development and content development.

iOS development

We met with a developer through Open Austin, who set up the push notification element of The Pulse this week, and who plans to build the screens for our key weigh-in flow next week. We are thrilled to have development power on board, and it has also pushed us to consider what is properly vetted vs. what needs more validation before building. Our teachers emphasize not rushing into building, so we are being conscious to pull back on the reigns and test features at a lower fidelity before taking our developer’s time.

Our platform can be broken down into the following primary features:

  1. Educative and compelling content
  2. Structured opportunities to weigh in early on city planning initiatives
  3. A personal and editable map of the user’s locations and happenings

Content development

Our content development aimed to test different ways to educate and elicit input – addressing features 1 and 2.

Each day from Tuesday through Friday, we sent a different type of SMS-based engagement to our pilot testing group of 23 Austinites. We tried the following:

  • An incremental reveal of a narrative thread
  • A choose-your-own-info menu with a prompt
  • A narrow A vs. B vs. C vote
  • A “good-to-know” piece of content that did not elicit a response

We learned that we get a good quantity (~70%) of responses when we ask for participants to text back a simple letter. However, this prompt did not ask for the ‘why’ behind their selection, which we know is an important component. We plan to have an optional rationale entry in our platform, so next we need to test how many users will provide that rationale when given the option.

The incremental reveal that asked specific questions along the way elicited the largest quantity of thoughtful responses. People enjoy responding to structured prompts when they feel informed.

The responses to our A vs. B vs. C vote - sent out the next day
The responses to our A vs. B vs. C vote – sent as a follow-up the next day

 

Two of our testers expressed an interest in the text format of the interaction. It’s easy, simple, and conversational. As we move into an app, we must keep these qualities in mind. Does perhaps a chat-based platform make more sense than a poll-based platform? While our heads our in our app, we cannot ignore the results of our pilot.

Additionally, how valuable was the human, conversational element of the pilot? We cannot easily scale when we provide personalized responses to our users, so what will users think of an automated reply instead?

Building Off Our Pilot

Testing Next Steps

Next week, we plan to measure the level of need for human intervention in our platform, as well as test the value of location-based content.

We will also be taking our concept into a more robust set of wireframes, working out our developer to prioritize our MVP’s features. Our goal is that, at the very least, users will be able to learn about and weigh in on an issue posted to The Pulse.

Looking Beyond AC4D

Kaley and I feel energized by the response we have received within the city. We plan to continue building relationships with city departments who share our mission of a citizen-led government. We feel confident in finding support and a home for The Pulse, so our planning has extended beyond the next two weeks. It feels great to continue looking towards the future, and we are excited to provide another update next week.

Sharing the vision and future of The Pulse of Austin with City Council
Sharing the vision and future of The Pulse of Austin with City Council