Media Finder App

Problem

There is an ever-growing abundance of media and culture being produced every day whether that is books, movies, music, theater, video games, or something I am not cool enough to be a part of.  How does an individual keep up to date on such things?  There are currently different methods that people take advantage of; forums, word of mouth, and genre specific websites to name of few but it can still be overwhelming task if you have quite diverse tastes.

This project was conceived as my Capstone project as part of my time at DePaul University with classmate and frequent collaborator Carlos Delgado.  This project was completed over 10 weeks and included user research, general research, usability testing, and iterative design with multiple prototypes.

Prototype

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Screenshots of the App:

Further Info

This was an application that uses social connections to help users determine if they might enjoy something. To help define the application, we conducted interviews and surveys to determine how people discover new media and if reviews or recommendations from others increase their interest in media.

Responses showed that both the Internet and social connections help people discover new media but the recommendations of others were not necessarily a factor in deciding something was worthwhile. Using this data, we created personas, and constructed a feature matrix. We then created a low fidelity prototype, and conducted a cognitive walk-through. The cognitive walk-through showed an unintended consequence of our design: participants thought our navigation scheme consisted of a tabs design pattern and that we weren’t adhering to the standard pattern implementation. We then made updates to the prototype, adding new use cases. In the end, we foudn that further testing of the navigation scheme should be done and that the use cases we added after the cognitive walk-through should be tested.

Goals

Our goals at the project’s outset were:

  • conduct research and further define who the users are and their needs in regards to media discovery
  • use the research results to create prototypes and a feature list that prioritized functionality
  • wireframe/prototype the core functionality of suggesting media for others and discovering what others have suggested for users
  • perform usability tests with classmates and outside individuals on the wireframes and make revisions accordingly

Due to the difficulty of conducting live usability tests, we amended the last goal to having classmates conduct a cognitive walk-through of a task that we constructed low-fidelity wireframes for. We also had to introduce a lightweight information architecture task to help organize the design work after the interviews and surveys were complete.

Method

We conducted in person interviews, 6 respondents, with questions pulled from a script, the consent form and script can be found at the bottom of this report.  We recorded audio of interviews and transcribed them afterwards.  To follow up on what we learned here, we conducted a survey using Google Forms in which 31 people responded.  The survey and results are also below.  With this information, we created two personas and a feature matrix.

Once research was completed we began work on the design.  An informal information architecture and new tasks helped us build out the initial wireframe in Axure.  This wireframe was given to our five of our fellow classmates and they performed a cognitive walkthrough on it.

The feedback from the walkthrough mainly focused on the navigation scheme and how it differed from a conventional tabs mobile design pattern. After carefully considering this, we felt that we had strong enough reasons and existing research to not make major changes. We also informally showed the prototype to non-students who were not usability experts after the walkthrough was complete, and they did not take issue with the navigation.  We did revise the prototype to introduce a color scheme and add favorites and sharing options to reviews.

Results

Our interviews and surveys showed that both the Internet and social connections were key factors in the discovery of new media. They also showed that many people use critic reviews to see if they agree with the opinions but not necessarily to decide if something is worth experiencing. The interviewees and survey-takers make recommendations to others, but they don’t often target their recommendations to the specific recipient. This was mostly in line with ideas for features we had for the app and thus, served more as validation than a source of new ideas.

The cognitive walkthrough caused participants to question our navigation scheme. The consensus was that the row of buttons at the bottom of the screen made it appear that we were invoking the tabs mobile design pattern, but we had submenus instead of refreshing the entire screen. Our intent was not to follow the tabs pattern. Non-experts did not note the same concerns when informally shown the prototype. After discussing the feedback, we felt that there were sufficient reasons to keep our design, such as faster and more efficient movement. If more time was allocated for the project, we would have liked to follow one student’s suggestion to conduct A/B testing with different navigation schemes to determine if traditional tab navigation would be seen as advantageous.

Conclusion

Over the course of ten weeks, we conducted a full user centered design process on a social media app that would be used to discover new pop culture media. We learned about the problem space using interviews and surveys. We used the results to help create personas and a feature matrix. This became the basis of a low-fidelity prototype that was used in a cognitive walkthrough. The walkthrough showed potential issues with our navigation scheme but we believe there is merit in doing something that’s not quite conventional. It should be noted that non-experts did not perceive the same issues. We updated the prototype and added use cases to close out the work we were able to complete in the ten weeks.

With a larger time frame, we would be able to take advantage of several opportunities to improve the app. We would like to update the prototype to fully flesh out all use cases for the app. The additional screens would need to be evaluated either through usability testing or expert evaluation. We also would like to get more opinions on our navigation scheme by running A/B tests with a more conventional design and the design we used in the cognitive walkthrough. We believe that the expertise of the students may have identified an issue that would not exist with a more general audience. Even with the opinions we elicited from non-experts, we feel we still have too few data points to make a determination.

Appendix

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