Original Product Design

User Research UX Strategy Web Application

Client Profile

Perfect Planner is a completely original business concept that I developed. Essentially, it's a Subway Restaurant for Planners - you tell us what you want and we'll build it for you!

Project Summary

The perfect planner does not exist because each user has their own needs and ways to use their planner. How might we help users meet their planner needs?

Project Goal

To work through the entire human-centered design thinking process and develop a business idea that aims to solve a real problem people are experiencing

Team & Timeline

June-July 2018 • Eight weeks of independent research, processing, and design; weekly remote communication for feedback

Responsibilities

  • User Interviews
  • Card Sorting & Site Mapping
  • User Flows
  • Rapid Prototyping with User Testing

Tech & Tools

  • Sketch
  • InVision
  • YouTube
  • Google Suite

The Challenge

This was such a memorable project because I experienced my first major product pivot! I originally thought people would want digital planners, but back in 2018, the majority did not. So, I pivoted and began designing a service instead of my intended digital app.

01. Identify a Problem Space

  • Chatting with Others
  • Storyboarding

02. Discover

  • Competitive Analysis
  • UX Influencers

03. Empathize

  • Provisional Personas
  • User Interviews
  • Affinity Mapping + Insights

04. Pivot + Define

  • Research-based Personas
  • Value Innovation Storyboard
  • Business Concept

05. Develop Structure

  • Sitemapping
  • Card Sorting
  • User Flows
  • User Requirements

06. Design Solution

  • Rapid Paper Prototyping
  • Usability Testing
  • Digital Wireframes

07. Proposed Service

  • Digital Prototype
  • Recorded Presentation
  • Takeaway Document

08. Reflect on Project

  • Outcomes
  • Next steps
  • Lessons learned

Identify a Problem Space

I began this challenge by thinking about a huge pain point in my life. I talked to a few people, posted about it on social media and realized that planners and planning is a very personal experience - everyone has a story about their experience with attempting to plan.

Storyboarding

I am the first to admit that I am not the best at sketching by hand, but it's the fastest way to begin conveying your thoughts and ideas; so, I began storyboarding a variety of stories that I had heard from chatting with people.

Frames
  • Panel 1 - Context & Environment
  • Panel 2 - The problem
  • Panel 3 - The solution
  • Panel 4 - The outcome
The Six Scenarios
  • The Size of Planners
  • The Cost of Planners
  • The Design of Planners
  • I Feel Stuck
  • Commitment is Intense
  • Can I Use Digital Options?
sample of storyboarding

Sample Scenarios

Using pencil and paper, I sketched out six storyboards featuring StarMan with four panels for each possible solution.

Discovery

Next, I needed to figure out what exactly was already available in the planner space. I was searching for existing planners, mobile/tablet/web apps that were used for planning, and any homemade products that people were using to achieve their "planning" needs.

Competitors

GoodNotes App

Customers create or import pages they like and create a digital Bullet Journal. Because they can import, this experience is highly customizable.

EverNote App

This app focuses on note-taking, but can be used to import images which can make it feel much like a journal. Often used in business world.

Bullet Journaling (BuJo)

A paper & pen experience that is incredibly customized because it is an empty notebook for the customer to create in. Very time consuming.

Erin Condren Planners

A fairly traditional paper planner & very pretty. Company gives illusion of “choice;” however, customer can really only customize cover & weekly spread.

Agendio Planners

Very customizable planners - customers choose which type of spreads & and modules. However, they're all quite plain and the paper quality is mediocre.

Passion Planner

A feel-good planner with no customization opportunities, but plenty of flexible space within planner. Very professional feeling.

Custom-made Etsy Planner

There are a huge variety, but often no ability to further customize or rearrange pages. Sometimes, these planners lack professional quality because they are simply printouts from a home printer.

Retail Planners

Often sold by companies like Target, Office Depot, or Amazon, these planners are typically much less expensive compared to name brand planners and schedulers. However, they also have no opportunities for customization.

Influencers

Agendio

  • User can select dailies, weeklies, or monthlies, but not all at once
  • User can add and customize modules per user needs
  • Choice between spiral-bound and journal bound

Passion Planner

  • Offers a 6am-11pm daily time slots on weekly spread and provides free printouts on website so users can add more time if needed
  • Has lots of open space and positivity (quotes) throughout

GoodNotes App

  • User can select dailies, weeklies, or monthlies, but not all at once
  • User can add and customize modules per user needs
  • Choice between spiral-bound and journal bound

Erin Condren Planners

  • Very pretty planners with customizable covers
  • Fosters community of users, mostly women, who love to plan
  • Provide plenty of coordinated accessories for users to add on

Bullet Journaling

  • A total blank slate that can be completely customized
  • Very professional look
  • Lots of user made web content - like tutorial videos, printable content, and walkthroughs

Papa John's Pizza Builder

  • Pizza Builder walks customers through a step-by-step process to build their perfect pizza
  • Great user-control with buttons that let user navigate freely within builder

Empathize

At this point, I wanted to start talking more deeply with real users to understand their past behaviors, wants, needs, frustrations, concerns and more.

Provisional Personas

My ideal users would be any busy person who uses or has tried to use a planner, scheduler, or journal type product including students, educators, parents, managing families with multiple schedules, people trying to achieve goals, etc. To help find users for interviewing, I condensed these ideas into proto-personas.

provisional persona number 1 - college guy - chris

The College Guy

provisional persona number 2 - do it all mom - amy

The Do-It-All Mom

User Interviews

I went out to find people who mostly aligned with my provisional personas so that I could learn about them and their behaviors. The purpose of this research was to prioritize planner purposes and features, to understand user motivations for using planners, and to determine how users currently handle planner insufficiencies.

Who Was Interviewed
  • 2 males and 3 females
  • Aged 22 to 48 years
Screener Criteria
  • Interviewees must currently be using some sort of planning system or have attempted to use a planning system in the past three years.
  • Interviewees self-reported average day busyness on a scale from 1 to 5; reports of 3, 4, or 5 were accepted for interviewing.
Key Questions
  • Describe how you use your current planner or a planner in the past.
  • What are you trying to accomplish by using your planner?
  • Are you able to do everything in your planner that you'd like to? If not, what are you missing? How do you handle it?
graphic from affinity mapping

Affinity Mapping

I used affinity mapping to help synthesize my findings from the user interviews. I used sticky notes and covered my kitchen to find connections from my user interviews.

Research Insights

Users typically try several types of planners. It may be beneficial to provide a space where they can envision or plan for their planner. What types of layouts will they need? How much journaling space is necessary? This will reduce wasted space in their planner.

While some users enjoy digital platforms, there are other users with concerns about their information's safety. After the initial launch, we can explore secure options for a companion planner app that can excite and capture users who enjoy digital reminders / calendars.

Each user has specific, physical journal wants. We should provide a variety of options to allow users to customize the size and binding, as well as the style of planning page (monthly, weekly, or daily), the number of actual pages, and layouts of those pages.

When users are feeling empowered while succeeding by using their planners, we should provide a place to celebrate. User-generated content, discussion boards, etc. can help build a brand culture and inspire users to become brand ambassadors.

Pivot + Define

I couldn't believe it...people didn't want the solution I thought they would want! I needed to adjust my thinking and pivot my solution to meet the needs of the user.

Research-based Personas

I developed two user personas to help guide the remainder of the project.

primary persona josh

Primary Persona

Josh only needs to consider his own needs when planning. The scope of the solution will aim to first meet Josh's needs before moving on to additional users.

secondary persona jen

Secondary Persona

Because Jen has to stay on top of additional peoples' schedules, her needs are more robust and will require more complexity to meet them.

Business Concept

The Problem

The perfect planner does not exist because each user has their own needs and ways they use their planner. But, what if every person had exactly the right planner to meet their needs?

The Solution

We want to create a new way to build customized planners for people who need a unique system to manage their busy lives - The Perfect Planner!

Value Proposition

So, basically, the business concept is a SUBWAY SUB SHOP for PLANNERS! You tell us what you want and we'll build it for you!

graphic from affinity mapping

Value Innovation Storyboard

This activity helped me convey the value that the new service could bring to both the primary and secondary users.

Develop Structure

Because this was a totally new service, I needed to figure out what content and features would be most essential for the initial launch. Please note that each of the following deliverables underwent several iterations to arrive at the version shown here.

Open Card Sorting

Subjects were given 50 cards and asked to sort them into groups and label the categories. Users had access to up to 10 blank cards so they could add in items they believed were missing; they could also remove cards they felt did not belong.

Insight #1

Users seemed to feel very comfortable with terminology. They easily grouped cards related to building a planner together. They also had an easy time grouping the cards related to signing in quickly.

Insight #2

Most cards were kept, but User 2 made some solid points regarding “About Us” sections - shouldn't the user be able to tell what kind of people you are from your product? This idea led to the about section being in the Footer, rather than in its tradition top spot.

Insight #3

User 3 suggested that everything comes down to three basics groups on this site: Building a Planner, Research on the Process, and all other “website stuff.” After getting her to sort out that “website stuff,” she helped me see that a utility bar may be needed.

Insight #4

User 1 found that some cards seemed similar, so he offered up new names and very clever placements to help differentiate the various ideas (since they had differing purposes).

graphic from sitemap

Sitemapping

Three people participated in the card sorting activity. More participants would have been desirable, but due to the tight timeline of this project, I had to move forward quickly.

I ended up with three critical navigation spaces for the site - the main navigation, the utility bar (fixed at the top of the main navigation, and the footer navigation.

User Flows + Requirements

I created a user flow for each persona showing each achieving their main goal with The Perfect Planner service. I also defined what the users would need on the website to be successful.

graphic from user flows

User Flows

While Josh & Jen share many of the same needs that can be met with The Perfect Planner's design system, research showed that Jen will likely have very different entry points and will likely use a different device which makes the flows quite different.

graphic from requirements

User Requirements

The MVP will focus on meeting the needs of the primary user, Josh since Jen has some additional requirements that must be met through alternative paths on The Perfect Planner website (and on the future mobile application).

Design Solutions

Now it was time to sketch wireframes based on the steps identified in my user flows and information architecture. I moved quickly to create paper prototypes and sought user feedback after each iteration to improve the design rapidly. It was so awesome to see the product getting more and more realistic with each iteration.

low fidelity sketches

Low Fidelity Sketches

This first round of sketching was really for me. I needed to get the required elements down on the page and then I would increase fidelity before sharing with users for testing.

high fidelity sketches

High Fidelity Sketches

I developed three iterations of higher fidelity paper prototypes so that I could get user feedback quickly. Users provided really helpful ideas to help me elevate the product.

wireframes

Wireframes

Finally, I began converting sketches to digital wireframes. My mentor reviewed these and provided great feedback that I could incorporate into my next iteration.

Proposed Service

This project wrapped up by building out high fidelity wireframes for the service and linking them into an interactive prototype with InVision. It also required delivering an informative presentation and preparing a takeaway document.

low fidelity sketches

Interactive Prototype

This interactive prototype helped me share the experience I am striving to create with others!

View Prototype

Video Presentation

I pre-recorded a video to tell the story of this project and to share my proposed service.

Watch Presentation

mockup of sample slides from presentation

Takeaway Document

I prepared a document to showcase the various deliverables and research completed during the project.

Download Takeaway Doc

Reflecting on Project

This project was so much fun! I learned many new research methods and how I can apply them to make even more powerful solutions.

Outcomes

I received really positive feedback on this project! My mentor said:

"Beautiful work, just perfect! Thank you for all the additional links. Great use of visuals to aid your storytelling. I really enjoyed learning about how your project pivoted based on your user research. I also enjoyed how you explained your product and why useful features exist for your users. May I have your permission to use your work as an example for students to reach in future classes?"

I was so honored that my work received such praise - my mentor is a Google-level researcher! After completing this project, I knew I wanted to work in the User Experience field.

Next Steps

With more time and resources, I would conduct usability testing on my interactive prototype - probably using Maze. Then, I would continue elevating the fidelity of the screens:

  • I would need to create some branding assets like a logo, color palette, and typography. I would also assemble a styleguide to reference for consistency while apply the branding elements.
  • I would convert my wireframes to mockups and link them up into a prototype.
  • I'd also need to explore practical aspects of owning and operating a business that produces a physical product. It would be a good time to seek out some professionals in this realm.

Lessons Learned

  • Honestly, I learned so much during this project. It was the first time that I had worked through the human-centered design process to create something innovative.
  • I learned the incredible value of user feedback. I realized that I can have the clearest vision for a product but if users are not ready for that service or functionality, then it's a waste of time. It's okay to pivot!
  • Rapid prototyping is awesome. I remember feeling like, "UGH! Why do I have to make so many versions of this design on PAPER?!" But, once I saw the valuable feedback I was getting I realized how quickly I could improve my designs - I was hooked! Such a great skill!