SMART PEOPLE INC
SMART PEOPLE INC.
Smart People Inc. needs a way to provide an engaging online experience for students that cannot attend the summer camp they provide for language learning that is 4 weeks long.
Who's the Client?
Smart People Inc. is an educational company born in 2014. They currently offer in-person language courses — English for Spanish speakers and Spanish for English speakers — for kids from 12 to 18 years old. Their main attraction is a summer camp.
Develop an app that will transform the in-person learning experience into a 100% digital experience that can be accessed by students at a lower cost.
With the challenge at hand, the steps to follow was to gain knowledge on who was currently leading the digital language learning market. Who was my competitor? Where were they in market position? What did they offer? What didn't they offer? How could I come up with a better solution?
There are various digital platforms, I chose to research the most popular and recognized applications: Duolingo, FluentU and Busuu.
With my competitors defined, I went into deep research mode. I put together a competitive feature analysis to compare what each platform had to offer. The results helped me see the cost of each platform, the target audience for each and what platforms they were available in. I used this information as a baseline for where the Smart People app should be. Using a Strength and Weakness analysis I was able to identify the needs that were yet to be solved in the market. What positive takeaways I could use and what to avoid.
A Market Positioning graph was also made to give a visual on the positioning of each application. As seen below, where Smart People currently stood was in the Luxury and Traditional position due to its current in-person structure. However, once it became digitized, and from the features that would be added that would separate it from the rest, Smart People will be in the Innovative and Value position. That was the goal.
SECONDARY RESEARCH: THE USER
Now that the market research was done, I proceeded to gather data on the user. What are their pain points? Did anyone actually complete the learning apps/sites? Did they learn anything? Were they fluent? WHO were “they”? To find this out I sent out a survey and conducted interviews with my target user, 15 to 25 year olds. What I found was that the user had a lot to say on the way they were interacting with language learning digital products on the market. The pain points, needs, and wants were so transparently clear when you listened to what they had to say. The survey helped in clarifying the quantitative data in how connected and important it is to have an accessible app/site. Most importantly, it also provided support to the qualitative data gathered by the interviews: Interactivity and engagement was key.
With the data of the survey providing the information I needed, my next step in the process was to gather face to face intel/ with interviews. What did the user need to get done? How could I make this happen efficiently and swiftly? What feelings did this evoke on the user? Why? These were questions I had in mind as I spoke to my target audience.
I was able to interview eight 16 to 20 year olds. Asking them questions on their experience with language learning apps, what they learned, their likes and dislikes. I discovered that the majority of the feelings were negative. They complained about the unrealistic ways the app lectures were set up, specifically, Duolingo. They wanted more than just standard word lessons. They wanted something challenging, that would keep them engaged. Real phrases they could use in conversations, facts about the country they were learning the language from. One interviewee revealed a significant piece of data: “we don’t all learn the same way. I can’t be engaged unless it’s in a way that keeps my attention”. It’s true, we don’t all learn the same way. If I could create a feature where the user could be tested and have a customized learning path, integrated with country culture and interactivity, the major blockers would be removed. The user would remain engaged, challenged and happy.
V.A.R.K Learning: Visual - Aural - Read/write - Kinesthetic
During one of my interviews, I came across a learning theory called V.A.R.K learning. I hadn't heard of V.A.R.K but was intrigued by the short explanation given to me "it tells you the best way you learn- either through visual, hearing, reading/writing or touch". I decided to research what this method was, how effective it actually was and if I could incorporate it into the app.
With the research now complete, the app started to come together in my mind and now it was time to start building. Focusing in what I identified as the key components to be solved, I created my concept sketching, based on my user persona: Digital Diane, for testing and iterations before starting the mid-fi prototype.
“By providing students with the proper learning path and presenting them with interesting and entertaining content, students will remain engaged and challenged. Therefore, offering students who can’t attend the Smart People summer camp an equally awesome experience, placing the app as a preferred online platform to learn a new language in the digital market.”
Mid-Fi Wireframes with the aural learning path for Digital Diane.
This project was the first solo project we were given. While excited to create something on my own and not have to debate about what features, layouts or processes should be given priorities, it soon became apparent that it was a lot of work to do by myself. The challenge for me would be to keep a good pace, be disciplined in my own deadlines and focus. Easier said than done. For the project itself, I was satisfied with my research. My next steps will be improving my wireframes and further testing.