The AT&T TV Search Experience: Insights and Design Principles

Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for the search functionality of AT&T TV, this post is part three in a series chronicling my work in our Communications in Design course. Post one and two can be found here.

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The Challenge

AT&T TV is on a mission to center itself at the foundation of the viewer’s television ecosystem. With the goal of simplifying an expanding world of tv options into a single cohesive interface, AT&T is relying on its search functionality to differentiate among competitors, empowering users to sift through the noise.

But because more does not always feel like more, users prioritize content and services differently than they have in the past. AT&T TV must address the viewing priorities that users have adopted as a result.


Insights and Design Principles

Given the challenge to develop viable concepts for AT&T TV’s search experience, we are now in the phase of design dedicated to insights and design principles.

An insight is a definitive, provocative statement that offers a meaningful explanation of behavior. Insights are what connect research to design.

Design principles guide design decisions by evaluating what a proposed solution must achieve in order to be deemed successful. They are suggestive of a solution without being prescriptive.

After conducting secondary research, a comparative analysis, and *hypothetical contextual research, I have identified insights and design principles focused on context, connection, and curation.


Transforming Search Experience

Context

Insight 1: Expectations for television change with the context in which it is watched

“At night, I watch my comforting reliable sitcoms on my laptop to help me fall asleep, but I’ll watch tv on my big screen when I invite over friends for our Bachelor viewing parties.”

– Trish, tv viewer

Design Principle: Search results should be driven by user context.

What this might do: Recommend and deliver results based on time of day, user location, and streaming device

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Connection

Insight 2: Viewers maintain and form community around television

“Content today is a cultural zeitgeist that unfolds in real-time, and people want to watch shows as they happen so they can participate in the global water cooler conversation.”

– Blake Morgan, Forbes

Design principle: Search functionality should be inspired by the community that forms around television

What this might do: Visualize the watching activity of friends or public profiles that users can follow

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Curation

Insight 3: The amount of content available exceeds viewers’ ability to sift through it

“The user either finds something of interest [within the first 60 or 90 seconds] or the risk of the user abandoning our service increases substantially.”

– Neil Hunt, Netflix’s chief product officer

Design Principle: Search results should anticipate user needs before they do

What this might do: Provide options for search goals (i.e. library browse versus search engine accuracy)


What’s next

AT&T can deliver a search experience that responds to user context, celebrates the community formed around television, and empowers users to seamlessly discover content that captivates them.

In the final phase of this project, we will create design concepts that are informed by our research and guided by design principles.

 

 

*Contextual interviews were not conducted as part of this assignment

Bringing Design Ideas to Life: Vouch and the Good Folks Club

This is the fourth installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall, which you can read about here and here.

This week we put our entrepreneur hats on to create pitch decks and landing pages. After getting feedback on three ideas last week, we downselected to two key concepts and built them out further. The ultimate goal from this quarter will be to have one strong idea that we can build out in our final quarter of AC4D

Our progress this week:

  • Cut our goal-setting concept. We agreed rather quickly to eliminate this concept after talking through our key insights last week. Folding two ideas into one made for a busy and unfocused value prop and, while user interest was high, none of us felt particularly compelled to move forward with building this out. 
    • Created 2 pitch decks per concept. We used Andy Raskin’s “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen  and Guy Kawaski’s “The Only 10 Slides You Need In a Pitch” as a template for each concept.
      • While Kawaski’s pitch deck approaches the concept from a very logical and business minded perspective, Raskin’s model focuses on the root of the problem and seeks to create an emotional response from your audience.  
      • While creating these, we had to ask ourselves: Who is the target audience? What’s our revenue model? What are the true core features we need to succeed? Who are our competitors? And most of all — we tightened the narrative to be very clear. With only a 6-slide deck, you don’t have a lot of room for complexity. We distilled our ideas into digestible concepts that were easily shareable. 
  • Presented our decks to subject matter experts. We contacted entrepreneurs, product designers and developers in these industries to get feedback from a professional perspective. While last week we focused on connecting with potential users, this week we wanted to get feedback with potential funders or backers.  
  • Designed and launched a landing page for each concept. The purpose of this activity is two-fold: (1) it forced us to focus on our key value props and differentiators and (2) it helps us gauge interest for our concept. There’s no use in spending months building out an idea that no one wants. 

Insights & Feedback:

Vouch

www.vouchmoney.com
Vouch makes it easy to lend money and build trust – not resentment. 

  • High-Level Pitch Deck & Concept Feedback from SME Interviews: CEO, JUST; Developer, Self.inc; Founder, R3 Score
    • Each person we spoke with is building products to help make underserved communities more financially resilient. While our target audiences are similar, the approach we are suggesting is different. 
    • Other companies like Able have tried this model and suspended their efforts. What can we learn from them to make this concept viable?
    • The financial sector is fraught with predatory behavior, and as a result the government has placed massive limits on what you can do. We need to invest heavily in compliance research to see if this concept is truly legal. 
    • 10 slide pitch deck
    • Sales pitch deck
  • Website results:
    • Spent $20.61 in Google Ads. Drove 10 clicks. 116 Impressions. 0 conversions.
      • Google ads for this space are more competitive, likely leading to a higher CPC. We should experiment with other platforms moving forward. Until we can feel confident in proof of concept, we are not investing in any long-term content strategies to drive organic traffic. 
    • Site Analytics. 35 unique visitors. 2 direct messages. 5 emails submitted. 

The Good Folks Club

www.thegoodfolksclub.org
Cultivating community through curated volunteer experiences

  • High-Level Pitch Deck & Concept Feedback from SME Interviews:
  • Website results:
    • Rather than funneling money into ad buys, we chose to focus our efforts this week on getting clear about the concept through the slide decks and landing page. 
    • Site Analytics. 27 unique visitors. 0 emails submitted. 

Next Steps

To continue to gauge feedback, we will schedule interviews with subject matter experts about The Good Folks Club. Then to really bring our ideas to life, we’ll be making lo-fi prototypes and testing those with potential users. Stay tuned!

Recycling, Reusing, and Revisiting Ideas

Overview

This fourth week, of our studio class, Ana and I were tasked to develop on concepts we generated after our research around low-income parents. We focused on a singular concept to ideate on. This allowed a deeper understanding of the services we can provide. Through interviews with potential users on our concept ideas last week we are focusing our efforts on benefitting new families through reuse. 

We Created

A product called To Bambu (working title). We currently aim to serve as a reliable mediator for child care goods that new families need, whilst other families have, through reuse.

  • A pitch deck that serves as a summation or meta version of where our product could fit in a wide and ever-changing market landscape.
  • The second deck is a 10 slide summation of specifics considered thus far. We talked through, potential finances, pathways to customers, our perceived value and more.
  • A landing page, to measure interest, have another domain, and learn about the power of google ads.

We learned we need to think about our concept from every angle. We heard from families (the true subject matter experts) toy-store owners, and startup advisors who gave us feedback on our concept. This highlighted variables that are essential to the functionality of our idea. Creating and thinking through frameworks for design concepts is no simple task. It is extremely beneficial to consider the minutia when trying to make a product to benefit others.

We Shared Our Idea

We gathered feedback from subject matter experts (SME) that proved extremely insightful yet seemingly impossible in scope. Here are just a few things we heard from SME’s;

  • “Could users feel like part of a charity if we sell second hand?”
  • “How on earth did you come up with that name?”
  • “What are the testing factors we can implement to assure quality?”

Thinking Ahead

With our feedback in tow, and a fresh week ahead we hope to, create artifacts early, get feedback quickly and discuss our idea with anyone willing to listen. As the line between products and services continues to thin, we find we might be able to find a place for this to exist. We’re excited to be able to break and rebuild this idea a few more times in order to create something actually beneficial.

Designing for Makers (and More): Week 4 Update

This is part four in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here and part two here, part three here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: Kyle Beck, Sean Redmond, Lauren Sands

Overview

We are in week four of our quarter-long project using our research into the financial behaviors of contract workers in creative industries (i.e., “makers”). Through interviews with potential users of our products, we have narrowed our focus to two of our most exciting and well received ideas. This week we built pitch decks and gathered feedback from individuals who have experience either pitching ideas or investing in businesses.

Primary Goal

This week’s goal was to further test the interest in our products as well as interest in investing in a business built around our product. We did this through meeting with subject matter experts as well as through creating landing pages online and attempting to drive traffic and sign ups for our concepts.

Slider: A swipe-based program that helps you decide what to eat by showing you pictures of food that you can swipe left on (reject) or swipe right on (accept). You can decide whether to use the app to find restaurants or recipes to cook at home. If you’re eating out with friends, you can match with friends to help determine a restaurant that is of interest to everyone. You can create a profile and save favorites and share them with others, helping to build a community and encourage greater use.

Our splash page – Slider – was a great exercise in communicating very concisely what our concept was about. However, to date we have not received any sign-ups.

Foresight: An invoice app for contract workers that allows you to determine what percentage of your invoice to dedicate to checking and savings accounts. It automatically sorts those funds accordingly. Furthermore, you can use the software to create savings goals by category and move funds easily between those subaccounts, without having to create actual separate bank accounts.

Our splash page – Foresight – was also a great exercise in clearly communicating our concept, and drove us to further define our product. However, we also have not received any sign ups. We believe that this may be a reflection of our expertise in driving online advertising and will focus on improving that first, before adjusting our overall product concept.

Methodology

We met with six people to get their feedback on our concept. Interviews lasted roughly 1 hour each. We walked each person through a rough draft of a pitch deck that explained what our product idea was, why it was needed, and what our unique value proposition was in the market.

We asked for questions and feedback throughout our conversations, and also debriefed with each individual afterward to better understand how our overall pitch could be improved.

Insights

Our major take away from this week of conversations was that our products need to be much more clear before we can create a viable or productive pitch deck to be shared with potential investors. Without a well-formed idea it was difficult to even start thinking about pitching to investors. 

Slider:  We got really great feedback from potential users last week, but we still needed to figure out how we would make money from this idea. Would the users looking for a restaurant pay to use the app? Would it be subscription based? Would we eventually have enough eyes on our site to make advertising revenue feasible?

What about the restaurants? Were they potential customers? How could we start to think about addressing a pain point for restaurants while at the same time meeting a proven need of their customers?

We settled on the idea of helping restaurants drive volume during off-peak hours through incentives presented to potential patrons as they were using the app. Restaurants would pay for this service and drive our revenue. 

Foresight: Figuring out how to pitch this idea proved to be a bit more challenging. We were most excited about the idea of allocating funds to a checking or savings account at the point when the invoice was sent, as opposed to when it was received. This meant it would help our users save for future goals or for taxes, while helping to eliminate the urge to spend money when one’s bank account swelled well above its normal amount.

This idea, however, is really just a feature of a larger product. We explored lots of other features and ideas that would benefit our population of makers, but in a week, we weren’t able to get to a cohesive idea of a product that would be a one-stop-shop for financial management while highlighting our “magic sauce” of invoice allocation.

Next Steps

This week, we want to get back to the product itself without worrying too much about how to pitch it. The nuts and bolts of what exactly is this product, how will it work, the mechanics behind the scenes, and what additional problems might we be solving for people as they use the products.

 

supporting sex workers: definition decks

This is part four in a series detailing updates to our research which is grounded in the goal of supporting the safety and agency of sex workers. 

Design Team: Brittany Sgaliardich, Leah Divito

 

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Photo by Danielle Blunt, via Decrim NY.

Sex workers are owed space on the internet.

With the introduction of FOSTA-SESTA, the law is challenging the first amendment of sex workers, educators, and activists, restricting their ability to speak freely. As digital communities are stripped away, so too are the safety, livelihood, and support systems, of those who once formed them.

at a glance

In our studio class this week, our design team tested the validity of one of our concepts a digital platform for female-identifying sex workers to connect with each other and discover resources, without censorship or stigma. The goal of this product is to create a communal space where women can share knowledge and build community on their terms. 

process

While my partner was in Milan for IxDA this week(!), I developed pitch decks, published a landing page, and received feedback from various subject matter experts. The process looked something like this.

  • Identify core product features and existing references. I determined that this platform should allow users to 1) share stories, exchange information, engage in q+a (e.g. Reddit); 2) seek information and search for resources (e.g. Aunt Bertha); 3) Sell or exchange products (e.g. Facebook Marketplace)
  • Identify and contact SMEs. I reached out to privacy technologists and individuals who’ve worked on platforms that achieve any of the identified product features above.
  • Create pitch decks. I drafted wireframe versions of two pitch decks which can be found here and here
  • Test pitches. I tested our pitches with SMEs as a means to critique our thought processes and identify gaps in knowledge. 
  • Create a landing page and ad campaign. I published a landing page that helped to more concisely articulate product mission while measuring potential interest. 

 


uncovering blind spots 

Some of the insights gathered this week. 

referencing what works

As an exercise in building out our concept, I examined how platforms with similar functionality, like Reddit, Aunt Bertha, and The Dancer’s Resource, operate. Finding inspiration from these companies served as a breeding ground for ideas. I began to try and identify all potential users, how value differs for each audience, and what business or revenue model would support that. I believe we must ultimately return to human-centric research in order to strike the balance between the monetary value and human value offered through our products.

the cutting room floor

Narrowing down to one idea this week was challenging for me. It felt like deciding between designing for the highest degree of feasibility versus the greatest impact, and I didn’t feel firm on a decision. I came to the realization that although we must identify the product needs to be addressed, we must also acknowledge that some might be out of scope for the time being. This does not mean the idea needs to be left behind. For features that are harder to evaluate (due to legal constraints), we can explore what questions or ideas can be abstracted and tested. 

the relationship between technology and privacy

Alternatively, privacy and anonymity will be huge components in platform adoption and product feasibility. In chatting with technologists, different considerations and product features rose to the surface. Some of the technology introduced include: 

Encrypted communication via Signal 

    • User chat with end-end encryption

Expiring posts

    • Certain posts have option to expire 
    • Users have no username but are rather assigned a session name or digital identifier

Self-vetting via invite-only access 

    • Users login on an invite-only basis
    • Start with a small grassroots userbase who are able to create a basis for reputation
    • Opportunity for an outsider portal and insider portal (e.g. What.cd)

The degree to which users will want to participate in this platform will shape the way we design for privacy. 

an inclusive first impression

The goal of a platform like this is to make space for people whose stories and experiences are pushed aside, unseen and underrecognized. Women of color and trans women face even greater risks. If a landing page is a first impression, I want to ensure it feels accessible to all women who participate in this work, prioritizing those who are least served. I plan to keep iterating on our landing page and test it with users as we move forward in this process.


ultimately 

This week was challenging for me. My instincts led me wishing to return to user interviews and concept development. I would have liked to spend the week refining ideas in a way that felt more informed by empathy and human behavior. All that said, I recognize the value in telling the story in this way as a method for refining our idea. This process brought new questions to light and shaped our platform in unexpected ways. The process itself is by no means linear and pivoting between approaches is a skill I hope to continue sharpening.

Next week, we will create service blueprints, prototype, and test with users.

Lending, Goal-achieving, and Volunteering: Feedback from 3 Early Design Ideas

This is the third installment of our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) project for our Studio and Ideation class. This project builds on the research we did with gig economy workers last Fall. While only one of the ideas listed below directly affects gig economy workers, all ideas were developed directly from our research, which you can read about here and here.

This week we started to turn our research into reality. After developing 200 unique ideas last week, we narrowed to three design ideas to start testing. This is the first step in our four-week journey to narrow and define one strong design idea that we will develop in our final quarter at AC4D.

Our progress this week:

  • We narrowed from 200 to five design ideas. To do this, we gave each idea a score of 1-5 for:

    • Viability: how likely is this idea to make money?

    • Feasibility: with current technology today and our resources, how likely could this be built?

    • Impact: does this serve the people we seek to help?

    • Differentiation: is this need already being met?

    • Interestingness: do we personally find this compelling enough to work on it for 12 weeks?

We used the rankings of the top 20 to narrow down potential options and then we each took time to reflect and surface our personal top 5. Early this week we met together and decided on a top 5 for the group.

  • Developed an Elevator Pitch, Lean Startup Canvas, and Storyboard for our top 5 ideas. To help us flesh out these concepts to get actionable feedback, we created shareable assets. This helped us hone in on core features.

  • Narrowed to three ideas. The process of creating those artifacts helped us narrow down to a top three that we would focus our interviews on.

  • Interviewed 15 people. We each owned one idea and held 50-minute interviews with five people to gather initial reactions, questions, and overall sentiment. Read below for high-level feedback and insights from our interviews.

Shake It Off

Our app makes it easy for people who want to improve transparency and accountability when they borrow money from friends or family. You can set up terms, reminders, auto-drafts, and even note cash payments or barters that happen outside the app. Unlike GoFundMe or bank loans, our product doesn’t require a good credit score and allows people to ask for temporary assistance rather than a gift.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 29-51

  • Average rating: 1.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Paypal already does this – sort of. Participants who had previous experience using PayPal or Venmo to share money with friends and family felt their needs were already met. They used transaction history to keep track of loans but did acknowledge that this has the potential to get messy for larger amounts over $1,000.

    • Lending friends/family money is messy. Three participants mentioned that their parents taught them to not lend money to their friends or families because it gets messy. This mentality seemed more prevalent among groups with higher socioeconomic status.

    • Tracking loans is not always desirable. Often there appears to be an expectation that if you borrow money from friends or family, they may not make you pay it back in full. This is especially true of people borrowing money from their parents.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Payment tracking needs are not currently being met. For folks living paycheck to paycheck, the desire to track exact payments was very high. This was less important for anyone with a savings cushion.

    • It’s hard to stay accountable without a tool. Self-discipline is required when borrowing money from friends and family because the consequences of default are less concrete. Participants liked that this app could help keep you accountable, and even auto-draft money so you didn’t have to think about it.

    • This is helpful for the financially excluded. Almost everyone we talked with had experienced some level of exclusion from banks. Payday loans were seen as an absolute last resort. Three participants tried to get money from a bank before borrowing from friends and family but were denied.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Edit storyboard to reflect larger dollar amounts. The current storyboard has $40 as the loan, but most participants mentioned they were typically borrowing hundreds at a time. For every participant that gave this product a 1 (would not be disappointed if it didn’t come to life), they said they would be more likely to use it if it helped facilitate larger loans ($5,000-$10,000).

    • Consider unique profit models. One successful model mentioned was Dave, a banking app, that asks for donations and is only $1.07 per month.

    • Suggest speed. The immediacy of instant cashouts has increased the expectation for products to move money quickly. Two participants felt that Venmo transfers are too slow (taking 2-3 days) and want to get paid immediately.

      Notes:

    • The financial product space is saturated. In my five conversations, the following tools were mentioned: Venmo, Paypal, CashApp, Splitwise, Zelle, Direct Transfer, Dave, Earnin, Acorn

 

Goal Grab

For gig workers who are looking to build a roadmap to achieving their dream, our platform motivates users by helping them visualize their priorities, break goals into smaller building blocks, and track progress. Users are prompted to articulate why their goals are meaningful, enabling them to develop clarity and confidence around realizing their goals. The goal-achieving platform enables community support through a ‘tip me forward’ function, allowing others to support your progress and give towards your dream.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 26-36

  • Average rating: 2 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Motivation is a moving target. Participants expressed a multitude of motivating behaviors or support systems. Each person found it meaningful to articulate the why behind their goals but most expressed distrust and uncertainty around how the platform could help.

    • People aren’t interested in features that require more work for them. As our storyboard illustrated, the tip me forward function would be separate from the in-app tipping system of Uber or Lyft, requiring users to be engaged with a physical artifact that would prompt them to inquire. Alternately, it could mean the driver has to engage their customer – the prospect of which prompted strong, negative reactions around it feeling coercive or inauthentic. “Needs to be part of an organic conversation vs being pitched at.”“It makes me feel super uncomfortable – I would never do it. If I didn’t make my goal, I would feel awful.” “It could also be infuriating if it didn’t feel genuine.”

    • Analog is the default. Each participant expressed some degree of reservation around using apps as a learning tool. “Anytime I start an app, I might start there but then I switch to ‘old school’ pen and paper – divert back to tried and true.” When talking about who this platform might benefit, participants mentioned people who have a smartphone and have a degree of fluency or ease in using them “in that way.”

      Key Positive Insights

    • More motivational to have a fluid approach. Overplanning often leads to disappointment because it doesn’t account for “the only thing constant in life is change.” While people liked the ability to see all of your goals or steps in one place, creating flexibility within tackling each step was an important quality that folks were looking for.

    • Having a trail of success behind you becomes evidence of how far you’ve come and provides motivation to push forward. Feedback was positive around the progress view. One participant noted that people can get discouraged though, if the evidence doesn’t show them as the higher achiever they want to be and could be overwhelmed if this view appeared unprompted. They also provided feedback on how it might look differently though one person said, “I like the little pie charts change a linear sense of time too. It’s not month to month or week to week but visually growing.”

    • Confidence requires as much traction as the goal itself. Participants spoke about fear as a hurdle to getting out the gate, and self-doubt as a reason why they don’t achieve their goals. In putting the effort into putting those out there, two of our participants spoke about how that alone can help clarify how invested and interested you are.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Explore the concept ‘off the screen.’ The folks we spoke with are not using the apps they download. How we can clarify what makes this better than pen and pencil version and how can we consider different contexts for this concept?

    • Explore ways to include motivation mapping. It would be interesting to consider how we might track motivation to see what patterns emerge for people so they can better develop strategy around how to build momentum when it begins to slide.

    • Group conversation about folding concepts together. We merged two ideas in coming up with this concept. Having a frank conversation will help clarify where and how these ideas do and don’t work together.

 

Re-inventing the Elk’s Lodge

For young adults (millennials) who want to be meaningfully engaged in their communities but feel limited by their financial resources. Our product matches user interests with volunteer opportunities, placing people in service tracks where they can hone their philanthropic interests and grow their social network. Unlike volunteer platforms that connect you with one organization, we introduce you to a range of projects, people and interests. Through a mix of online and in-person engagements, we are driving the premise that social health is the new individual health.

  • Held 5 user interviews ages 33-39

  • Average rating: 2.6 out of 3

    Key Negative Insights

    • Progress tracking of volunteerism is “gross” and “cringey.” All participants except for one had strong negative reactions to the premise of a progress tracking function built into the app. They felt it was anathema to the ethos of volunteering.

    • It reminds people of a platform they dislike. Initial responses to our platform concept were that it sounded like it might recreate a platform that already existed and that nobody liked. The VolunteerMatch comparison and bad after-taste are something our group will have to address if we bring our product to market.

    • People prefer an on-going engagement with one organization. People didn’t like the idea of service tracks that sampled volunteerism at different organizations or the idea because it was at odds with their value of going deep with a single group to get to make meaningful connections.

      Key Positive Insights

    • Meeting other people is a central reason for volunteering. People were highly positive about the potential for a social connection function built into the app. Meeting other people is often a primary or secondary goal for becoming involved in volunteer work, and one that was often not met.

    • Finding a great organization to volunteer with is hard. People liked the idea of getting matched to an organization and having a more manageable non-profit landscape to navigate whether you were new in town or just not tuned into the local non-profit landscape.

    • The mission of the platform resonates with interviewees’ values. Jessica said, “An app like this would go a long way to fix what is wrong with my generation [a lack of social cohesion and community-mindedness]” and four of our five participants said they would be extremely disappointed if the product didn’t come to market.

      Ways to Improve Moving Forward

    • Implement filtering or even curation functionality. Participants didn’t want to see organizations that hasn’t been vetted and preferred 5-10 excellent local orgs to dozens of random ones. Colin even suggested that the user should create a profile and not see more than three ‘matches’ for volunteer options.

    • Close the loop. Jessica suggested that non-profit staff should be at events to provide purpose to events. They could be there to informally chat about the org and the opportunities or even kick off an event with a more formal State of the Org presentation. This idea tested positively with subsequent interviews. This might be a good way to expand the pool of potential volunteers organically.

    • Research the other side of the ‘marketplace.’ Molly (who had experience working as a volunteer coordinator for a youth program) mentioned that if on-boarding for the non-profit partners was too complicated they just wouldn’t do it.

Next Steps

  • This upcoming week, Allison and Laura will continue to expand on these three ideas by building pitch decks and then interviewing new participants for their feedback.

  • Michelle will be in Milan competing at the IxDA Student Design Charette – wish her luck!

Designing for Makers (and More): Week 3 Update

This is part three in a series detailing updates to our research into makers working contract jobs. You can read part one here and part two here, and you can find information on our research here.

Design Team: Kyle BeckSean RedmondLauren Sands

Overview

We are in week three of our quarter-long project using our research into the financial behaviors of contract workers in creative industries (i.e., “makers”). We have made concept maps to understand our research better and sharpened our insights to become more provocative, to help us to come up with more impactful design ideas. This week we settled on three ideas to storyboard and begin sharing with potential users for feedback.

Primary Goal

This week’s goal was to determine what design ideas we wanted to pursue and create materials (Lean Canvas business model, storyboard, and interview script) to share those ideas effectively with a potential audience. We chose the following three ideas, which range from directly influenced by our research with makers to only tangentially inspired by our findings:

  1. Tinder for Food: A swipe-based program that helps you decide what to eat by showing you pictures of food that you can swipe left on (reject) or swipe right on (accept). You can decide whether to use the app to find restaurants or recipes to cook at home. If you’re eating out with friends, you can match with friends to help determine a restaurant that is of interest to everyone. You can create a profile and save favorites and share them with others, helping to build a community and encourage greater use.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

  2. EZ Save: An invoice app for contract workers that allows you to determine what percentage of your invoice to dedicate to checking and savings accounts. It automatically sorts those funds accordingly. Furthermore, you can use the software to create savings goals by category and move funds easily between those subaccounts, without having to create actual separate bank accounts.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

  3. Blue Apron for SNAP: This program would be modeled after the popular Blue Apron/Hello Fresh food box delivery model, but would focus on providing basic staples for cheap with refreshing recipes to keep meals varied and healthy on a tight benefit. The goal would be to keep the price low enough that people receiving SNAP benefits would be eligible and able to afford the service.
    View Lean Canvas model
    View storyboard
    View script

Methodology

We interviewed five people for the Tinder for Food and EZ Save ideas, and four for the Blue Apron for SNAP idea. Because we had not worked with a population receiving SNAP benefits for our research, it required a bit more work to find appropriate interviewees for this project idea.

For Tinder for Food, we interviewed a mix of makers and acquaintances. With an app as broadly appealing as this, we had more leeway for finding interview prospects. For EZ Save, we interviewed many of the same makers who we conducted our initial research with.

Our interviews lasted roughly 45 minutes each. We first discussed a series of questions pertaining to the problem area identified and the subject area more broadly, to gauge the participant’s perspective. We then discussed the principles of our design ideas, asking for their reaction to each core idea. Finally, we unveiled our storyboard, asking for their reaction to each step of the story specifically regarding the story’s clarity, the resonance of the identified problem, and the feasibility of the solution.

Insights

Most interview participants conveyed positive reactions to the three project ideas, but some reactions were tempered with skepticism and disinterest. Insights per project as distilled from our interview results are listed below.

Tinder for Food: Everyone we spoke to was enthusiastic about this project, but most people had questions and suggestions for how to improve the concept. We thought we had been thorough in detailing the nuances of its use, but people still raised important issues. Would users be able to outline their food preferences beforehand? Would they be able to choose the timeframe for eating at a restaurant, and then make reservations directly? Would distance play a factor in results displayed? Overall, it was clear that we would have to strike a balance between front-loading too many parameters to dictate results and taking too hands-off an approach that would provide too many unappealing options. The community component seemed especially promising, though, as people liked the idea of being able to choose places to go with friends. One person got excited for the possibility of polls to help gauge community interest and including other interactive components to drive greater engagement.

EZ Save: Most people we spoke to appreciated this idea. The more savings-oriented makers we spoke to liked the prospect of being able to put aside savings directly from their invoices. As one person put it, “anything automatic is valuable,” and they liked being able to reduce the step of having to log into their bank account to move funds around. However, as they pointed out, “It’s saving you a minute — it’s not a huge savings.” We think the greater benefit, though, would be in reminding people of the potential for saving, and making it easier to do so, perhaps encouraging more people who aren’t currently saving to start doing so. Whether this would be effective is unclear: one maker we spoke to who currently does not save said this was not relevant to his life and would not encourage him to save. He said he doesn’t make enough money to save and that he puts everything into checking. Another maker said the app would be helpful for “Type A people and people with enough money to care.” It’s not clear how many members of our target audience would see the benefits of this service. Still, even those skeptical of the idea saw its potential benefit for others. We also heard from many makers that if the program allowed for greater tax help (e.g., determining how much to put away for taxes and what tax breaks they were eligible for) then they would be very inclined to use it, and one maker expressed interest in combining scheduling with invoicing to create a unified system of booking and verifying contracts. There is significant potential for further exploring and perhaps expanding upon this service as it pertains to this specific audience.

Blue Apron for SNAP: Everyone we spoke to thought this was a noble idea, but this, too, was treated with some skepticism. One interviewee noted that SNAP users may not have regular access to electricity or gas and may not have the appropriate cooking tools to make meals (e.g., measuring cups, pans). Another noted that many older folks may not be able to use apps. One interviewee said that his Latina mother always liked to cook with the same ingredients and make the same things. She couldn’t read English and couldn’t use computers or a smart phone. While we envisioned the service to be helpful in introducing meal variety on a budget, many interviewees expressed interest in using the service to quickly and easily meal prep for a week, making large batches of just a couple dishes and storing them. Perhaps the meal plans would have to be split into different types for different users, to address the needs and desires of our audience. Finally, multiple participants also pointed out that buying junk food is often seen as a treat that can be purchased for children cheaply when there may not be much else that they can buy. Psychological factors like this will need to be considered when developing this idea and considering its appeal and likely adoption.

Next Steps

This week, we will revise our storyboards as necessary to reflect our preliminary feedback. We will then bring our storyboards to additional interviews and get more feedback on our design ideas. We hope to reach five more participants for each idea, so that we can get a stronger idea of what is working and what is still unclear, and what aspects of our ideas have the widest appeal and the greatest chance for success.

Supporting Sex Workers: Prototyping Phase One

Prototyping Phase One – Leah DiVito + Brittany Sgaliardich

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“Sometimes we arrive at good ideas before the law can support them.”

This notion, shared by an ac4d alumnus, stuck with our team as we developed concepts for future products and services that could promote the agency and safety of sex workers. 

While acknowledging the laws surrounding sex work, we also had to suspend disbelief in order to allow the richness of our ideas to rise to the surface.

This week, we began sharing our top-selected design concepts with potential users in order to vet the value and feasibility of ideas. In an opportunity space riddled by policing and stigma, the creativity and nuance of the feedback we received give our team forward momentum to challenge assumptions and further develop our design concepts.


 

Why it matters

Last week, we rapidly ideated 200 design ideas that were informed by our research insights. This week, we downselected to a top few ideas which we conceptualized through use of storyboards, lean canvases, and user interviews.

The process felt organic. And strangely specific, it felt like planting. We laid forth 200 seeds that allowed for a few budding plants to grow. By drawing, mapping, sharing, and challenging ideas, we began to breathe life into ideas that previously felt intangible.

This realization reinforces the idea that products and services, at any stage, are living and evolving. The design behind them is constantly examined, tested, and challenged. People are dynamic – so is the law. Products must be too.

 


 

What we did in FIVE steps:

  1. Strategically downselected our 200 design ideas by using a 2×2 framework where we compared the ideas’ Feasibility vs. its Potential Value
  2. Wrote ‘Madlibs’ style mission statements,  for our 10-12 most interesting ideas by grounding them in our insights. The formulaic verbal articulation of purpose, function and differentiation helped to intentionally continue to narrow our list.
  3. Built out ‘Lean Canvases’, or a visualized grounds-up tactical plans or blueprints, for our top four ideas to continue exploring the nuances that may affect follow-through of our ideas, and provide structure to the actualization of the idea.
  4. Storyboarded our top four ideas with multiple drafts and iterations as visual artifacts that articulate general functionality of the product or service.
  5. Finally, we interviewed five people – mostly contacts with which we already had established rapport and trust from previous interviews, with the addition of one person from a new craigslist ad – and asked questions. We presented our ideas and storyboards to vet their value with the real experts on the subject matter.

 

The ideas

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  • Pink Matter – a one-stop digital information tool for women working in sex and sex-related industries

For sex workers who have little support and want to connect with other women working in the industry for informed guidance, our product encourages women to share stories and advice, and exchange medical, financial, and safety resources in order to create a trusted support network of sex professionals. Unlike existing services like Yelp, or forums like Reddit, our product aims to become a safe space specifically for connecting sex workers so they may 1) build industry knowledge, 2) share stories and support, and 3) exchange vital resources while maintaining anonymity as necessary.

  • Bridge – a “Hinge”-style dating tool grounded in matching similar expectations and preferences

For sex workers struggling to make safe connections online, our product provides a platform to anticipate service expectations and screen for client safety. Although this platform would operate as a space for people to meet verified safe customers, it would ultimately empower workers to create recurring clients and build greater trust with preferred clients. Unlike MeetMe, SeekingArrangement or other apps for sourcing and communicating with potential clients, our product suggests connections based on worker and client preferences and expectations – limiting the risks associated with misaligned service expectations.  

  • Money Diaries – a physical and digital tool for tracking finances, clients, goals and schedules in one connected platform 

For sex workers who struggle to feel in control of their finances and want to reach personal goals, our product serves as a money diary to document income and clients as well as visualize progress towards goals, both financial and personal. This platform encourages women to document their schedule and income as part of their daily routine while also providing encouragement by way of affirming notifications. Unlike other planning and calendar apps, our product has both physical and digital components that prioritize the unique needs of sex industry professionals while remaining highly customizable to each individual.

  • AirHaven – “Airbnb”-style service for helping women to escape domestic violence in moments of need

For women subject to domestic violence who are seeking safe shelter, our product creates a platform for other women to open their homes and offer temporary housing to women in need. Unlike shelters, our product has the potential to scale, allowing more women to find immediate relief and sleep somewhere outside of their dangerous home.


 

Main Takeaways

Highly personal. The ways in which our ideas manifest into products is contingent on individual needs, unique to different professions across the sex industry. There is no generalized ‘catch-all’ for sex work.

Insights are weighted. The way we translate our design ideas into prototypable concepts forces us to recognize the ‘value’ of an insight from a new perspective. Because many of our insights are so complex, based in the contradictions of the human experience, our product ideas often feel ill equipped to address the challenge. Design ideas therefore fail to feel as equally transformational.

Stigma and policing. Although we’ve acknowledged the reality of the law during research and synthesis, the concept development phase of design has perhaps felt the most legally confrontational. We continue to have conversations about designing around and with the law. It will ultimately be a serious consideration as to the final product we produce.

The creative value of suggestions from experts. It is apparent that the women we interviewed are the true experts of this work. We were presented with many ideas from our interviewees that we would have never come up with on our own. Their insights continue to offer impactful, nuanced adaptations to our design ideas.

Validation.  Ultimately, the feedback we received in user testing gave us a sense of validation. The positive reception and powerful conversation generated by our design ideas was an acknowledgment of the rigor of our research. While some ideas were misses, the ideas that landed were a source of promise. Positive reception felt rewarding and step forward in our journey to make something that might make lives better.

 


 

Next Steps

Next we will continue to narrow our focus and select our top two ideas for which we will build out ‘Definition Decks’ (similar to a sales deck) in order to eventually downselect the top idea that we will run with through the end of the project.

 


 

Timelapse – Downselection Process

Testing, testing…can you hear us?

After doing 200 ideas, Dan and I downsized that amount to half, by doing a 2×2 that helped us divide ideas considering if they where functional and if they had any value, that helped us a lot to see throw away some ideas and keep the ones that interested us the most. After doing the 2×2, we still had a lot of ideas so we went and voted for each idea, considering realistic ideas bearing in mind cost, viability and feasibility of making each idea. With that, we downsized to only two ideas. We are now testing each idea doing artifacts like an elevator pitch, lean canvas and a storyboard to describe the idea much better. We also tested each idea with some participants to see if they could be potential users of our products and/or services. 

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Idea 1:
SNAP food delivery service

In our conversations with participants we found that there was a serious lack of resources. In the majority of our conversations it was time and money. Some of our participants who received aid from TANF also spoke about receiving SNAP benefits. In order to better serve these people we thought that finding a way for people to get a delivery service would be more helpful.  We spoke with Isamel, who told us about the hardship he now faced after being let go from his job.

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“It’s because of snap I don’t have to choose food. Except when I’m out and about and I need to eat, but I can’t get home fast enough.  maybe if I had my snap card with me, I might get some prepared food.” — Igor

Between two jobs and getting his child to and from school Igor found little time to visit the store. Through ideation and storyboarding exercises we were able to understand how this service might be beneficial to SNAP users who need it most.

For low income individuals who experience the inability to obtain healthy food and want to eat a well balanced nutritious diet. Our product brings healthy food to low-income families who don’t have the means to obtain it themselves. Unlike UberEats, and Postmates our product will be exclusive to SNAP users and other low income individuals in need of a healthy balanced diet.

We heard from several current SNAP users who were willing to give feedback on our design concept. The information we gained by externalizing these with those who are part of the service was extremely helpful. We found that the diverse set of people SNAP is designed to serve may be difficult to shape an auxiliary product for. We heard that some SNAP users receive far more aid than others who may have a higher need for it. Alongside some of the below takeaways we got from those who use the service themselves.

  • A SNAP delivery service would be useful for a select few within the program.
  • Are users going to pay for delivery? How often will it come?
  • Lower cost or no cost delivery would not be a determining factor
  • Being able to see what you order and spend your snap dollars on in one place could be helpful for meal planning
  • Being able to determine what locations participate in the delivery program?
  • How do I qualify for the delivery service?

It’s clear that there is work to be done into developing this service, and it’s through chatting with actual humans who use SNAP is beyond insightful. Human centered design for the win yet again. Going forward we’ll be able to distill these ideas down further into something more legitimate.

Artifacts here.

Idea 2:
Baby product/clothing recycling service

This idea came from former interviews in our research, the most interesting conversation was with Samantha, a single mother that is struggling with working, being a single mother of two daughters and having no financial aid. 

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“I needed the loans to live, you know, I need gas for my car, she (daughter) needs clothes, she’s growing, silly kids with their biology.” —Samantha

For families looking to minimize their children’s ever-growing closets whilst benefiting low income families who are unable to purchase appropriate products for their new child. Our goal is to be the mediator to people who don’t want the products to people who need them. Our product is to provide a mail in service, online platform, and physical location to those low-income families in need. Reduce carbon footprint. Unlike depop or salvation army we are utilizing existing products and clothing that is not in use and providing it to those in need.

We first did some artifacts to understand how the service will work. This was a very helpful process because the artifacts, like the lean canvas, make you think about profit or preferred users. These are things to consider while prototyping an idea. The storyboard (comic) also helped us to visualize how the service could work and what pain points we are resolving. In this case, we hope to resolve two main issues. First, we are taking baby products that families no longer need to relieve space in their homes. Second, we hope to provide cheaper baby products for the people that need them.

We have two users that could use this service, the donors (people that don’t need the stuff) and the customers (people that need the stuff). So basically, we are the mediators from people that don’t want the stuff to people that need the stuff.

We spoke to four participants that included our two types of users (donors and customers). Some of the insights we got were the following:

  • Families have boxes and closets full of clothes and toys, they don’t know what to do with them
  • Some parents complained because they buy things that their baby only used  for a couple of months (eg. bassinet)
  • Four out of five participants said that they wouldn’t donate clothes, because they can get pretty spoiled after a lot of use, however they did say that they would donate and/or rent bigger and more expensive products (eg. strollers).
  • They also said that they would prefer some kind of reward for donating (eg. $10 a piece)
  • We would have to be very strict with quality, so we don’t have broken products (we will not be a landfill)
  • One participant mentioned that he would not like to rent things, but to buy them cheaper.
  • We should make a strict list of what things we could sell (eg. strollers, cribs, etc) and what things we wouldn’t accept because of hygiene and health (eg. baby feeding bottles, pacifiers, etc)

All of these comments from future customers of our service were very helpful and we will keep them in mind during next steps. This step was crucial, because when your idea starts to become real, and you think of things that you didn’t think of before (eg. donating things like the feeding bottle would not be very hygienic).

Artifacts here.

Our progress

This week we accomplished downsizing our ideas from 200 to 2 punchy ideas, we did some artifacts that helped us understand how our services would work properly and what can be feasible. The artifact that helped us the most was the Lean Canvas, because you can start to think about the value proposition, the key metrics, the differentiations and most importantly the costs. We then tested both ideas with potential future customers to see how they react to these potential services. Overall we got pretty good reactions with some constructive criticism that helped us narrow our focus (eg. having strict quality-check with donations so we don’t become a landfill).

Next s†eps

For next steps we will be creating two kinds of sales deck for each idea and we will continue by downselecting again to end up with one final idea to work with until graduation.

Ideating with Insights from the Gig Economy

This is a progress report on our team’s (Allison, Laura, Michelle) work with the gig-economy. For a quick look at our concept maps from last week, go check out last week’s blog post. For a better understanding of our research and the focus of this project, see posts here and here

Progress Made This Week

Identified 79 design patterns that we used to help spark inspiration when coming up with design ideas. These patterns ranged from topical trends (deep fakes and ASMR videos) to grander shifts in design and culture (pressure on organizations to take a stance on social and political issues).

Sorted 100 insights into 13 insight categories which allowed us to understand higher-level trends in our data. Our categories with the most insights are “Gig Beliefs”, “Narratives Society Tells Us” and “Access”. To help better illustrate these categories, here are top insights from each:

  • Gig Beliefs: Gig work is glamorized as a choice of freedom and a path toward autonomy. 
  • Narratives Society Tells Us: The American Dream is hostile to anything other than the pursuit of economic success. 
  • Access: Gig work creates access to the workforce for those who have historically been excluded.

insights

Developed 201 design ideas by randomly mashing up design patterns and insights and using that as inspiration. Because our design patterns went beyond “Uber” or “AirBnB” and instead focused more on behavior, we were able to come up with some very out-of-the-box ideas that were not solely rooted in popular app trends of today. A few fun nascent ideas include:

  • Flat Stanley for executives to take to their office and show students who may not have access to that world what their days are really like. 
  • Access to exclusive events and opportunities that can only be unlocked by contractors with a gig company. (Think of a stage at SXSW sponsored by Lyft where all of the performers have completed at least 30 rides as a Lyft driver.)
  • A storefront where the items are priced relative to the buyer’s hourly wage, as a commentary on inequality in society and the different meaning that status symbols have to different people.

Visit here for a complete look at our design ideas, patterns, and insights. 

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What We Learned

  • We started using a reframing process to generate ideas. This ended up being successful at generating new, useful insights, but not design ideas. Because our focus this week was on ideas, we deprioritized our work with the reframing model, but look forward to revisiting it next week or beyond.
  • While design ideas pertinent to the gig economy are still interesting to us, we generated many ideas related to the future of work generally or even more broadly, related to dominant political, social and economic paradigms.
  • Although many of our ideas were focused around technology and apps, we challenged ourselves to veer away from these comfortable tropes to explore physical products and spaces as well as experiences and events as those often yielded ideas that were more unique.
  • One of the challenges of this program is to become less precious about what we put out into the world. We do this by writing a million blog posts, generating a million post-it note ideas, delivering countless presentations and drawing innumerable figures. Ultimately, we begin to think less preciously of ourselves in the process. 
  • Participant data is still coming up in the ideation and insight process. At times it seemed we were moving further away from the research and further away from the actual people but as we wrote ideas and thought through what might be useful or meaningful or funny or bad, we recalled things our participants said and experiences they had shared with us or behavior we had observed. It feels like we are truly designing with our participants because their language, impressions, and insights remain at our fingertips. 
  • We tried a technique of mashing up a randomly generated word with insights to arrive at a new idea, which was not particularly fruitful for us.

Next Steps

  • Next week we will focus on sorting our ideas and filtering for ones that most resonate for us as a team and with the data that we found most compelling in our research phase.
  • We’d like to facilitate a round of read-throughs with the other design groups to rank up ideas that are especially resonant and add to each other’s walls.