A team of students partnered with project sponsor Crema to design a social experience and traveling app called String.
I conducted a literature review and interview study to inform our design process, and moved to lead design iterations by conducting usability tests.
As lead researcher, I strove to validate our designs and align our process with our research.
Outlined below is an overview of all of the research that we conducted as a team. To start, we needed to identify our ideal user base and collect research to ground our work in.
The goal of this literature review was to gain insight into current standards and methods used in rating and review application research areas and to help lead the direction of the rest of our research.
I examined the relationship that different sized businesses have with recommendation systems. Two of the most popular review systems belong to Yelp and Facebook, and both systems allow comments and star ratings. The main insight was how challenging it can be for local, small businesses to recover from poor reviews.
We created our survey to gain a better understanding of app familiarity, usage, and basic information (who, where, occupation) about our users.
We collected 143 responses and found the majority of our users were aged 18-21, lived in large cities, and were full-time students. Due to the reach of our survey, I expect that our results were biased and mainly other students at Purdue, but I believe that for this project the usage of the data is more important than the validity of the results.
We wrote our study to gain a deeper insight into the general vision our survey gave us and to better identify our users' relationship with recommendation apps.
I worked to develop our interview protocol and headed up 4 of our 6 interviews. Our main insights landed on four points: trust, planning, picture taking, and price. I found that trust was the most important and common insight, and defined trust as the ability to take a recommendation at face value.
User profiles helped us take our research and turn it into someone to design for. These profiles helped inspire our design process and helped keep our users in the front of our mind.
Users Profiles allowed us to break our large demographic into two more specific groups, focusing on more general details within the two groups. Using a combination of literature review, survey data, and conversations with our sponsor, we came up with the two general types of people String could target, regardless of specific details like age or gender. The two types are “Local” and “Traveler”, both are further explained in the two following pages.
An adventurous, brave individual looking to uncover all the best spots in the city
Already familiar with the lay of the land, this individual wants to find new ways to spice up their routines
research and analysis
We had three goals for each test overall: identification of pain points, contextualization of familiarity with app features, and development of optimal user flow and layout.
I believe that the foundations of a project come in its earliest stages, so we tested our sketches early and at all points during our design process. This helped us keep a very iterative mindset throughout our process; something invaluable for a blue sky project.
We did just that and worked to test early and often. During this phase of testing, we had quite a few takeaways and insights, but to summarize them, we worked to improve screen-to-screen flow and navigation, refined the way String's main features were laid out and solidified which features made it to the digital prototypes.
High Fidelity Testing
Our goal was to nail down pixel-perfect looks that made sense to users and to continually refine features through testing to feel impactful and fulfilling.
One of the biggest takeaways from this testing was in relation to how users perceived String's purpose. As first time users, we found that our testers understood that String was innately social, but that it was hard to identify the relationship between String's social aspect interaction with its main features. This insight led us to create a more cohesive prototype that sought to flow seamlessly from screen to screen.
This project with Crema was my first confident step into the world of UX, and this is why I love to showcase this project. It was not my first UX project, but it was my first time working with an industry sponsor. Not only did this experience show me what it might be like to get involved in the UX industry, but it also gave me my first concrete experience of communicating at a professional level.
I can confidently say that this project gave me a solid foundation to begin my journey into UX.
I learned a lot, but to break it down, I have three main thoughts following the completion of this project.
Presenting your work is not as scary as it seems. Opening yourself up and showing what you have created both to peers and sponsors can really be pleasing. Both in failure & success, there is much to be learned.
Project critique is your most valuable resource. As a designer, you can only see so many flaws within your own work. Outside eyes and opinions are a must, and you have to be open to change.
There is always more to learn. Nick and Liz, the team leads, came ready every day with something new. From a literature review to converge-diverge sketching, they had a wealth of approaches that were very valuable in our design process and to help stock my personal library.