Iterating to awesome: How to do Usability Testing

In this week’s blogpost, I am going to describe my process for iterating on my Navigation and Information Architecture Map and the wireframes for the TD Mobile Banking App. This builds on two previous blog posts; the first was on my process for creating the original concept map and the second was for my process on developing the wireframes.

In this post, I am going to discuss and present:

  • Usability testing
  • Revising the Navigation and Information Architecture Map
  • Revised wireframes
  • Next steps

Usability Testing

Last week, I developed my wireframes using a process that hinged on imagining a flow through the application that would help well-defined characters achieve a goal. This week, I set out to see if real people could achieve those goals. To do this, I first created a digital prototype using Sketch and a plugin called Craft that links my wireframes to Envision. Then, I went out into the field to find at least five willing participants, primarily in local cafes. Last, I looked back at the data I had accumulated and found the top three design issues that I wanted to revise.

I knew that in order to get feedback on the usability of my application, I would need to present participants with a low fidelity prototype. One recommendation I received was to use a paper prototype. However, I decided to try and learn how to create a digital prototype since I know that people in industry do this. The process was arduous. It made me think more about each step of a user’s flow. Questions like, “What will happen if a user does not fill in a field properly?” or “What sequence of screen would a user most naturally flow?” came up.  I also had to learn the idiosyncrasies and limitations of Craft and Envision. I thought that the time spent on this part of the prototype development was worthwhile because I thought that organizing a paper prototype would be overly onerous, especially when working with participants in real time.

Once the digital prototype was developed, I set out into the field to find willing participants. I had six predetermined tasks: checking a balance, transferring funds to an external account, paying a friend, setting up a new alert, paying a bill, and depositing a check. I wrote each of these tasks down on a separate sheet of paper so I could hand them off during the testing session.

I also prepared myself to follow the Think Aloud Protocol. The steps in the protocol involve first, telling the participant what they are about to do and that once testing begins, all I can say is, “Please keep talking.” I tell the participants that I want to hear what they are thinking as they attempt the tasks written on the sheet of paper. The Think Aloud Protocol is based on a theory that people can explain how they solve problems and that though it will slow down task completion, won’t have an impact on potential task completion. As participants will work through the task, I will take notes and record what they say so I have a reference for later synthesis. I also had my participants fill out a SUS score which is their rating of the application flows. My hope is that as I iterate on the wireframes, the score will go up.

A participant tests the digital prototype on his mobile phone
A participant tests the digital prototype on his mobile phone

A key takeaway from usability testing with a digital product was that a lot of the feedback I got was actually about the limitations of Envision. People got stuck on different screens because Envision is limited in how systematically accurate a user can interact with the product. I also found greater success when users could test the product in its appropriate environment, a mobile phone, and not a desktop computer. I also found that digital prototypes are limiting because they constrain how a user can walk through the application since the sequence is pre-determined. When doing this again, I could of course make a screen and flow for every single way a user can walk through the application, but I think that user a paper prototype may allow for more user control and thus, I can get even better data.

Some key takeaways from my first round of usability testing using the Think Aloud Protocol was that when I write the tasks, I should give users more information about what they may need to enter into each field. I also found that having a setting where I could clearly hear the participant is super important. I sometimes struggled to write good notes because of this. It was also challenging not to step in and help sometimes because Envision made it hard to tap on a field and move to the next screen. I would sometimes end up helping a user because it was just too frustrating for something that didn’t help me get any useful information. Also, after getting feedback from 5 people, I had confirmation that getting many more participants to try the application would not add to the accuracy of what I would learn. I saw patterns emerge already and can imagine that anymore than 10, I would not learn much more.

Of course, I was also able to garner some key issues that I would want to fix in my prototype. They are documented below.

Test documentation-01 Test documentation-02 Test documentation-03Revised “Navigation and Information Architecture” Concept Map

There were two key revisions I made to my concept map. First, I wanted the concept map to reflect the complexity of the application system. My first map was too simple. A future software engineer would have a lot of potential to make up user flows because so many details were missing. So, this necessitated a complete overhaul of my concept map. Second, the concept map would have to reflect the revisions I made to my wireframes.

In order to do a complete overhaul of the map, I started fresh. I went through three paper sketches, getting feedback from classmates on clarity and hierarchy. I made sure that I had different shapes to reflect different kinds of screens and operations. Squares represent places a user goes to. Ovals represent the functions you find in each of the “places”. Circles represent the flows a user takes to accomplish the function. Working through this process made me have a much clearer idea of all of the screens I currently have as well as the screens I still need to develop for a complete application. The feedback I got from my classmates helped me to make a better visual hierarchy. At first I made the ovals a much thicker line weight but this confused my classmates because it made them more important than they should be.

In order to reflect revisions that I made to my screens, my concept map includes a shortcut to get to the main functions a user may want to apply to an account. Also, redoing the concept map made me realize that my I never included a way to logout of the application in the original wireframe set. It also helped me to see what screens I would add a home link to for a user to get to restart faster.

Revised Concept Map
Revised Concept Map

Revised Wireframes

Below are the revised wireframes. First, I highlight the key screens that I revised based on the top 3 problems I chose to revise. Second, I present all of the screens. In addition to the revisions I listed above, I also revised a several other elements. I did these revisions based on what I learned from the critique session in class.

The other revisions were:

  • Graying out a button if it should not afford clicking if all required fields are incomplete
  • Changing the titles of buttons to more accurately reflect what they do (ie changing “Deposit” to “Another Deposit” on the success screen for deposits) or to be more natural (ie changing “Return Home” to “Home”).
  • Adding a logout option on the main menu
    Revised Account home screen
    Revised Account home screen

    Revised View bill - added a home screen icon
    Revised View bill – added a home screen icon
Revised flow for adding a new alert
Revised flow for adding a new alert
Revised login flow
Revised login flow
Revised deposit flow
Revised deposit flow
Revised bill pay flow
Revised bill pay flow
Revised view bill flow
Revised view bill flow
Revised check balance flow
Revised check balance flow
Revised alerts flow
Revised alerts flow
Revised quick pay flow
Revised quick pay flow
Revised transfer flow
Revised transfer flow

Next steps

Next week, I plan to build out my application according to the concept map. I will also do usability testing. But this time, I want to focus on particular flows and to get feedback on buttons and font.

 

If Banking Apps Looked Out for their Users, It’d get a lot more Personal

I can’t stand banking stuff.

I confessed this to my classmate earlier this afternoon as we both worked and reworked wireframes for a banking app. I felt desperately uninspired.

“Banks rule the world!” He replied. Is that true?

What are banks even good for? They provide security. We don’t have to store all our cash under our mattresses. They give us credit to buy things we might not have the immediate funds for (yay, credit cards!). They also help us set money aside so we can save up for something, whether it be a new couch, college tuition, or retirement. But banks could do more to help us manage our money. The institution itself it not approachable, and it gives a lot of people an uneasy feeling dealing with a bank.

Wells Fargo just implemented a new paying system that other banks have adopted as well, called Zelle. It feels like a nod to Venmo, and the interface for the “Zelle” portion of the app is more lighthearted. I decided that I would recreate this flow, keeping some of Wells Fargo’s interactions, like the “contacts” piece which is simple and easy. The main part I eliminated was an enormous SEND/REQUEST screen that seemed unnecessary. Instead I put “Send” and “Request” at the top of the screen so the user could switch between the two, which is a bit more like how Venmo functions.

Notice how the top row of screens have a different feel from those in bottom row which are reflective of the “Send money with Zelle” function.

WF- Pay a Friend Flow

Here you’ll see how you can easily add someone by searching their name or phone number, which I thought was a nice way to easily store them as a contact in the app.Wells Fargo Request Money

Additionally, I added the confirmation page, which I am still reworking. Wells Fargo has a terrible system of sending you a text and an email telling you the transaction will happen in a couple of days.

Sending and receiving money is a very commonplace activity and prior to creating any wireframes, I had spent some time thinking of users and scenarios in which the app would be useful. People often send money to each other when they are sharing expenses, and expense sharing happens a lot when a group of friends are on a trip together.

Artboard 1-100

Setting up a travel plan should be easy. I moved the “Manage Travel” to it’s own tab under account services.

Artboard 2-100

Shouldn’t your bank pay attention to you? If you have a long trip planned, wouldn’t it be nice if you bank helped you prepare for it? With this in mind, I decided to create a way for a user to quickly make a Travel Savings Account and be able to calculate how much they will have saved by the time their trip rolls around.
Artboard 3-100 However, after giving this a bit more thought. I typically don’t let my bank know I am leaving for a trip until the week of my departure. That is hardly enough time to start saving for it. Knowing this, I still thought having a way for a user to easily create a Saving Account on the app could be useful for those with big purchases in mind.

So now, I continue to think about that person on the trip with their friends, making guesses as to how far his money will last and wondering if he can afford the upgrade or not. Banks can better support it’s users by helping them to budget for life’s expenses. A bank should feel like cash in your pocket – you know what’s there and no one is taking money out of your pocket without you knowing about it (ideally!).

As I think more about my next iteration on the Wells Fargo Banking app, I hope it feels a lot more like a friend looking out for you, than like an institution.

 

Banking Concept Maps

Bank Concept 3

When asked to do a redesign of a banking app, it’s important to start off with an understanding of banking as a whole. Why does this institution exist and how does it function?

From here, we can take a look at a banking app that is meant to provide value to the customers of a bank, and understand how the functionality offered to a customer fits into greater picture of banking.  In this case, I considered the Wells Fargo app. The app is relatively robust. It contains many ways to view and manage one’s money, but also a large amount of additional information about the bank and it’s services.

WF Info Arch
Wells Fargo Information Architecture Map

Considering that apps ideally make our life more simple, I thought the best place to start for a redesign would be to simplify navigation and highlight the aspects that the user would want to work with most, namely managing the money in one’s account. Additionally, I removed and consolidated some of the extra information so that it wouldn’t detract from the user’s ease of movement throughout the application.

WF Existing Info Arch
Redesigned Wells Fargo App Information Architecture

Wells Fargo does a great job of positioning a user’s accounts front and center upon login. I decided to build upon this existing frame by moving some functionality that relates specifically to an account within the account’s summary. This way, when a user wants to deposit a check, they are already positioned within the account they plan to deposit into. I did however, keep the general category of “check deposit” underneath the main navigation menu, since this is one of the more commonly used features of a banking app (this is the only reason I started using my bank’s app in the first place!) and it can still be accessed as a stand-alone feature. Other items in the navigation menu I discarded or consolidated into headings that are easier to understand and find the relevant information. For example, “push notifications” was previously located under the “Settings” tab, but I decided it would be easier to find this feature if it was located under a tab with the rest of the app’s features.

There is still work to be done in order to create an app that allows a user to have both an in depth understanding of their finances as they exist, and also a holistic perspective of how they can best manage their finances. With some more emphasis on managing one’s finances in the long term, I believe the Wells Fargo app can provide great value to a user that wants to understand how they can benefit from using a bank and put their money to work for them.

 

You are a Homeless Entreprenuer

Watch the presentation! https://youtu.be/36nnf6wZ2XU

Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-01
Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-02 Homeless Entreprenuer [Recovered]-03Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in a pinch.

You have just graduated from AC4D and for months you’ve been working on the business you started in the program and it was going really well at first, you even took out a loan to jump start production on your idea, but things started to go downhill and suddenly lost all of your money. The bank has come to collect, you can’t make rent any longer so you’ve been swiftly relocated to the street.

You have a sticky relationship with your family. Your parents always wanted you to be a lawyer or a doctor or “somethings respectable”, but you had moved across the country to pursue design and you told them about this business you had started and how great and they doubted you, and you had failed, so they were right. And now you can’t bring yourself to go crawling back. How could you even afford the ticket home anyway?

In fact, you realize that you don’t actually know Austin all that well and you didn’t spend any time trying to make friends these past few months because you have been so immersed in your business that there is no one you can call.

All of your possessions of value were reposed including your cell phone since you can’t pay that bill either, so tonight you are lying beneath a tree in the park beside the new condo that’s being constructed trying to fall asleep, but actually just batting away mosquitos and clutching the $20 that represents the entire sum of money you have left.

So when the sun cracks through the pecan tree’s leaves the next morning you wake up sore and stiff decide to walk the 3 miles to the part of town you’ve seen homeless people gather, back when you used to drive by and avert your eyes from their presence underneath I35, seeking information.

When you get there you realize finding out how to get help is going to be extremely difficult. First of all these people smell bad and they are complaining and anyone that will actually talk to you just tells you a whole bunch of stuff that someone else said and you feel like your swimming in a big muggy soup of nondescript information that doesn’t actually inform your ability to make any decision about how to help yourself.

You read from Chris La Dantec how homeless persons experience restricted access to information and technology which keeps them excluded from not only society but their ability to find employment and securing housing. Now you are experiencing what he meant first hand.

Not only this, you haven’t eaten or slept well in almost 2 days.  The fact that you have to decide whether you should spend your $20 on a taco or buy a ticket to one of the social work offices someone mentioned — which let’s be honest, how can you trust what they said anyway?— is too taxing so that all you can do is sit down and cry into your shaking hands. You weep until you fall asleep in your despair on the side walk in a small piece of shade.

What you are experiencing now is the phenomenon that Dean Spears found in his studies that poverty causes stressful conditions that hinder cognitive function.

When you wake up you hear a voice say “Ugh that smell, these people! They have no self respect. And to think just lying there, not doing anything! How lazy.”

You sit up and look around and see a lady and her husband walking by and realize, they were talking about you. This lady is operating under the folk belief that poverty is the result of bad choices, and not the other way around as described by Dean Spears.

BUT WAIT.

That’s unfair!

You do have self respect. You even started a business for pete’s sake! You are an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur as defined by Martin and Osberg has an innate ability to sense and act on an opportunity.

So all you need to do it look for a suboptimal equilibrium…..

So you sit and you think and you have no ideas because you are so hungry your brain is quite literally not working.

But then, you happen to overhear a conversation between two homeless men. One of them mentions how they know about some work on the outside of town. This man says that he can’t get out there because he can’t figure out nor afford the three bus tickets it would take. He says that there are actually a group of foremen that need to clear land for several construction projects. The foremen are willing to pay anyone who shows up so long as they bring their own shovels and rakes for clearing the land.

This peaks your interest.

All of the people around you need money, yourself included, and none of them can afford to get the bus ticket, go to Home Depot, buy the rakes and shovels, find out where the job site is, get the bus ticket, switch buses, get the second bus ticket, and show up on time. They don’t know how much that would cost them so they can’t budget for it, which you read was very important aspect as noted by Le Dantec, so they are disinclined to even try, 

If only you could get them the tools and transportation….??

From reading Yunus you know that banks operate under the conventional wisdom that poor people are not entrepreneurial and they don’t give loans without collateral.

So you opt for plan B —You steal.

Sure stealing a car and some tools is probably not the greatest thing to do, but like Spears observed, your poverty is actually causing your bad behavior. And besides, you aren’t that worried about a criminal record ruining things for you given that you have very little going on that could be ruined.

With the car and the tools you start selling rides for a low cost and renting tools to the homeless to take them out to the job sight and it works really well. First of all you realize that not a lot of them had access to this information that there were jobs to be had at these land clearing sites. Secondly, getting there by bus or walking was almost prohibitively difficult due to it’s location. And third of all, no one wants to buy the tools and have to lug them around all the time, but renting them for a low cost was a very appealing option.

What you’ve done is something Prahalad describes as unlocking the purchasing power of the poor, by finding a way to sell to them that meets their unique needs and empowers them as consumers.

You used to think of yourself as an entrepreneur, but now you have embodied what Martin and Osberg call a social entrepreneur because you’ve identified an unjust equilibrium that causes exclusion and provided a solution for a segment of humanity that lacked the means to achieve transformative benefit on their own.

What’s next? Do you turn this business model of renting to the poor into a social business? Do you take on shareholders that are socially minded and care about your cause? Yunus would say you should. He would say you should find partners and dig in. Martin and Osberg would say you should push for scale.

You, however, are still thief. And any business you’d like to build now, whether social or not, will always be tainted and hindered by the crime you committed under poverty. So despite the fact that you are inspired, creative, and courageous your entrepreneurial spirit, innate or not, is not enough to lift you out of your circumstances. 

How Important are You? A Question of Value.

Research Focus: We aim to understand how Austin area farmers and ranchers get products to market. Specifically, we will explore how farmers and restaurants communicate with each other through touch-points along the food distribution chain.


It’s hard to remember all the people we actually speak to throughout the day. And even harder to assign value to those people. How important are they in my life? All of that of course depends on how you define value.

When we set about having farmers and restaurant folk track their communications, we wanted to get at their definition of importance by having them place the people they spoke to on a board accordingly. The closer to the center they placed the person, the more important. I assumed they would define importance by level of monetary value the person contributed to their business. In this I was right, and I was also wrong. What came out was that apart from monetary gain, sometimes a person is important because of the way they make you feel.

My research partner and I conducted this activity with a farmer that we had already spent time with before named Joe.

Joe was in a bad mood that day. My research partner and I could tell from the moment we walked up he was on edge. Busy, aggravated. According to him, everyone was stupid or uneducated. It took some time before he sat down and did the planned activity with us, but eventually he did, and was very open about who he communicated with and which people he thought were awesome and which were annoying.

Joe likes to talk, and even though we spent 5 hours with him the week before listening to him rattle on, we never really saw him be vulnerable. The point of vulnerability is when a man’s true self can be seen. What we learned was, Joe is scared about his future. “This is the most unsustainable thing I could be doing. I have nothing going for me, we are all just pissing in the wind. I try not to think about it.” We were listening to a farmer that feels like he has no other options in the world except farming and doesn’t know how he could ever leave it. “I wish we could have a life. I don’t have a life. If you’re going to work all the time you got to do at least something enjoyable. At least I don’t have money going out the door.” The low pay paired with lack of expenses has kept him a prisoner to the farming world. He told us often how he loved his work, and we could see he felt some autonomy in his day to day, but love of labor has limits. “I work all day, sit on my porch, and get up the next day to work. This is all I can do now. I can hardly hardly support myself, how could I support a family and kids? That’s out of the question. I have nothing put ahead of me. My dad thinks I’m making a bad decision with what I’m doing. But he’s a knot head. I think I’ll be fine.”

The only other life he can imagine is one where he works at HEB, which is ultimately less appealing to him.

Hearing Joe talking makes me wondering if we’ve been missing something entirely. That it’s not communication with business relationships that’s important for a farmer. Maybe it’s communication with people that make them feel connected and valued as a person that they need, instead of like an outliner on society’s fringe.

“I literally don’t leave the farm except to market. I don’t really complain about it anymore. I’m better just staying here. The more I leave the more depressed it get with the world.” Joe’s energy had dropped a bit by the time we left him.

Moving forward with our research my partner and I want to look at a couple of things. First off, we are ditching an activity using images that we thought would be great, but didn’t land well with any other the participants we used it with. Secondly, we want to expand upon the activity that did work well and incorporate a new element that accounts for the amount of time our participants spend communicating with certain people. Hopefully this can help us better understand the trade offs they make throughout their day. Where do they sacrifice time from one activity to feed another? Lastly… we aren’t sure yet. It’s important for us understand the level of impact and influence these different players have on each other’s lives, but we haven’t defined the activity that will best lead to this insight yet.

And for Joe? The perceived problem of the food value chain is deeper than I first imagined. It’s not just helping farmers make money, moving food to market, convincing consumers to eat local, or even shedding light upon the value and commitment of the people working across the food chain. The problem is shifting power and human-beingness back into the system to the people that keep it afloat.

“Products on Products”

“PRODUCTS ON PRODUCTS”

by jay messenger

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-01 Jay Messenger Assignment 1-02 Jay Messenger Assignment 1-03 Jay Messenger Assignment 1-04 Jay Messenger Assignment 1-05 Jay Messenger Assignment 1-06

 

The main inspiration for “Products on Products” is that design is everywhere. Practically everything we interact with has been designed by someone. My keyboard, the Word document I’m typing in, the sofa I’m sitting in, the coffee mug I’m sipping, and so on and so on, outward from everyday objects, to services, and into society. It’s an endless sea of products and meaning-making, interwoven into our daily existence, our cognizance, and our identities.

The idea that there are an infinite amount of layers of design in our lives made me think to draw out a kind of Russian-doll sort of comic. “Products on Products” displays a series of designs within designs – or more specifically: a design within a design within a design within a design within a design – with coda at the end.

Each comic represents the position of one of the pieces we read, discussed and studied for the assignment:

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-01

“Product A: The Hat” represents the position of Maurizio Vitta taken in “The Meaning of Design,” i.e. the theory that, in our era of mass consumption, products and services begin to lose their primary function in the eyes of consumers, and instead become sources of “social significance” to those who consume them. Vitta clearly thinks this is an important paradigm for designers to recognize, but I also think it is critical that consumers recognize it as well, much like Bobby does.

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-02

Product A is then encompassed by “Product B: The Lesson,” which represents the position of John Dewey in “A Need for a Theory of Experience.” Dewey’s main point is that education needs to take the backgrounds, experiences, and inner thoughts of students into account into their education. This can be accomplished through the “principle of interaction” – i.e. displaying sympathy for students unique needs and preferences and incorporating them into curricula – and through the “principle of continuity,” i.e. the idea that students’ experiences must be manipulated, selected, and built on each other. Mr. Robertson is trying to teach according to both of these principles.

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-03

Product B is encompassed by “Product C: The Curriculum,” which represents the position of Emily Pilloton in “Depth Over Breadth.” In this frame, the designer, seen talking to a school administrator, essentially embodies Pilloton’s ideal: someone who has permanently moved to the site of their research, empathizes with the community, and focuses on a highly impactful vector, i.e. primary education. I couldn’t help but satirize the designer’s position a bit, as I personally think it’s really presumptuous to assume you can fully assimilate into a community in this fashion.

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-04

Product C is encompassed by “Product D: The Fundraiser,” which represents the position of Edward Bernays in “Manipulating Public Opinion.” Bernays views the manipulation of public opinion as an inevitable and foundational aspect of democracy; the entrepreneur in this frame is executing his right to do so. Bernays also sees public manipulation as a strategic enterprise – Bernays would likely approve of the entrepreneur’s strategy of simplifying and dramatizing the case of “The Curriculum” in a public setting.

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-05

Product D is encompassed by “Product E: The Common Sense Solution,” which represents the position of Michael Hobbes in “Stop Trying to Save the World.” Hobbes argues that many “common sense solutions” lack adequate follow-up evaluations, and are often scaled such that they are implemented in social settings that are completely unfitting for this sort of service. In this frame, Bobby and Mr. Robertson survey the aftermath of the entrepreneur’s common sense scaling of The Curriculum: a Designer Corps whereby designers are mobilized to live in and re-design the curricula of school districts across the country. It clearly didn’t work out.

Jay Messenger Assignment 1-06

“By-products” serves as both a representation of Vicotor Margolin’s position in “Global Expansion or Global Equilibrium” and as a moral for the story I am telling. Designing is provocation, whether the product be a hat, a lesson plan, a curriculum, a fundraiser, or a national initiative. With everything you design and unleash into the world, you are provoking the society such that there are new expectations, new social significances, new public opinions, and the like. Sometimes these provocations can have unforeseen consequences. This is especially true the higher the scale of your product – and I hope that this comic makes this clear.

We can’t possibly predict all these impacts, but we should at least consider them before we saturate any given market with any given product. We are expansionists – that’s inevitable – but we must try to take the Margolin’s equilibrium model into account.

 

Redesigning myAT&T – Sketches to Digital Wireframes and User Testing

After completing our sticky note storyboarding in Rapid Ideation we then moved forward by creating higher fidelity wireframes using pencil and paper on a phone screen template. Previously, we only concentrated on the most important task or idea for each screen in our sticky notes. Because of this key information within each screen was missing to fully realize what the experience may be like. By moving to pencil and paper it allows us to consider the more granular level detail of each screen, such as UI components and the navigation. Here are a few examples of some of my sketches.

Sketches

The next step was to critique each other’s screens for anything that might be missing or confusing. At this point we may have been missing back buttons or smaller detailed informational items that were less important to the primary point on the screen, but still important to include. One benefit from beginning with sketching is that changes are much easier to make, part due to the effort involved and arguably we are much less attached to what we have created at this fidelity. Once the entire flow made sense in sketch format, we then moved on to digitizing our wireframes (view full resolution).

Wireframes

Iteration is very important at this stage from feedback about the designs we are working with, both from other designers as well as users who are not as familiar with the project. To confirm our designs were communicating what we intended, we conducted user testing via the “Think Aloud Protocol”. With this protocol we ask users to tell us everything that is going through their minds about what their seeing and feeling about each screen. From feedback we received during user we took into consideration on future iterations of our wireframes.

To set this up I created a Craft InVision prototype to be able to tap from screen to screen. At this fidelity it’s pretty close to what a final experience may look like and can be used to gain valuable insights about usability and perception of information on the screen. I also plugged in the phone into my computer and recorded what was being used and said during the user test. Lastly, I took notes to highlight breakdowns or opportunities I noticed or the user mentioned.

One of the main findings that came out of user testing was learning that people gravitated towards the account tab I was using in my navigation when they wanted to submit an insurance claim, or suspend a device. I intended them to go to the device tab to do so. Although, these users did eventually get to the intended location, and admitted that they felt it made a little more sense than what they were accustomed to (they were probably just being nice), their feedback told me I should provide a button within the account tab to navigate to these same locations.

Another change in my designs that my user testing informed was for a more consistent messaging system. I realized that I had 3-4 different ways of showing confirmation that the action had been completed. There was also a place where I could have included a more clear success message that was missing. As soon as I updated this users had no confusion as to whether or not the task was completed.

Over the break I plan to iterate more on my designs and test them in front of other people focusing on more error states and any edge cases that arise to make sure the functionality of my app is complete.

Concept Mapping – Creating Understanding

Concept mapping is intended to create an understanding around an unfamiliar space. The idea is to step back and abstract the space you’re looking at to create a high-level understanding. This idea is much more ambiguous than the previous mapping exercises I have created, which caused some difficulty at the beginning.

My first iteration was purely a site map. Although site maps are very useful, they are more beneficial later on in the design process. In retrospect I was approaching the assignment with a literal mentality, which led to a literal artifact. The limitation of being literal while creating a concept map is potentially missing the opportunity to acknowledge important relationships of bigger ideas within the ecosystem you’re trying to wrap your head around.

Concept Map v1

The overall assignment is to redesign the mobile experience for managing your AT&T account. We began by conducting research asking participants what his or her top five pain points from a list include we created as well as keeping it open for them to add his or her own. In addition to surveys we read reviews about the current experience to further inform the emotion behind what exists. From there we created a matrix that identified overlapping features or pain points within the current app experience. This served as a stepping stone to start creating our concept map.

Moving forward the class identified the primary six criteria that will be included within our final design. I think this is one of the reasons why I had a mental block at the beginning. Something about identifying criteria prior to creating the concept map caused some confusion on my end.

One of the moments where it started to click for me personally was when applying the question of ‘what?’ rather than ‘how?’. Looking back this seems to obviously be the “correct” question when creating an artifact like this, but that’s not where my mind was. This helped me clear the literal block I was having. The following image is of the white boarding session where that moment occurred.

ATT Concept Map Rough

After some more exploration and iteration I arrived at a concept map that I feel is more conducive to the exercise. Even the visual layout at a glance shows more of a ‘what’ mentality rather than ‘how’. The circles represent nouns within the system while the connecting lines represent verbs, labeled as such. There is no question that concept mapping is a valuable tool, especially when applied to more complex problems.

Concept Map v2

A Story of Poverty – Theory Readings

Poverty is a social issue which could be argued to be impossible to solve, a wicked problem. A wicked problem is a problem that is so deeply connected to other factors with a large set of variables that it is inherently extremely difficult to solve. But, by trying to understand the links and causes of poverty, technology & homelessness, as well as applying the idea of a social business, I believe we can lessen the severity of homelessness.

My story of poverty begins with Bill feeling good about life. He’s worked hard and had created a pretty comfortable life for himself. This was the case until he found out the store he was working for was shutting down. This led to him losing his job, which led to losing his vehicle, then his apartment ultimately leaving him without a place to live.

This part of my story relates to Christopher LeDantec’s recognition that multiple issues compound and negatively link together to create a situation of poverty. Although my story focuses on one situation, LeDantec explains how there is no one single cause of homelessness, so there is no single solution. LeDantec also discusses that there is a common mentality within poverty that people desire to continue maintaining his or her appearance to hide the fact they are homeless, primarily from friends and family. Those who keep their cell phones also use this as a social construct to communicate that they are still doing alright, as well as literally continue communication between friends and family as much as possible. One insight discovered by LeDantec was the fact that mobile devices are perceived to be more useful than a laptop or desktop computer.

My story continues with Bill having the desire to keep up his appearance. He does this by stopping at a truck stop to use the showers. At the truck stop Bill buys travel size products to minimize his spending as well as receiving a sense of greater purchasing power.

This purchasing power is derived from C.K. Prahalad’s discussion about businesses having untapped potential by branching out items into smaller and individual use sizes, which makes products more affordable and ultimately gives people in poverty more purchasing power. He argues this ultimately improves their quality of life.

After showering to maintain his appearance for upcoming job opportunities Bill was also hoping that it would help relieve his stress. This was not the case. He decided he really wanted a beer or two to destress. This probably isn’t the best of decisions due to the fact he only had a $20 to his name.

I chose this scenario to relate to Dean Spears’s discovery through research that scarcity and poverty depletes cognitive ability and reasoning power due to trying to resist the indulgence of the poor. Because they are living in scarcity they’e almost forced to make bad decisions.

While Bill is drinking his beer Eric is introduced into my story. A dialogue occurs between Bill and Eric about their situations and Bill learns that Eric is also under a large amount of stress. Eric explains that he hasn’t been happy with his job and that he was frustrated in the fact that he felt he wasn’t able to make the impact he was originally hoping for within the organization. Eric is considering leaving his company but wasn’t sure what to do next.

Bill jokes that Eric could solve his problem of not being able to find a job. This is where my story relates to Roger Martin’s article. Martin talks about how there are there three qualifiers for a social entrepreneurship which are to: identify a stable but unjust equilibrium within the poor or disadvantaged population, then identify an opportunity to improve the situation, and lastly forge a new equilibrium that alleviates suffering for the group. The opportunity Eric identifies is by designing a system with Bill that focused on applying for jobs via a mobile device rather than a laptop. The seemed to be more accommodating to someone in a situation similar to Bill’s.

Continuing this dialogue Bill counters Eric’s explanation with confusion about how Eric wanted to leave the corporate world and that it sounded like he was potentially entering a similar space. Eric then began to explain how he was recently exposed to the idea of a social business, which is a self-sustaining company that sells goods or services that repays investments and improves the quality of life for the poor. This is what he wished to co-create with Eric (which also addressing LeDantec’s argument that co-creation is a good thing in order to design for multiple publics). This conversation is my way of bringing in Muhammad Yunus discussion around the idea of a social business.

Bill and Eric decide to move forward with the idea of creating a service focused on applying to jobs via a mobile device. This allowed Bill to get back on his feet. Not only did he end up getting into a better position but he loves the fact that he is helping others that have been struggling to climb out of homelessness.

 

Thing

Research Plan – Team Sprocket

 

Focus and Topics

Predatory loans, by definition, can be abusive and take advantage of people without them being aware that this is the case. Team Sprocket seeks to understand predatory loans in greater detail to find out how we would potentially improve this scenario.

 

We intend to explore the parties involved directly, and indirectly, with predatory loans. Along with the parties we will seek to educate ourselves more about the process associated with these types of loans. Also of importance is discovering the origin of necessity as well as the general societal perception of predatory loans.

Objectives

The objective of the research is to further understand predatory loans and why people utilize them, being unfair or abusive in their nature, rather than alternatives. Our research will help better understand:

 

  • The general perception of predatory loans and whether or not everyone understands the inherent abusive nature of said loans.
  • The way in which predatory loans are positioned to potential borrowers.
  • The process involved in applying for predatory loans.
  • How these loans are processed.
  • What exactly is involved in paying back predatory loans.
  • What other solutions exist, if any at all.

 

Participants and Context

The participants that take part in the ecosystem that is predatory loans are few and far between. It is not a particularly prevalent issue. To observe and interview, we have identified the following groups of people and the unique points of view that they bring to the overall conversation:

Lenders:

From lenders we will gain insight into the why and how of the efficacy and morals of a predatory loan situation. The spectrum of Borrowers that come to them for services. As well as a view into what kinds of objects are commonly put on the line and the ripple effects the loss/gain has on people’s lives.

Borrowers:

From borrowers we will learn the direct circumstance by which someone is put in the position of using a predatory loan and how it feels.

Family Members:

Family members will bring other perspectives on how the above groups of individuals are affected by taking part in predatory loans, in their lives outside of work.

Those Owed Money by the Borrower (besides the Lender):

Previously borrowed from lenders will enhance our insight into the events leading up to this need.

Non-profit employees who help individuals get out of debt (?):

“Get out of debt” do gooders will have a perspective of the overall loan and debt space as a whole.

Collection Agency Employees:

Collection agency personnel will have seen the ins and outs of all types of debts and loans, including the endings and beginnings of them.

Bank employees (Possibly):

Bank employees will more fully understand how loans as a whole work.. And what the criteria is for someone being rejected.

Entering the environment:

Predicting that the predatory loan space will have a difficult entry point, we plan to broadcast the work we are trying to do at the forefront of our research, expressing the need for these interviewees across platforms of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.), public commerce(craigslist, loan offices/services etc.), non-profits oriented towards debt and the low income population(Mission Capital).

Entering a vulnerable space:

Predatory loans is a sub-sector which encapsulates a population who exist on the bottom rung of the ladder of society and almost definitely feel that reality daily. The delicateness to which these issues need to be approached will be at the forefront of our awareness so as to receive information that is not voiced out of defensiveness.

Behavior observation:

Behavior will be most easily Observable when the Borrower is in their home environment relating to their family. This context will give us insight into how the earlier phases, taking out the loan and the decision to do so etc., went and the ripple effect they have had.

We can observe documents, what their parameters are, and the words that are used.

Observation points:

Borrower’s, Family Members, and those owed money by the Borrower we will try to observe in their home.

Lenders, Non-profit, collection agency, and bank employees will be observed in their work context.

Activities and Method

Contextual Inquiry will be utilized to conduct research. Contextual Inquiry is important with the focus being Predatory loans for the fact that the life context of the individuals is so important. These are people that could fall under the “basic needs” category and to understand through immersion the weight that that reality has is important. A clear focus gives us the capability to dive into the how and why of where they are and how they got there. The aim is to understand the consecutive nature of the events that led them to needing this type of loan as well as the process, feeling of interfacing between Lender and Borrower and the undercurrent intents.

Driving this research is a deep desire to understand the full life cycle of the process of a predatory loan. Starting at the catalyst creating the need and ending at the route of payback or loss of property put on the line. A key component is the power of choice, and if it feels like it is present in the transactions and decisions made. A step further begs the questions, if the choice is jeopardized through manipulation of a less well off individual.

A moderator will be facilitating conversations with the research participants while a note taker is annotating key phrases, actions, reactions, and scenarios. All alongside a photographer who is snapping photos of key incidences as inconspicuously as possible. All members of the team will be aware of places that call for further questioning.

We are expecting our research process to run for approximately 12 days.

Schedule

IDSE101 Research Timeline - Team Sprocket - Sheet1

Discussion Guide / Script

Introduction. Hi, my name is ________. We’re conducting research with [Borrowers, Lenders, Collection Agents, etc] to understand loan options in Austin. What I’m hoping we can do today is ask you some questions, and then have you show us some of the things that help you [manage your finances, manage your loan, manage customer payments].

If at any time you don’t feel comfortable with what we’re asking, just let us know.

Explain and distribute informed consent.

Foundational Interview:

(30 min) During this section of the interview, we will seek to build rapport and gather context about their motivations, processes, and artifacts to inform the rest of the interview. We will seek to gain an understanding about loan processes, how they understand their progress towards [taking out a loan, paying off a loan, issuing a loan, etc.], their current perception of their progress against this goal, and the milestones, markers, and artifacts used to inform this perception. (Past / Present / Future).

Foundational Interview Questions:

Borrower

How many loans have you taken out? What is the amount in total?

When did you first take out the loan(s)?

What is the interest for the loan(s)?

For what purpose did you take out the loan(s)?

Would you mind if we contacted this business/individual?

What measures did you take to avoid taking out a loan?

Who is your Lending Company?

How often are you in touch with your Lending Company? Do you contact them or do they contact you? How do you communication (e.g. via phone, in-person, mail, e-mail)?

How are you paying off the loan(s)? Check? Cash?

Do you pay in-person or online?

What tools do you use to track your finances?

What tools do you use to track your loan payments?

How many revenue streams go to paying off the loan(s)?

Do you expect to take out another loan in the future?

How would you describe your personal capabilities with technology?

Whom do you go to for financial advice?

Whom do you go to for financial support, if you’re in a pinch?

How did you find out about the Lending Company?

What opportunities opened up by taking out a loan?

Tell me about the process of taking out a loan. (Who was involved, when did you first find out about loans?)

If you could go back right now and tell your past self anything about loans, what would you say?

If your future self were to come back in time, to this very moment and tell you anything, what do you think he/she would say?

Lender Employee

How long have you worked here?

Walk me through the process of issuing a loan.

What is the loan range (e.g. $100-$5,000)?

What is the average size of a loan issued by this company?

How do you handle the stress of your job?

For what purpose do Borrowers usually take out loans?

How do you determine the lending risk?

What kind of collateral do you normally accept?

 

Those Owed Money by the Borrower

How many of your customers have needed to take out a loan to make their payment?

Did you receive your payment directly from the Lender or from the Customer (Borrower)?

How often do you find that your customers have difficulty making the payment?

How do your customers normally pay you? (Cash, Check, Credit)

 

Non-profit employees who help individuals get out of debt

How many clients use Predatory Loans to make a payment?

Can you show me the tools you provide to help clients out of debt?

Do you ever have face-to-face contact with the Lender?

At what point do clients seek your help? What level of desperation?

What role do secrecy and shame play in debt and financial management?

What factors drive clients towards Predatory Lending? Convenience? Lack of education?

What puts clients most at risk for taking out a Predatory Loan?

 

Bank employees

What are the criteria for taking out a loan?

Why might the bank reject a loan request?

What is the rate of rejection?

 

Collection Agency Employees

How do you get the list of names to contact?

How do you contact the Borrowers?

How many times do you have to follow up with someone to get in touch?