Insights after the “Science Fair”

Last week’s “Science Fair” style user testing session went pretty well and gave me a number of insights into what is and isn’t working around my project.

Users know what to do..
The one thing I was sure about after the science fair was the fact that users seemed to know what to do when they got the app in their hands. Nobody was confused about how to navigate through the app.

Social Aspect
People seemed very interested in there being a social aspect to the app… Numerous people said they wanted to be able to “follow” certain people on the app so they can always hear that person’s new stories. Although I think this is an interesting idea, I don’t think that making the project a social media experience is the way I want to go.

People also suggested wanting to at least be able to respond to another story. I really like this idea of a social-media-like experience. Some thought that I could ask for perspectives on a specific event – like September 11th or Occupy Wall Street. This might be an interesting way to get many points of view of the city. This was a direction that I had initially thought about when I began the project last semester… Maybe something to consider now…

Users Want Choice
Users also wanted to have a choice as to what they can listen to. The way I have it currently set up is that the app scans for nearby stories and just plays whichever one is nearby. However, nearly everyone wanted to choose which nearby story they’d listen to on a map. I hadn’t built in a map because I wanted people to just hear the story they were closest to, but I can easily incorporate a map without it getting too much in the way while users should be listening to stories.

Users also suggested that I add a skip button in case the story they’re listening to isn’t interesting or worth hearing. I’m not sure what I think of a “skip” button – on one hand, it makes sense… but on the other, it sort of defeats the purpose of the app. It again allows people to pick and choose which points of view they even bother to listen to. But maybe that’s okay?

Framing the Story Collection
Almost everyone I spoke with asked me how I was planning to guide users to actually submit interesting and compelling stories. This has definitely been the most difficult part of the app so far… My plan after speaking with a number of people is to come up with questions that might elicit interesting stories about the city, like “What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you in NYC?” or “What drives you crazy about NYC?”

Tevin suggested that I could provide people with statements that sort of get the user going. He used something like “What really makes me happy is…” and “What I really want to see changing is…” He said that he found that he was simply starting them off to reflect in their own way.

Hsuan also suggested that I look at Jonathan Harris’ ted talk where he discusses why people are willing to tell stories. She also suggested that I look at

Colleen cautioned me to think about the worst thing someone will do with an app and prepare for that. To get some help, she suggested that I speak with people who do improv or storytelling and see if they have any suggestions for prompting people to give better stories. She also suggested I look at Story Corps, Object Stories, and the “Journey” game.

Super Simple UI
My prototype for the Science Fair had a super simple UI with a black background and white text and buttons in the middle of the screen. One turquoise bar ran across the top of the screen. Umi suggested that I look at other very simple and successful apps, like Digit or Snapchat. Tevin suggested that I look at an app called “Music Memos” for super simple UI inspiration. He also liked the UI of the PHHHOTO app and the Tumblr app.

People want Feedback
People aren’t so sure if they like the anonymous aspect of the app. Tevin, for instance, wanted to have some sort of feedback from the app about whether someone actually listened to his story or not and I’m not surprised. I feel like this is a pretty common expectation that we have today. We use things like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to build and solidify our place in social structures. However, this is something that I really want to challenge! I really don’t want this project to be about how many listens or likes my story got. It’s not about that. It’s sort of like doing something to do it. And maybe someone listens, maybe they don’t.

Users Like the Mystery of Phoning in their Stories
Nearly everyone liked the fact that users need to call in their stories to submit them. Typically, you’d see an app having you record something right from your phone, but having people call stories in is a very different, almost analog type of interaction.

Users Don’t Like the Name
Multiple users didn’t like the name “Points of View” so much. I am definitely not set on it, but I don’t have a lot of other ideas. Tevin suggested playing up the fact that you are actually calling in a story. He liked something like “Call New York” or something to do with the anonymity. He felt that I need to come up with a striking name and pair it with “cool” branding in order to give the right vibe.

Anyway, there were a lot of interesting and helpful insights that, I’m sure, will result in a better, more clear direction!

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