In January of 2021, I competed in Hack@Brown with 2 developers as teammates.
My team of 3 was composed of multilinguals who were frustrated with the challenges of self-learning languages outside of the classroom environment. We spend hours boring into textbooks and vocabulary lists, only to find ourselves struggling to stutter out complete sentences in real-life scenarios.
To examine our shared woes with a larger population, I conducted the following survey to scan for existing habits and pain points from 12 other language learners:
Almost all participants reported struggling to maintain or improve their proficiency due to the lack of opportunities to practice their oral speaking skills. It was noted that it was easy to forget without consistent practice in a suitable language environment.
One of the biggest issues with languages is learning the subtle nuances that have no translated equivalents. Without access to native speakers that can explain or demonstrate use cases, it becomes frustrating to decipher on their own and the learning experience becomes lacking.
Classrooms provides mentors and deadlines to enable a sense of structure and motivation to progress forwards in their studies. Participants reported decreased motivation when trying to learn on their own outside of the classroom environment.
Key insight: Language learning needs a focused study plan, appropriate environment, & cultural exchanges with native speakers to reach ideal proficiency.
The ideas were first mapped with rough sketches. At first, I was trying to explore the composition and order of interactivity through experimenting at low fidelity. This version was followed by a series of iterations to create the final user experience.
In the final rendition, I expanded the video call feature to include more visual indications to escort users out of their study sessions to create a more intuitive transition.
The following frames illustrate the entirety of the userflow from sign-in to ending the practice round.
Based on my analysis from the survey and rapidly testing various compositions, I was able to finalize 3 counter-strategies to resolve current pain points faced by language learners.
With each session, users are paired with a native speaker. Each user will spend 30 minutes practicing their new language and another 30 minutes repaying the favour.
It can be hard to find practice buddies at the right level of proficiency. The onboarding process gauges the user's interests and level of proficiency to match them with the perfect pair.
Users are able to time themselves to practice speaking in each language for 30 minutes each. With a timed approach, each user gets a turn in practicing their language and makes the best use out of everyone's time.
As additional support, conversation prompts are available to their rescue in case the user ever feels tongue-tied while practicing in a second language.
I wanted the experience to look fun and engaging so I chose neutral colors as the base and used accent colours to gather attention to the call-to-action items. The demographic was aimed at self-learning adults who have finished their post-secondary experience, thus the accent colours are bright but a bit more toned-down & grounded to appeal to a mature audience.
The logo design uses circles to symbolize unity & community to encapsulate the larger goal of bringing the world together through cultural exchanges & conversations.
Convo was a dream product for me and my teammates. We ideated a lot of the features that we wanted to see in an ideal learning experience. However, designing products in a perfect vacuum renders it void of the actual lived experiences of real people. Conducting user research was a way for end-users to voice their own experiences & be included in the creation process to build a scalable product that could benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
This was one of my first times working heavily with developers. I realized early on that I needed to ask questions to catch all of the CompSci-specific terminologies & concepts they were throwing my way. Luckily, my teammates were gracious enough to answer all of my eager questions. Once we normed into a team, our discussion then transitioned what was possible to build out within our limited timeframe. During this process, I learned to advocate for features in our MVP from a human-centered approach to ensure the best user experience.